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Thursday, November 22, 2012

The history and the struggle

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on the vote against women bishops in the Church of England, the BBC have a fascinating article regarding the history of this issue:

In 1920, no fewer than nine motions concerning "The Position of Women in the Councils and Ministrations of the Church" came before the Lambeth conference, the international gathering of Anglican leaders.

"The time has come..." opens one of the resolutions in the Lambeth conference archive, reflecting the on-going campaign of the suffragettes to gain equal rights for women including the vote.

But the Lambeth measures go no further than to permit women to become deaconesses, an office that fell short of full ministry or ordination to the priesthood.

It was another 50 years before the Anglican Church passed a motion favouring women's ordination.

The absurdity of the no vote is highlighted by the fact that women make up a third of the Anglican clergy in England. Although Ireland and Scotland both allow female bishops that does not mean that there are none within the Anglican communion:

Just a few days before the Synod vote, Swaziland consecrated its first female Anglican bishop - the Right Reverend Ellinah Wamukoya.

Her appointment was seen as a significant move for women's rights in a country which has often been accused of having a patriarchal philosophy.

"I am going to try to represent the mother attribute of God," Bishop Wamukoya told reporters.

The 61-year-old added: "A mother is a caring person but at the same time, a mother can be firm in doing whatever she is doing."

The first female bishop ordained in the Anglican Communion was Barbara Harris in 1989. Her ordination as Suffragan Bishop for Massachusetts, in the USA, caused outrage among conservative Episcopalians (another name for Anglicans) but since then over a dozen women have been elected to the episcopate in America.

In 2006 the Episcopalian Church in the United States became the first province of the Anglican Communion to elect a woman to the role of Primate (a senior bishop - the equivalent of an archbishop) - the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It puts the absurdity of the General Synod vote into context.
You might call it an absurdity but there are still plenty of Anglicans holding the biblical view. If you are familiar with the Bible you know where to look. The point is not so much about allowing women to do this or that, it is how to fit that in with a strongly held historical view.
I am sure it will come but patience is a virtue.
Peter, you are imposing a secular view on what is supposed to be a Bible led church - would you make the same accusations against Islam?
There is a huge difference. The Church of England is the official state church, it is embedded in the British constitution and the head of state is its official head too. They have a responsibility to live in the 21st century.
Its not a state church Peter its an established church in England, not exactly the same thing (the state does not pay the wages of its staff as was the case with the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia). saying that I don't think its logical since the Church of England has already excepted the principle of women in the priesthood not to extend it to the Episcopate.
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