Women bishops - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons

Women bishops

Women bishops

The Times leader

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This week the Church of England did not cover itself in glory.

Tuesday, as The Times leader said, was a sad and shameful day for the church, when after 12 years of painful deliberation the General Synod turned down the legislation that would happen allowed women to be consecrated as bishops by the narrowest of margins - 6 votes in the house of laity.

I must have been a terrible blow to the many female priests in the church, who will find it hard not to take this decision personally. It suggests that the church thinks they are simply not good enough for senior office.

But because we are the established church it also symbolically does a disservice to half the population, and certainly to the church and wider communities up and down the country who are largely sustained by women.

The decision by General Synod makes the church look silly, unjust, and irrelevant, out of touch from where most people are in society today. Particularly in the eyes of a younger generation who really can't see what the fuss is all about.

The tragedy is that the majority of Synod was in favour of the legislation. 42 out of 44 dioceses were overwhelmingly in favour: so a small and unrepresentative minority have managed to block the will of the Church.

I get the impression that the shock of that decision has taken people by surprise. Those of us within the institution always knew it was going to be a close call and thought we were mentally prepared for a "no" vote. When that came, however, it felt a real tipping-point, a crisis moment and a wake-up call. It really is only a question of time before the Church of England takes the step of consecrating female bishops. It will happen.

The Church always lives with the tension between patience and reform: we remain true to the traditions we have received but we are also open to the Spirit of God renewing and changing the church in each new generation.

We have to trust that God is speaking to us through what has happened this week and be patient.

November 25th is the feast of Christ the King - a reminder that as Christ's people we live in a Kingdom whose rules of life don't simply mirror those of the world outside but have been set by our King.

We have always to try to discern, amidst current trends and values of contemporary society, what is of God and what isn't.

So as the dust settles after the decision of this week, we need to hold our nerve; to remind ourselves and the world that we shall sort this out; and to remember that waiting is part of our Christian vocation.

As we approach the season of Advent, we wait in hope, women and men, continuing to live out our ministry knowing that God's call to each of us is no less today than it was yesterday or last week.

We wait in hope, praying that we may be transformed by the renewal of our minds, as Paul says in Romans, and remembering that the bigger task - the transforming of society through the love of God - is as urgent as ever. "So we do not lose heart," as Paul says.

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