Tomorrow the executive of WATCH (Women and the Church) meet to decide on what their official response will be to the amended measures regarding the legislation on women bishops.
Last year as I journeyed through discernment and selection for training for ordination I joined WATCH, and therefore was invited to take part in their consultation prior to meeting tomorrow. This evening I have belatedly told them what I think. I am a great believer in being open enough to say publicly what I say in private, especially on an issue of public interest, so for what it’s worth this is an exact copy of what I’ve sent to WATCH:
I have probably left it almost too late, but in case it’s not, here are my simple thoughts on the issue of whether WATCH (and those elected to General Synod) should support the Measure regarding Women and the Episcopate, as amended last week by the House of Bishops.
I write remembering I am the daughter of a (now long deceased) MOW member who attended the Service of Thanksgiving at Ripon in 1994 for the original 1992 vote for the Ordination of Women. I also write as a Reader, recently recommended for training for ordination, which I look forward to starting in September.
I have read, or in some cases re-read, a whole variety of blog posts [helpfully summarised by an "opinionated vicar"] expressing different viewpoints, and your helpful information sheet. There are concerns over theology, taint, legal precedent, and other things largely too complicated to understand the nuances of. Sadly they have made no difference to my pragmatic and probably simplistic request:
Please support the measure, as it stand, amendments and all.
Women have spent thousands of years making the best of things; frequently making the best of what others (often but not always men) have decided for them and over them. I am certain that we can do it again.
We believe in a God who is omnipotent and omnipresent. He is bigger than our mortal theological debates and legislative process, thankfully. If this measure is passed, he will be able to work through the faithful and wise women that many of us see as being called to join the episcopate alongside their male counterparts. I think we will be amazed at what a difference that will make to the Church of England, to people’s view of it, and to their willingness to give the message of the Gospel it proclaims a serious hearing.
If WATCH, which is perceived (wrongly I know) as a women’s organisation, stand against this legislation with arguments that are as labyrinthine as the amendments and the measure itself, we will make ourselves, and the church to which we are called to serve, a laughing stock in a nation that is already struggling to take us seriously.
I know that all of you will have worked for years to bring this opportunity about, have spent years in study and theological debate on the issue, whilst I am a new member of WATCH, coming in mid-life towards ordination. But please, don’t turn aside now from what we believe God is calling the church to be – a place that is (more) inclusive of gender and therefore a better representation of the God who created us all, male and female. We will only make such progress, by making the best of what will only ever be a cobbled job (because male and female, we’re all human, all place our human failings into every sentence we construct).
If the measure is not supported by WATCH and therefore not passed at General Synod (and yes I believe the link is that strong), it will be a retrograde step, and damage both the future ministry of women and possibly the future chances of seeing women in the episcopate in the Church of England.
If this measure is passed at General Synod (with the support of WATCH) then that will be progress. It will mean that the Church of England will become a slightly better representation of what Christ came into the world to achieve, through the grace, love and forgiveness that we will continue to receive from the cross and proclaim to the world.