The Anglican Church inches towards women Bishops

Let me annoy some bloggers by raising this issue again. Some said I was not good at this subject. Others implied I had little right to comment. I am a child of the Anglican tradition. I have every right to comment on the Church’s future, as it remains the established Church whose deeds have to be reported to Parliament and in some cases approved by Parliament.

There are two concerns mentioned against the Synod’s decision to move towards women bishops. Some traditionalists are unhappy with women bishops, as they think it wrong. I am afraid they either have to live with the majority decision, or join a Church which has no women bishops. They did, after all, live reluctantly with the majority decison to have women priests. Some worry that others will join the Catholic Church, and see this as a needless weakening of the Anglican communion. It is true the Pope wishes to recruit from amongst those who do not like this development. It is not necessarily true that the Church would have more members if it deneid women access to the priesthood as a career.

The truth is the Anglican Church could lose people from the other wing if it did not make this change. The evangelical Churches are often dynamic and also looking to recruit. That is why it is best for the Church to make its own decision based on the merits of the case, and then to go out and be proud of what it has decided.

It might also conclude that just as the Pope has offered a home for Anglicans who do not like a feature of the Church of England, maybe the Anglican Church could think of some features of the recent practise of the Catholic Church that might lead Catholics to join the C of E. The traffic need not be all one way, especially if the Anglican Church has now made up its mind and can defend its decisions.


  1. waramess
    July 13, 2010

    Might this not be the most uninteresting news for a long time. A bunch of delusionalists who dress up in fancy dress debating whether women might or might not dress up in the same fancy dress and teach the same delusional nonsense as their male equivalent.

    Or am I missing something? Whilst we should defend their right to have their beliefs we should surely not encourage them by taking it seriously.

    1. Steve Tierney
      July 13, 2010

      Such incredible arrogance deserves an award. I wish I had a medal or something I could send you.

      1. waramess
        July 13, 2010

        Whatever word you are looking for, I'm sure it is not arrogance.

      2. Atlas Shrugged
        July 14, 2010

        Not only arrogant, but I suspect proudly ignorant. People like him should be awarded sympathy not medals. For a person who denies his spiritual identity, is in reality already effectively DEAD, or at least may as well be.

        1. Stuart Fairney
          July 14, 2010

          That is an odd name (Atlas shrugged) for a religous person if I may say

  2. Man in a Shed
    July 13, 2010

    I'm not sure your got a full grasp on this one John.

    The house of laity and the house of Bishops votes for the Archbishop's compromise suggestion ( compromise being the key English tradition that has brought peace to our country since the end of the civil war ).

    But the women priests in the house of clergy – all appointed on the understanding and having given an undertaking that there would be no female bishops- insisted on the jack boot of liberal orthodoxy being pressed on the wind pipe of those who disagreed for reasons of faith and conscience.

    Perhaps it was ever thus. But there's an important lesson here – people just pocket concessions and wait for a time when they are strong enough to force more. Also those who call themselves liberal are sometimes the most aggressive and intolerant of all.

    The failure here has been of the wisdom of English compromise and concern for all – combined with an unchristian desire to crush your opponents rather than convince them.

    Perhaps the future Church being run by such people (which an increase in almost 100% female liberal bishops will guarantee) should be the most worrying thing of all.

    1. janebolacha
      July 13, 2010

      If, as a woman Anglican, I were to say that I refused communion from a male bishop or from even a male priest, I'm sure there'd be all hell to pay. Yet, in order to justify their stance, the so-called traditionalists (a misnomer if ever there was one, ignoring as it does the real traditions in the Anglican Communion of adapting to societal and cultural developments over centuries) trawl around in texts which date from periods and cultures in which the subservience of women was accepted as normal and unchangeable and use those selected texts to devise a position they then put forward as divinely ordained and apostolically proclaimed. Of course, Paul and his cohorts were opposed to women being in authority, of course, they had never seen or experienced women in authority in the societies and cultures they lived in, how were they possibly to envisage the equality of the sexes? The joy of Anglicanism has been its ability to embrace over the centuries changes in cultures and societies, in sharp contrast to the Church of Rome, that is the tradition of the CofE, a tradition of change. If a supposedly unchanging, unchangeable, fixed-for-all-time rightness is delusionally sought, then yes, the Church of Rome is the ideal nook for the conservatives in the CofE.

