The Church of England is making heavy weather of women bishops. Of course they had to approve women bishops. They made the crucial decision when they voted for women priests. It makes no sense to say that women can hold any pastoral position up to bishop, but to prevent them from being bishops.
Those who disagree with women bishops do so for two main reasons . They claim the Bible shows the apostolic succession was an all male affair, based on the fact that all twelve apostles were men. They go on to argue that it is reasonable that some male priests insist on not working for women bosses in view of this.
It is true all 12 apostles were men, at a time when most of the jobs outside the house were handled by men as part of the then social practise. To many earlier societies a more active role for women outside the home would have seemed strange. The world for women has changed dramatically in recent decades in a way which makes this all seem very dated. It is also true that in the Bible women were very involved in the creation of the new movement and in the formation of the early Church. Mary the mother of Jesus plays a central role, as do the women followers who are a feature of the gospels. Jesus never taught that women had to be left out of the great movement he initiated.
It is strange for Anglican clergymen to say they will not work for women bishops, when the Church voted for women priests, and when already many male clergy do work for female bosses in senior roles below the rank of bishop. In practise all current Anglican priests have accepted the presence of women in the priesthood â€“ preventing them from getting the top jobs is a backward looking hangover from their defeat on the central issue.
In my view it would be quite wrong for the Church to carry on living in the nineteenth century as if the emancipation of women from the home had not taken place. The Anglican Church needs all the support and talent it can muster. Cutting itself off from half the human race in its search for suitable people for its ministry would be odd indeed.
Will this split the Church? It’s one of many issues which could lead to further rows and some departing. The Reformation is not yet over – there are still important differences between the Anglican settlement and the Roman one. A minority of the dissenters may prefer the authority of the “Bishop of Rome”. Catholics will I am sure will welcome them.