Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


4 Comments

The way forward for women bishops

The Church of England has reached a small moment of uncertainty over moves to ordain women as bishops. It is not that the church is unsure whether women should be bishops: there is overwhelming support for sexual equality in the highest order of the church’s ministry. The debate is over how those who are opposed to the ordained ministry of women are best accommodated.

The current discussion revolves around Clause 5(1)(c), the second amendment inserted by the House of Bishops into the measure, making explicit the accommodation to be offered. It has been frustrating that this amendment was added (by an all-male body) after dioceses had discussed and voted on the measure, leaving the recent General Synod no choice but take or leave the amended measure. Thus, it was the most vocal supporters of having women bishops who led the vote for an adjournment so that accommodation could be properly debated. The talk was that we should take the time to get the legislation right.

For most of us in the Church of England, we talk compromise as if it is our mother language. However, there are real theological problems with any compromise on this issues, which is the nub of the problem. For conservative evangelicals, women may not teach or lead men, and biblical verses are beaded together to support this. For traditionalist anglo-catholics, women in sacramental ministry is a rupture from the sacramental fount of ecumenical church history and doctrine. These groups can outline their views far better than I, but there should be a theological insistence from those of us who variously use the labels ‘open’, ‘inclusive’ and ‘affirming’ that our views are strong, pure theology. I believe that the church should embody equality without discrimination, and this should insist that women have equal status throughout the church. Allowing any room for churches, groups or individuals to opt out of equality is to give acceptance to discrimination. We should make it known that the compassion in search of compromise with those who believe differently has long be lead by those in the progressive mainstream.

Continue reading


1 Comment

Benediction

BenedictionTwo weeks ago, at the feast of St Luke, I officiated at a solemn evensong with benediction of the blessed Sacrament. It was the first benediction I had officiated at. I remember attending benediction for the first time as an undergrad at Durham and being moved by the experience, but without the theological literacy to unpack the experience. A few years later I attended another benediction in Cardiff. It was one of those ‘precious’ high churches, with bevies of ordinands trying to out do each other in the laciness of their cottas, and the smartness of their genuflections. That event put me off benediction for over a decade.

Personal experience must be at the heart of religious faith. One bad experience made me theologize that the efficacy of the eucharistic Sacrament is in the eating and drinking, leaving benediction high and dry from sacramental grace. I think this is the mainstream Protestant view of benediction. However, my recent experience, on the other side of the humeral veil, put me back in touch with my first, positive experience of benediction. Continue reading