The C of E should appoint women Bishops

I find it difficult to believe that the Anglican Church has made such heavy weather of women Bishops. They made the crucial decision to have women vicars years ago. How can they deny their female employees the chance of promotion? Today’s Synod should just get on with it, and allow any woman who is capable of doing the job to be able to compete for it.

What text from the Bible do they use to deny them? Do the so called conservatives deny the important role of Mary Magdalen in the Bible story? Do they acknowledge that women were important in the early Church, just as they are often more numerous in the congregations of the contemporary Church?


  1. English Pensioner
    July 9, 2010

    Personally, I am less concerned about the appointment of female bishops than I am about the appointment of gay bishops (or indeed any gay clergy in an active relationship). The Bible, as far as I am aware, does not teach against females in the church, but certainly is against those practising homosexuality. I am quite clear in my mind which action is likely to stop me from attending the Anglican Church.

  2. @pmt008
    July 9, 2010

    The issue is not one of promotion. It's about a theological understanding of particular passages. Whilst I don't agree with those who are against women bishops (though the jury is still out for me on women archbishops) I do recognise that there are a large number of them and that they are entitled to hold their view. Because of this, there MUST be some way of keeping them in the CofE and happy (relatively) and it is now down to people like WATCH to start behaving properly instead of reactionary, as has been their way of late.

  3. Simon Fisher
    July 9, 2010

    I am sorry to see JR post this. This blog allows us to access JR's thoughts on politics and economics, where his real expertise and experience are invaluable. On this subject he is no expert, though.

    I am sympathetic to his conclusion, and he is probably right to say that the crucial decision was to have women clergy at all. But the following five sentences contain as many fundamental category errors.

    On this subject, as on many others, those who don't know about it should be wary of expressing a view. As it happens I know a lot about this, and I am *still* wary of expressing a view! I thought better of JR.

  4. John Armstrong
    July 9, 2010

    I don't think the issue is whether the CofE will appoint women Bishops. As far as I know all sides acknowledge that this will happen at some point in the future. There is a clear majority in Synod for this to happen.

    The problem is what provision you make for those who in good faith dissent (women Bishops are still very much a minority in the worldwide church – Catholic, Protestant & Orthodox). There are many texts in the Bible about loving one another and how you treat those with who you may disagree.

  5. Callum Wood
    July 9, 2010

    You ask "What text from the Bible do they use to deny them?" – but perhaps this question should be turned on its head. What scriptural evidence is there of the episcopacy being female? (The Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene being quite distinct from the twelve apostles). As there is no suggestion that women may serve in such roles, it is outside the Church's remit to make a decision on the issue.

    As there is no precedent for the ordination of women, the Church can't really be sure that it is permisible; unless, of course, one believes that the General Synod is inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit.

  6. John Hatch
    July 9, 2010

    I'm afraid I have long suspected that organised religions are mainly (ultimately futile) attempts by men to keep women under some semblance of control. Once you have women priests, there seems no further point…?

  7. Citizen Responsible
    July 9, 2010

    One of the reason’s for the “heavy weather” is the split within the C of E over the issue of women bishops and homosexuality and the risk of large numbers of members and clergy joining the Catholic Church in protest at any changes. It’s a pity that they keep linking the two issues which I think should be kept separate. The Pope has his eye on the chance with this one, by proposing last year, an “apostolic constitution” where the Catholic Church will open the door for Anglicans dissatisfied with the Church of England to return to the fold without making any major changes to their beliefs. It was described in the press at the time as “Rome parking its tanks on the archbishop of Canterbury’s lawn.”

  8. @claycon
    July 9, 2010

    Of course once it is accepted that it is possible for women to be ordained there is absolutely no reason why they cannot be bishops just as well as priests or deacons – indeed the question whether they can be bishops should have come first.
    Mary Magdalen was never included as one of the twelve disciples, and although women played an important part in the early Church in prophecy, mission and evangelisation, they were not ordained to the apostolic ministry.
    I do not base my views on any text from the Bible but on the unbroken tradition of the Church in celebrating the sacraments in a particular way based on what it believes to be God's deliberate purpose. Sacraments – including ordination – have to be performed through specific channels which I do not think the Church is at liberty to change.
    The question currently under discussion in the General Synod is not whether women will be consecrated bishops – that is inevitable – but whether there will be any arrangements to enable those of us unable in conscience to accept this innovation to remain.

  9. Richard Ritchie
    July 9, 2010

    John – this is much more complicated than you suggest, both constitutionally and theologically. Does the Church of England regard herself as part of the worldwide Catholic Church founded by Christ? If so, how can she make rules for herself unilaterally and independent from Rome? This is not about equal opportuities or the rights of employees! It is about the issue of authority, the relationship between the Chruch and Scripture (which came first? Answer, the Church), the importance of sacred tradition, and the central position of the Pope. The Church of England is divided on these central questions which have been central from the earliest days of the Church, following Christ's death, resurrection and Ascension. This is why Newman left the Anglican Church, and the questions he posed have still not been aswered. I speak as a Roman Catholic. But also as a Tory, the issue is important.
    Richard Ritchie

  10. DominicMarchmain
    July 9, 2010

    I'm afraid it's typical of a free-market liberal conservative to see these thigns purely in terms of employee/employer relations. Being a religious is not a job it's a vocation. Nobody has a right to it. If you're going to comment on religious matters, at least use religious arguments.