      1. Graham Eardley
        July 13, 2010

        Okay what would you suggest to those of us in organisations such as Reform or the Church society and the fellowship of the word and spirit who may describe themselves as Conservative Evangelicals and who can't accept Women Bishop's or priests on the grounds or headship?

        The last thing they and I would ever do is to become a RC

        by the way not just Paul Jesus chose 12 men God chose the time when Jesus was here on earth etc.

      2. John Hatch
        July 13, 2010

        Ah! So the CoE supports 'traditional' values such as 'change', does it? Dearie me, is there no limit to the distortions the left will inflict on our language?
        Well, JR rightly has to concern himself with such matters because he is an MP; I am not. If the CoE is now wedding (civilly partnered to?) to 'change', I shall leave them to it and concentrate on preserving the masculinity of Father Christmas.

      3. Man in a Shed
        July 13, 2010

        I doubt there would be hell to pay.

        Indeed the obvious compromise is to allow alternative bishops to all parishes and clergy. You should accept that others can make arguments with scripture that you may not agree with in good faith. They are just holding to the position the church took since its inception – so it should be understandable, even by aggressive feminists.

        The issue isn't your ability to take or receive communion. Its the denial of points of view held in good conscience due to a determination to eliminate from the church all those who do not measure up to the new orthodoxy.

  3. Alan Jutson
    July 13, 2010

    Argument over Religion has caused much unrest in the World for Centuries, as one set of believers pillory another.

    The Our God is better than your God argument is quite really pathetic.

    Time they all grew up. We are all in this World for but a few years in essence, why waste it arguing and fighting over the next.

    1. Alan Jutson
      July 14, 2010

      The more I read here, the more complex all the arguments seem to get.

      You do not have to go to Church, or be a slave to any religion, to lead a moral and Christian type life, where you simply treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, and help others who cannot help themselves.

      Like many other organisations it seems those at the top of the Church (of all religions) wish to preserve a position of power and influence over many others.

      For Gods sake, half of the Worlds population are women, do you really think to exclude them on the basis of scriptures supposidly written 2000 years ago, when the World was a totally different place, is right now.

  4. Paul Round
    July 13, 2010

    The fact is, the Church of England still has an important constitutional role, rightly or wrongly.The Prime Minister appoints its head, Bishops sit in the House of Lords and no one outside the Anglican Communion may ascend the throne.Tony Benn wanted to dis-Establish it, an excellent reason to support it as the only Established Church

  5. Stuart Fairney
    July 13, 2010

    Call me a cynic, but if the church is worth anything, it is surely a conduit to God or nothing at all. So, (given that the clear edicts of scripture are ignored) why not just see what God wants? Just pray and God can let them know whether he is in favour of female emancipation or not.

    The trouble is, if half the clergy announce that God has told them one thing, and the other half announce he has told them the opposite, we know that at a good proportion of the church is not in touch with God at all.

    And if the obvious conclusion escapes readers now, then there is truly no hope for the rational mind of such readers. If I may misquote Rumsfeld "The absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence"

  6. @pmt008
    July 13, 2010

    I'm afraid you both lack the understanding of the situation that is required, though "waramess" greatly more so.
    First off, when women priests were allowed in 1992, there was the Act of Synod which established "protection" from this and "flying bishops" could come in where necessary for those that had problems with this and churches could always choose to not have a woman priest.
    With female bishops and no defined protection for those who are against it means that those against can no longer be assured of their "honoured place" (as was promised in 1992) as they may have a female bishop placed in authority over them despite their objections.
    Now, I can understand you may say "So what, things change". However, the CofE is not as black and white as that. The official church line on homosexuality is that it is not what God has ordained for humanity, yet there are practising gay priests within it. The CofE is made of various shades of grey which allows for many views and provides for most of them. So definite change in 1 direction over another is not what the CofE does, historically.
    Finally, whilst the CofE is "The National Church" it does not mean that the nation or society should define it. Church is all about representing God to the world and it is for the Church to decide, through things like synod, how it shows this.

