I have just come across a comment by my local MP on his Facebook page: “Great to see progress today on the Church of England appointing women Bishops“. I’m pretty sure many will endorse those sentiments, feeling the decision is long overdue, and for those who have been watching developments in the CofE, having seen the ordination and growing acceptance of women priests, it was only a matter of time when there was going to be women bishops.
As for my views on this matter, including theological and cultural, I refer readers to my “Theological Musings” book. What is evident is that the matter will not rest, although there are many who feel the church as a whole will eventually acquiesce to societal changes, as it usually does. The question as to whether the church should go along with the cultural shifts we are now seeing, that includes “equality” for women, or take a view that what matters most is what God thinks, which might well be at odds with the culture, is a moot one.
My church’s position, the one I am in currently and the one I was in, regarding the issue of woman in leadership in the church, and without much apparent heart searching or theologising, is women are allowed to do everything except exercise authority over men (which by nature of the role, bishops or priests, pastors or elders do) and preach in public (at least when men are present), which I realise will not rest well with some who feel strongly on these matters, and can beg the question as to what these things entail. The fact it has not, in recent times, been an issue, at least as far as my own church affiliations was concerned (and if not my church I went with the flow – some pro and some against women ministers), there being more pressing issues to deal with and maintaining the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace I saw as an overriding consideration, meaning little is likely to change in the foreseeable future, whatever my views.
As with most “hot” topics, I will continue to exercise a watching brief and try to come to a correct biblical understanding, recognising the things I can and should be involved with rather than what I can’t or shouldn’t. I am mindful the matter of woman’s ministry, besides being a controversial and contentious one in certain quarters, can also give great pain to some, on both sides of the debate. I know two ordained lady ministers in my town who do a fantastic job and it is my privilege and pleasure to work with them. I know another lady who leads and preaches, and does these well, but can’t be ordained because her denomination doesn’t allow it. While there are many things in the church I would question, I will try to love the church come what may, distinguish as best I can between the essential and less essential and encourage God’s people, including lady ministers.
But if I am pressed and, while there are many other issues I feel I should seek to influence ahead of the one relating to woman’s ministry, and bearing in mind that my own ecclesiology is more inclined toward the notion of the priesthood of all believers rather than that of ordained priests, I am of the view that, on balance and in general, woman should NOT be bishops, or priests, or pastors, or elders come to that, nor generally preach in a mixed sex setting. Even so, I would be the first to recognise women’s contribution to the church, especially in mission, has likely exceeded that of men, and the days they just filled the pews, taught the children, made the tea and operated under the shadow of the men folk is now long past, and we can no longer afford not to allow women to exercise their God given talents as part of the ministry of the church.
How long will it take for “misogynistic dinosaurs” like me, who justify their position on Bible grounds, to become extinct? It is either that or for the church to see the light and do what is in the heart of God (the place of women in its ministry being one of its many issues). All this remains to be seen. Yet we are all in God’s hands and may His will prevail. We live in interesting times 🙂