  11. Tony
    July 9, 2010

    1 Timothy 2:11-12 is I think, the main text used to oppose women clergy. However, at other points I could mention women do seem to have a more active role. I think Mary Magdalene's importance is rather overdone these days, though.

    For myself, I have an excellent pastor, who also happens to be a woman.

  12. Allan D
    July 9, 2010

    The problem with the C of E, or rather those in charge of it, is that they want to have their cake and eat it. They want to be, or appear to be, 'inclusive' whilst at the same time not wishing to make a reconciliation with Rome, which regards women priests in a somewhat different light, more difficult or break up the worldwide Anglican Communion whose members, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean, regard gay priests rather differently.

    Dr Williams has therefore to decide whether the doctrines of inclusivity and equality, which, admirable though they are, are essentially secular and humanist ideas dating from the Enlightenment, should override traditional Anglican teaching on homosexuality, ecumenism and his own position as Head of the worlwide Anglican Communion. So far Dr Williams, such as in the case of Dr Jeffrey John, whose nomination as both Bishop of Reading 7 years ago and as Bishop of Southwark more recently was first put forward then withdrawn, either sends out mixed messages or seems unable to make up his mind.

  13. Javelin
    July 9, 2010

    In the grand cosmological scheme of things men are women basically the same entities with different hormonal makeups. They're no different in terms of theological capabilities, unless someone proves otherwise. In general, women may be more into clothes, chocolates and socialising and not be as good at maths, figthing or sports but I don't see that makes them any less capable of being a church leader.

  14. rose
    July 9, 2010

    This is an Anglican compromise, but an unusually silly one. A vocation is a vocation, and once tested should be respected all the way to the episcopacy, regardless of sex.

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    July 10, 2010

    Yes, indeed. Women are just as capable of propagating archaic mumbo jumbo as men are, and should be given opportunities up to and including Archbishop level. I would have extended that to God but unfortunately there isn't one.

    Women are now more numerous than men in congregations because more and more men have ceased to believe in God. You did not mention that both Anglican and RC congregations have halved; that has not come about by chance.

  16. Mike Stallard
    July 10, 2010

    See how very few people are interested! It is assumed by most people today that the Church is completely irrelevant. I don't know about you, but our village Church is virtually closed.
    Women and men are different ("Male and Female created He them".) Bishops are the centre of the church and have been since at least the 3rd century a.d. this is an important question.
    Now, please will someone tell me why women should be bishops? Why should they?
    I honestly do not think there is any religious reason why they should. Can you think of one?

  17. perotin
    July 10, 2010

    The church in general should not be about "promoting" people. If you've got a really good vicar, it does not mean that he will be a very good bishop – they are totally different jobs. If you want to be promoted within the church it probably means you are not suited to the job, as Jesus' life was all about turning the world upside down (see Sermon on the Mount and washing the disciples feet).

    If we do get women bishops, I would not be bothered in the slightest but many people will be and I think in general, not splitting the church is more preferable than some people's (male or female) selfish ambition.

  18. George
    July 10, 2010

    I find it incredible that with all of the knowledge and understanding we have of gender equality, these questions still keep arising.

    Equality is important and having this "debate" highlights the inequality in organises religions.

  19. Andrew Johnson
    July 10, 2010

    Wow! Can I gently remind everyone that theological means "talking about God" -literally God talk. Every one has a theology, even atheists, so everyone is entitled to a viewpoint on women priests and bishops including John Redwood. May I recommend a book by Ruth B Edwards, "The case for women's ministry" publisher SCM. It gives everyone who reads it plenty of food for thought and prayer on this very important subject .

  20. christina sarginson
    July 12, 2010

    I agree and have never really understood why woman have not been allowed equality in the church.

  21. Erikallan
    July 12, 2010

    As I read it, the Bible says that women should be under the authority of men in Church leadership. I know that people say things were different when Paul was writing, but does that mean we should also be allowed to kill and steal now because times have moved on since Moses?

  22. Helen Lewis
    July 13, 2010

    JR puts his finger on an issue largely ignored in church circles. Vicars and bishops are indeed employees- paid, housed, taxed, and subject to national insurance. The apostles' descendants long ago became part of the world of economics, finance and employment law.. Had bishops remained, as in the early Church, supported merely according to their needs, there might well be an argument for seeing them as purely spiritual figures and restricting the exercise of their functions to males. But there is no argument for restricting the financial rewards for being a bishop to men. The alternative to opening up the CoE's employment structures-for that is what they are- to women is to pay all priests-including bishops and archbishops- the same modest stipend.

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