  7. Cliff.
    July 13, 2010

    We have a saying in the Catholic church that although we have a shortage of applicants for the priesthood, we have no shortage of those that want to be Pope. In other words, far too many people want to change God's law to suit their own agendas.
    Now correct me if I am wrong John but are you sure The Anglican faith is a democracy?…Surely it should be based on the teachings of Christ. He appointed all men as Bishops and, as far as I'm aware, men cannot over rule God.
    I suppose that this development is not unexpected as the whole of the Anglican movement was created because a member of the Catholic faith didn't like the rules on marriage and so decided to go against God's law and start his own church so that he could dictate his own terms; A faith built on sand will always crumble.

    May I also say that since the population of the UK has turned away from religion and the moral teachings that come with it, so our society has declined.

    1. Mike Stallard
      July 13, 2010

      Super comment – well said!
      I used to be an Anglican until 1989 when Archbishop Spong ordained a lady divorcee as a bishop. I then, having found out that this flew in the face of the Biblical teaching on bishops, became a Catholic. I have been a Catholic ever since. It is lovely!

    2. Atlas Shrugged
      July 14, 2010

      You seem to be implying, or maybe not, that the RCC is somehow more based on the word of God/Jesus then for example The Anglican Church. I am not a theologian, just a lay historian, therefore the RCC may be regarding the issue of women bishops and priests. What is historical fact however is that as far as most if not all other issues are concerned the RCC has more in common with the wishes and past religious/pagan/Sun worshipping preferences of a long since past Eastern Roman Emperor then the reported words of a chap named Jesus.

      You are right to say that The CofE is a movement. A movement is a preference, not a religion, or a statement of faith. Indeed the differences between the AC and The RCC are largely only political in nature, which is in the RCC's case not at all a bad thing.

      In my opinion a church that gave the world The Inquisition, (and all that went with that has no right to moral authority -ed).

  8. Peter
    July 13, 2010

    What is sad about this situation is the sheer amount of time being devoted to it. I would guess Rowan Williams is the one now wrestling with himeself having moved the compromise amendment in the hope of maintaining unity when his own liberal instincts would probably have supported women bishops without any preconditions. John Redwood is quite right to say, if the CoE proposal goes through, that traffic could indeed by both ways. There are many Catholics who wished that their Church supported women priests let alone bishops and who might chose to move to the Anglican tradition.

  9. Peter
    July 13, 2010

    As I implied earlier, the pity is that this and indeed other issues of gender are almost obsessions with our Churches at the moment. There are many more important issues in our society today about which leaders of Churches should be speaking. Be firmer in condemnation of peadophilia, defend the rights of the individual – whether that individual is a women being oppressed in some of the more remote parts of our world, a child in the poorer regions or, closer to home our older people who might not always be treated with the dignity they deserve. No doubt we can all can think of other important social issues. When leaders of the church are clearly seen to be grappling with these they might be taken more seriously by us all.

  10. Milton
    July 13, 2010

    Yesterday I boarded a bus and was amazed to see that it had a woman driver.

    Now I’m 100% committed to equality for women a signed up member of the Harman club, but (allegation withdrawn-ed)

    PS Well Jesus did choose 12 disciples, all men to build his church and Eve did tempt adam from the straight and narrow.

    Reply: Try living in the twenty first century, when women are free to do interesting jobs as well as men.

  11. Derek Buxton
    July 13, 2010

    The Anglican Church lost it's way a long time ago. Low congregations sparked them into thinking they needed to change and in some respects they were right. But like all large organisations they then took the wrong path and went for popularism. To this end they threw out the A&M hymn books and rewrote the Bible in such a childish manner it had all the appeal of the trashiest author you could imagine. Typical, they did not stick to the awe engendered by the liturgy and the music but went downmarket. I do not attend and haven't done for many years except for the funerals that at my age happen, and I have seen some shocking displays by clergy. My only consolation when I go, is that I shall not have to listen to the poor standard that I have seen.

  12. Lydia Taylor
    July 13, 2010

    Waramess – Britain is still an Anglican country and therefore this should be an issue – it's just unfortunate that the Church seems to be lagging behind on the progress made by the rest of the country – something which I believe has contributed to its demise.

    John – I never agree with you (and I mean that), but on this issue I do, and I think that this post is very well written.

