Bishop Rock

The vote to allow women to become Bishops went before the General Synod (GS) today.

The GS consists of three houses. The house of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. The first two are obvious and the laity is simply the congregation. In order to pass the vote had to have a two thirds majority in all three houses. The Bishops and Clergy did this easily but the Laity vote fell short by 6 votes. As such the draft legislation is rejected.

I’m not against women in the church. I’ve seen some really good ones and I’ve seen some that are quite dire. The same can be said for the chaps though but this is just a personal preference.

I’m quite juvenile in my faith. I don’t know as much as I would like and I continue to explore my faith every day. I don’t propose to know deep theology, every bit of scripture and story of the bible or church politics. All I know is my faith, that my trust is in God and my life is in His hands.

My church, in various forms has been a place of worship for over 1000 years. It’s an incredible building steeped in history and has seen some amazing changes through reformation and more. If only the walls could talk!

One of the constant discussion points when I was a kid at my parents church and now as I sit as warden at PCC meetings is the dwindling congregation and how to encourage young families into church. We have varying degrees of success but overall the congregation is predominantly adults aged 40 and over.

Traditionally we Church of England types are very British about our faith. It is something seen but not talked about or shared. It’s a very private affair only shared with trusted family and friends. I can sit in church and see someone I’ve known for years but not really know where they are with their faith. Yet times are changing. We have our traditional services and we have BCP communions too but once a month we also have a lively family worship service. Ours was last Sunday. We have a live band, joyous songs you just can’t help but sing and use a projector and screen for the whole service. It’s incredibly uplifting and we share our faith more openly with one another. Between us and around us we spread the good news.

The young families we have love it. It’s relaxed, informal, non threatening and fun! Yet many of our older congregation either tolerate it or avoid it. I understand this. It’s not their bag. That’s ok. What I get annoyed about is that some of these people, when asked, will agree we need new young blood in the church but then distance themselves.

There are of course many different churches and denominations. Many will be upbeat and lively all the time. Others will be traditional and more rigid. There is a place for both. When we were looking for a new vicar I used a phrase to describe who we were looking for.

Someone with their hand on the past but their eyes on the future

The theory was we must never forget where we came from. We must never abandon the traditions our older congregation want and need but we must move forward, do new things and learn better ways to make the Gospel relevant to people today. Otherwise the congregation will grow older, greyer, die off and the church will close.

I find it interesting to see that the Bishops and Clergy have the vision to take women Bishops forward. Yet the Laity could not reach two thirds majority. Close but no cigar. It seems to be quite indicative of the standard congregation and that the older traditionalist view is still just strong enough to hold this back. There are of course young people who are strong traditionalists. There are also older folk happy to clap, wave and dance in the aisles!!

A while ago I had a huge “ding dong” with the then churchwarden. I was angry and I prayed and prayed for wisdom. I prayed for the right words and to keep calm. I fell over 5 minutes into the meeting and he got both barrels. It wasn’t pleasant and I was a little ashamed. The then vicar chatted with me after. He told me that if I had prayed for guidance and that was the result then it was God’s will. I wasn’t so sure!

Months later I was asked to be warden. I would have to work alongside the chap I had argued with. I said I wouldn’t do it. However, after much prayer and reflection I realised maybe God was trying to teach me something. Maybe there was something to learn from him and he from me. The following 14 months working together were a fabulous experience and something we both benefited from. Only then could I see what God’s plan for me was.

I’m disappointed with the vote but I do wonder, with all the prayer, what God is trying to tell us? I don’t have the answer but it has me thinking!

What is certain is we were only 6 votes short of passing the legislation. The church congregation changes slowly and so the views and opinions if those on GS will be the same. We were close but this matter will come up again and when it does I predict it will sail through.

At a recent service we talked of there having to be destruction so new things could grow. A rose flowers best if pruned hard at the right time. I think the vote today and the volley of criticism the Church of England is about to face from Christians, non Christians and equality groups is our heavy pruning. We will look weaker, we will look ugly and we will look bad but if we remain strong within and grow in faith we will find new growth and flower again.

The difficulty for now is that those women doing wonderful work in our churches around the country will feel let down and more isolated than the Bishop Rock.

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5 thoughts on “Bishop Rock”

  1. What a great piece. I have recently rediscovered my faith (I don’t think it ever went away but I was just too busy with life, which in itself sounds terrible I know!). I think you are spot on about how the church must keep it’s traditions but must also look to the future. Something far easier said than done, but with people like you involved in the church things will change (and I mean that in the most positive way).

    Cheers

    Ps found this blog through your prayer post from a year or so ago. Another great post that really hit the nail on it’s head for me.

  2. Well.
    Where to start?
    Would the result had been easier to swallow if the margin wasn’t so thin? Does this show that church leaders are more willing to listen then the members of the Laity?

    Are we saying that women are allowed leadership positions, but not too much?

    Many questions, but I think you asked the most important:

    What God is trying to tell us?

  3. Interesting post Sarge, as always. I’ve been reflecting on the issue a bit this evening. I have no settled doctrine or theology in respect of women in leadership. I’m a member of a church which has one female pastor (of 4) and two directors of different ministries are females (when I started attending more than three years ago the number of female pastors was greater than the number of male pastors). I’ve never had to vote on the issue though. Each vote that has happened to date for pastors and deacons the choices have all been men. (oh, and I’m not CofE or even Anglican)

    Some of the things that have frustrated me about the comments being made are in relation to the church being relevant and progressive. This worries me; the Church shouldn’t be worrying too much about being progressive or relevant. It shouldn’t simply be following the trends in the world. The primary responsibility of the Church is to be true to Scripture. A change in doctrine or theology should only happen when the Holy Spirit reveals that the current position is incorrect. The only thing about relevance the church should be concerned about is how to make the message relevant to the society around us (without changing it to be relevant). That means the way in which church is done; the way in which it is presented.

    We are just coming to the end of a series focussing on the book of Ephesians at church and some of it has been rather relevant to these issues. We have been looking at church unity and uniformity. The church should be united, but that doesn’t mean that it should be uniform. Each of us has been created by God to be unique. We all have different skills and abilities and we will disagree on some issues of theology. However, we should still be able to be united; united around the central message: “there is a God and He loves you. God came to earth as man and died as the final sacrifice and through Jesus we can have eternal life.”

    Whatever the views of people in the CofE on women in leadership they cannot let this issue define them. They have to be united together as the CofE in order to unite with the rest of the body. The core function of the church is to take the Gospel message to all people in all nations. Debates about matters such as church Doctrine are all well and good; there is a place for that. However, it must not ever get in the way of our mission from Christ as described in Matthew 28:18-20.

  4. Fantastic piece Sarge, and I can say as a Christian Police officer, I’m with you all the way in this, with you all the way on the future for he church. It has to be for the young families but with full respect to the elder folk.

    We’re very lucky with this in my church. Our older folk are very understanding of our youngsters and value them hugely we’re very lucky to have lots of youngsters and young families and we treasure them.

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