Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bishops Are Bishops

The General Synod of the Church of England has decided to move ahead - slowly, to be sure - towards the ordination of women to the episcopate. During the Synod meeting a proposal from the two Archbishops was narrowly defeated. I don't fully understand the proposal, but I think that it would have provided that if a woman became your Bishop and you didn't believe that women could be Bishops, you would have the right to a male Bishop whose authority was not granted by the woman Bishop but by the Church of England. I think that's right, but it was a bit confusing. Without that provision, under those circumstances, the male Bishop would have the authority delegated to him by the female bishop. 
The objections to this from Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical groups came quickly and there are predictions that many in the former group will head for Rome. While I have some sympathy for those who hold in conscience minority positions - after all my pacifist position has been a minority one - I find the logic of the objections a bit weak. If I held that it was impossible for a woman to be a Bishop, or in Holy Orders at all, why would I want to remain in a church which purported to have women Bishops? Wouldn't every action of such a church be suspect because women were exercising authority which they cannot have? Wouldn't the conscientious choice be to leave?
I don't want folks with whom I disagree to leave. It saddened me when parishioners left Saint Matthias Church after the General Convention consented to the ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. It saddened me, but I realized that conscience made it impossible for these folks to belong to a church that had a partnered gay Bishop. 
When I was struggling as a teen-ager with  my pacifist convictions, I was very thankful for the support of one of my high school teachers who was a member of the National Guard. He accompanied me to a draft board hearing and assured them that, although he didn't agree with me, he recognized that my convictions were genuine. I hope that I can have the same attitude towards those who disagree with about the ordination  of women, I will continue to pray for those sisters and brothers in the Church of England who struggle with this uncomfortable situation, as leaving or staying would both be difficult. 

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