    I believe that the CofE has a moral duty to reflect.. well, England… and it is failing on that, 100%. I was brought up by a Catholic mother (by birth), my father (though left when I was 2) is aetheist, and I went to a CofE school in Canterbury. I still go to church, whilst living in Leeds, London or when I am back in Canterbury. However I am always surprised by the level of variation and … tolerance between churches – some have been a bit too evengelical for me, whilst others far too traditional. The Anglian Churches need to stop thinking of themselves as a club which we might be so priviledged to join – and go back to thinking of themselves as a beacon (and reflection) of their country and their communities – in whatever form.

  13. Chris
    July 13, 2010

    Some people take soccer, astrology and, for that matter, man-made climate change, seriously.
    In my view they're all utterly deluded, but more than welcome to believe in these things if they want.

    1. Mike Stallard
      July 13, 2010

      OK easy peasy to throw out 200 years of tradition.
      Some questions remain:
      By throwing out religion, you throw out God, reasonable, rational, generous, God.
      So why are there any laws/entropy in the scientific universe? Why is bad behaviour wrong? Why should you care about anything much? Why bother to live if you don't want to much? Why not degenerate into a perfectly selfish animal?
      People usually sneer at this kind of question.
      Because they cannot answer it.

      1. Stuart Fairney
        July 13, 2010

        I will not sneer, but I will reverse the question. I don't murder people because I believe it to be wrong to deprive others of life and also for fear of the legal consequences. In no part of my thinking is there the belief that I live in a sort of celestial North Korea with total surveillance and thought crimes.

        Indeed, for me, it says a lot about people who say religion is the font of their philosophy that they would go around murdering and stealing and the only thing that stops them is a vengeful God. Are you really saying that? Of coutse not. You are surely happy to conclude murder to be wrong outside of the confines of ancient Aramaic texts.

  14. Michael Read
    July 13, 2010

    So this is what it's come to.

    My dear old church doesn't get marketing.

    So follow your logic and the bums in the pews might be boosted by the vicar sermonising on the joys of pornography.

    Or is this posting an example of your legendary wit?

  15. milton
    July 13, 2010

    Sorry John it was just a joke

    Ps better than some of yours

  16. Ross J Warren
    July 13, 2010

    Wasn't the original ban on Women holding such positions in the church down to a letter from Paul, rather than directly from Jesus?

    Paul was willing to admit to being fallible,and without doubt was writing for the first century church rather than imposing laws that he believed would hold forever.
    As it is we are very selective about which biblical rules we uphold, so I have no problem with moving with the time providing we do so in a prayerful manner, using the word of God and the Holy urgings of the Holy spirit to enlighten our deliberations.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      July 14, 2010

      Indeed so, there are those who argue that First Council of Nicaea adopted an essentially Pauline interpretation of the life and teachings of Jesus, rather than taking it from the fountainhead of Christ himself. Given that the gospels were not written until between 75 and 200 years after the death of Christ, this seems more or less unavoidable to me?

      (And may I say, this is why JR's blog is the best political blog on the net, where else could you find such diverse topics!)

  17. John Hatch
    July 13, 2010

    What did Queen Elizabeth I think about women occupying positions of authority within the Church of England?

    1. OurSally
      July 14, 2010

      Well she made herself the head of that church, i.e. Pope.


      And if the misogynists want to transfer to (a Church with a difficult record on relationships between some priests and children-ed), we won't miss them.

      1. OurSally
        July 15, 2010

        @Ed- nicely paraphrased, thankyou

    2. John Hatch
      July 14, 2010

      A frosty silence would be better than being burned at the stake by her predecessor, Mary Tudor. However, I was politely alluding to the fact that the head (on Earth) of the Church of England is currently a woman, and also was 450 years ago. The controversy about women bishops thus seems in the nature of a theological dispute about middle-management positions. Does anyone know how many clergy resigned when (1) Victoria; and (2) our present Queen, replaced a man as head of the CoE?

  18. Kevin Peat
    July 14, 2010

    Religion should have no place in modern democratic process. You might argue that the Church of England strengthens our culture – I would argue that (in view of the impact that other religions are now making) religion actually threatens our future as a democracy. Some faiths are even insisting that Creationism has parity with Darwinism in schools. That children must be taught that the World is a mere ten thousand years old when numerous scientific methods show that it is 5bn years old. The same faiths are dictating how the rest of us live and clame special legal privileges against us.

