This weekend the General Synod is meeting at York University. The main theme will be sorting out the mess that was created by the failure of the Synod to pass the measure that would have opened the way for women to be appointed as bishops in the Church of England.
The arguments have been rehearsed at length over the years. Indeed, it is getting quite wearisome having to listen to them time after time, which might explain why I was looking so exhausted when the BBC News cameras caught me looking very unimpressed back in November!
Essentially the arguments boil down to these:
· There are many parts of the New Testament where Jesus worked closely with women and there are many references to women playing key roles in the early church, and one was even an apostle;
· We need the gifts that women bring to ministry is we are to serve and evangelise our society in the twenty-first century.
· Jesus only chose twelve male disciples;
· Some parts of the New Testament appear to limit the ministry of women;
· If a priest represents Jesus at Communion, only a man can do this properly;
· Opening ordained ministry to women is something that can only be agreed in partnership with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Of course the arguments are far more subtle than the simplicity expressed above, but these are the key points. However, the Church of England has already made the decision in principle to have women bishops as a natural development of having women clergy – a development that many of us rejoice in. The real problem is how to move ahead to having women bishops on equal terms to male bishops whilst also making proper provision for those Conservative Evangelicals and Traditionalist Catholics who have sincere theological problems with this development. In other words, how do we move forward whilst positively keeping the unity of the church? It’s this dilemma that the church has been wrestling with for years and, very sadly, we failed to square the circle back in November.
So at York we will gather again to try and achieve the seemingly impossible. Yet by grace that is something that I still believe that God can do with us. Please pray for the Synod this weekend. Especially, please pray for our new Archbishop, Justin Welby, as he faces his first big challenge.
Simon, Vicar – General Synod Member #208