I read Maggi Dawn’s ‘Like the Wideness of the Sea – Women Bishops and the Church of England’ yesterday.
That tells you for a start that it’s not a very big book – I’m not that fast a reader, especially when I want to give some thought to what I’m reading. If like me you’re a busy ordinand it also shows you that it’s not a difficult read, and worthwhile fitting in among the studies.
There are three main chapters to this little gem. They seem to me to be loosely themed around that Anglican cord of three strands attributed to Hooker; scripture, tradition (or you might term it also ‘history’), and reason/experience (what I think Maggi describes as ‘participatory knowledge’).
I was particularly interested by Maggi’s association between the concept of ‘reception’ (in this case of women priests and a detail of the existing legislation I had a only a sketchy knowledge of) and the story of the Wisdom of Gamaliel in Acts 5. Maggi’s solution to the impasse that has the Church of England adrift in the middle of ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner‘ seems a simple one; is it really the light at the end of the tunnel that offers the hope of journeys with God in a new land?
I remember back in 2010 thinking that the Archbishop’s amendment at that stage in the legislative process was helping to obscure to the imaginative, vital and prophetic voice of the church and those who minister with it. It is clear that situation hasn’t improved, and our voice isn’t getting any louder. I guess what worries me is if it really is as simple as Maggi suggests (and I want it to be), why has this solution not been thought of before, and what stands in the way of this being the solution that is being worked on right now?
I came late to the detailed history of the movement towards the ordination of women, despite my mother’s strong opinions and work for this idea. Maggi’s discussion of the theology of waiting within the scope of this history (Chapter 2) was very helpful. I was most profoundly struck by this, and her moving personal testimony in Chapter 3 of the damage that can be done by waiting to individuals and is being done to the Church’s ‘prophetic power for change’. To read of the extreme behaviour that some have exhibited towards Maggi Dawn was humbling – she, as many others, bore the cross of rejection for too long, to Yale’s gain and our loss.
As I recommend the book to anyone remotely interested in the situation that the Church of England finds itself in over women bishops, Maggi has left me with the very strong idea that she is right, and that God is waiting for the Church of England to pull it’s finger out, and make a clear and simple decision one way or t’other.