    That the CofE can change so drastically over women and homosexuals in the space of a decade is very nice but shows how baseless the whole thing is.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      July 14, 2010

      In fairness, both the Anglican communion and the Catholics know when they are beaten and both accept Darwinism and the 4.6 Billion age of the earth, rather than the scientifically unsupported view that the world is 10,000 years old. It's only the fringe groups who advocate absolute bible literalism. And you have to admit, they are kinda funny!

  19. SJB
    July 14, 2010

    JR writes: "… some features of the recent practise of the Catholic Church …"

    What features?

  20. Richard Cooke
    July 16, 2010

    John, as a true English patriot you show a strong allegiance to the Anglican Church. However I believe your allegiance to this organisation, with its constantly changing goalposts, is misplaced.

    Henry VIII and Elisabeth I where both seduced by powerful European-influenced advisors into ditching the Catholic church for a new Protestant version formed by the German Martin Luther and others. There is not a lot that is English about the ‘Anglican’ Church.

    Parlimentarians executed Charles I and replaced James II with William of Orange to protect their new religion. So parliament has been enabling Europeans to control Britain for quite some time. It is not a new phenomenon.

    Britain is demeaned by the continuing existence of laws that discriminate against the Catholic religion in a way that it discriminates against no other religion. In a plural society, it is better for a politician to encourage the separation of church and state, rather than reinforce to the old prejudices and cliques that have caused so much bloodshed in these islands.

  21. christina sarginson
    July 16, 2010

    Yes you have a right John to comment on this issue as everyone in this country does but I have to say this issue drives me mad, i know there is a long history associated to it but I have never been able to understand it. Women are every bit as good as men to carry out this work it is old hat and not part of the 21st century thinking it also does not fit with the equality thinking.

  22. Disco Biscuit
    July 19, 2010

    The Church could, I suppose, surrender its collective judgement and make a decision based on the teachings of the Bible instead.
    Bizarre way to do things admittedly, deciding by doctrine not thought, but isn't that what religion's meant to be all about?

  23. Kenneth Fontana
    August 12, 2010

    Well done John Redwood for writing your blog on the Anglican Church. Please understand me, I am not getting at you personally.

    I never cease to wonder at the comments some people, mostly non church attending Anglicans, make about Christianity and the CofE.

    As has been said, The Anglican church was set up by a bombastic and rather disliked King for his own convenience. Because it is the Established Church, it is looked upon as the most convenient church to "stay away from" on a Sunday.
    It has long been all things to all men and feels it must keep up with the fashion of the day.

    So we have equality of the sexes? OK the Anglican church ordains women as priests. Bishops are the next step? OK so we must have women Bishops. So homosexuality is all the rage these days, so we must have practicing homosexuals as clergy and then Bishops! What is that you say? Single sex unions in law? OK lets have them in the Anglican church. We mustn't be thought of as reactionary,must we?

    Nero is supposed to have fiddled while Rome burned, I am wondering if the Synod is busy fiddling while the Anglican Church goes into decline.

    I think we should get things straight. The Christian faith has been preserved by the Roman Catholic Church. Without it, there would be no Christianity. The church as such and its doctrines are not subject to democratic procedure but are determined by the bible, interpreted by scriptural and linguistic scholars. These people, Cardinals, advise the Pope who then defines and pronounces on matters of doctrine without reference to the fashion of the day but with reference to God's word.

    Now I know there are going to be people who will screech at me for saying this and some will wish I could be burned at the stake but, to misquote Shakespeare, "I think the fellow (these people) doth (do) protest too much."

    People will always argue about the Christian faith and there is nothing wrong with this as long as it is reasoned argument but there still remains the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is the largest in the world and, at over a billion souls, exceeds all the denominations put together.

    I believe, and it gives me no pleasure, that the Anglican church is splitting up and the only way it can be saved is for the Archbishop of Canterbury to select a group of Bishops and maybe one or two learned clergy to redefine the faith and to require that all clergy conform and teach accordingly. Those that disagree can leave and form their own churches if they wish.

    I can see an almighty row brewing if this is done but at the moment the church is
    racked with dissent and this is doing it no good. The church needs a very strong Archbishop to implement such a change. The church does not need the laity to be members of synod neither does it need the clergy. As you may guess by now, I am Roman Catholic but by choice and not birth.

    There is one thing that is thoroughly iniquitous and that is the Act of Settlement.
    This is a disgusting Act and there is no justification for it whatsoever. It should be repealed without delay.

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