Here we go again… women, priesthood and the episcopate

On a less cheerful note, and commenting on the current top church news story, the other issue that has once again reared it’s ugly head (in the Church of England) is women in the episcopate.

ONE of the things that gets me is how did anyone consider that women could be welcomed into priesthood, but excluded from the episcopate?! The episcopate is surely simply a logical progression – bishops are still priests, in fact still deacons and therefore have pastoral responsibilities that women have had for years without an issue, and this was a ministry the kind of which Jesus welcomed, from women!? Hurumph.

It struck me also that if the party in government behaved like this (letting a quango dictate changes to what is effectively legislative drafting, after the event – if I understand the system correctly) their own party members would probably create a stink, let alone the opposition! I do hope and pray this can go back to Synod and that Synod can re-emphasise what they asked for, but I don’t know if that’s possible.

Reading Maggi Dawn and her commentators on the subject is edyfying but frightening; I’m not sure I could leave the Anglican church (as she suggests) in the face of these ‘bullying tactics’… perhaps I’m not close enough to the problem, since I’ve only been called to lay ministry, don’t feel theologically well enough equipped for the fight, or perhaps I’m thinking we can’t let prejudice win by walking away. The idea of a ‘stay at home’ Sunday might make a point, as one of Maggi’s commentators suggests (especially where there are women not presiding and thus leaving noticable ‘holes’ in the pastoral and sacramental care of Anglican flocks) or perhaps women could flashmob their Cathedral services instead that day, but what could the flashmob do?!

In Bosch’s ‘Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission’ (which I’m reading bits of for my assignment) it talks about Jesus Christ who “consistently challenges attitudes, practices and structures” that restrict membership of the Israelite community. If I agree with this reading of the New Testament, by extrapolation do I not believe in a Jesus who would challenge the attitudes practices and structures of the churches formed in his name, including my own? In which case should I stand up with my female friends in or entering the priesthood, and say this sort of behaviour is not what Jesus desires?

I hope a friend won’t mind me quoting her anonymously. She is currently in her last year of training for the Anglican priesthood and said to me today:

“This will not go away as long as women are allowed to pursue their vocation to the priesthood, and it will get worse if the church tries to prevent them once more. Why on earth am I doing this? It’s so painful and I could go back to [a] much less misogynistic profession…”

And yet, the priesthood is the calling to which her fellow Anglicans believe she is called to enter!

It’s all so desperately sad.



  1. R, thank you for your insightful comments. And especially ‘Jesus Christ who “consistently challenges attitudes, practices and structures”’ oh yes, I like that!


  2. Rachel you write brilliantly.
    I’ve been pondering the future – if women follow the homophobic and pro-gay factions we could remain Anglican and have schism with an all female church.
    In no other profession are women so obviously excluded from due promotion!


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