A response.

(Although I typed most of this yesterday, my computer died (well, copped a strop, anyway) so I’m only posting it today!)

It’s fairly rare for me to blog twice in a day.   But having written earlier today about finding peace in a difficult situation, I find myself seeking that peace while also praying that others will find it.

I suppose I didn’t really see the ‘no’ vote coming.  And perhaps I therefore wrote the last post with at least a scrap of ‘I do feel sorry for those poor folks who are going to have to accept women bishops, against their wishes and beliefs’.  I like to think my motives were pure but, frankly, they often aren’t.

I know there are a lot of people hurting today.  For me, it’s probably not such a personal wound.  For starters, I’m male!  (Am I therefore assuming I could become a bishop if I really wanted to?  Interesting!)  However, suffice it to say that many people have had old wounds reopened or new wounds made today.  And that’s on both sides of the debate.  Something that people hold so dear and have such strong feelings about is bound to cause angst and pain and sorrow when there is disagreement.

Here are just some of the questions that arise in my head as a result of today’s vote:  (feel free to respond to these in the comments section – I’ve just written them as I think.  I’m not trying to be blunt about them, so please forgive me if you feel the manner in which they’re presented lacks grace – I’ll do my best to express myself sensitively.  I’m writing having only managed 3 hours sleep last night due to my Little Boy being ill.  This would not excuse rudeness, but it might help to explain poorly phrased questions.)

Why, when the incoming archbishop has pledged that the measures will be implemented in a way that respects those who feel unable to accept the authority of women bishops, do people fail to trust that this will be done.  Doesn’t this seem like a lack of submission; a lack of trust?

Why, when we are called to submit to authority, do a group of the laity vote so out of step with bishops and clergy (I know a part of the answer to that…)

Why, when the synod is discussing so many issues, do the media insist on focusing on this one issue?  My suspicion is that it’s simply the desire to portray the church as out of step and divided.  They’ve certainly succeeded.

What next?  In the immediate future, how do we demonstrate that we are part of a loving communion?  And in the longer term, how do we work to convince those with concerns about women as bishops that they will be properly nurtured and pastored?

As I say, these are not intended to be critical, though they are expressed from a place of genuine confusion and questioning.

Any answers?  Or further questions even?

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7 Responses to A response.

  1. Simon Nash says:

    The submission point is interesting, especially as those most opposed to female episcopacy are the two traditions who have the highest notions of submission in the church. Perhaps the synod should have voted in three stages. First the bishops, on the substantive issue, then invited the clergy to vote on the one question; do they submit to their appointed leaders in this, then the laity with a similar sub-question.

    Its all a bit of a mystery to me as a non-anglican. In my tradition we don’t have a laity, let alone an episcopacy, so questions of polity and leadership are decided congregationally. But my wife is an Anglican so for the last few years I have been a stranger in the midst – still puzzled by what everyone regards as “normal”.

    • nickparish says:

      Hi Simon,
      Thanks for your comment. An intriguing proposition, certainly! I do struggle with the concept of refusing to submit to a woman bishop, when, logically speaking, they may be far closer to your own churchmanship than, say, a liberal bishop. My feeling is that I’d rather submit to someone who believed the right thing rather than someone who … uh … had the right bits, so to speak…
      As for laity (and forgive me here if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick on your comment), your church almost certainly does have laity (unless it’s empty). It’s just the technical term for those who are not paid (or ’employed’ fulltime) to lead the church. The lay people are just the people in the congregation. As I say, if I’m stating the obvious, and you meant something else, forgive me!

      • Simon Nash says:

        I thought the clergy meant those who could read and the laity were the illiterate – which was why the anabaptists’ first move was to abolish the laity and regard the whole (adult) baptised community as clergy. The issue of whether clergy or laity were stipendiary or non-stipendiary I thought was separate – as the Anglican church my wife belongs to has a stipendiary youth worker who they call lay and a non-stipendiary priest who they call clerical. I’m sure it makes sense to those within the CofE.

        I’m learning more and more about the Old Dear all the time.

      • nickparish says:

        Ah yes, (sorry, I am tired!) you’re right about the pay thing. Stipendary/non-stipe is pay, while lay/ordained is probably the other distinction (though am genuinely struggling to remember details here. For those who accept the priesthood of all believers (which, let’s face it, is not without scriptural basis!), the laity doesn’t really exist in quite the same sense, though a church is still likely to have those who ‘lead’ and those who are led. I suppose, historically, the laity were illiterate, because the vast majority of people were.
        Ordained can also be deacon/priest, just to confuse things 🙂 Deacon is the first step, priest the second, though some people take only one step, if that makes sense.
        (Anyone reading this who thinks I’m wrong, or even just unclear, is welcome to correct or clarify me!)

  2. Claire Jones says:

    I had loads of questions too. These are some of mine: http://artofuncertainty.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/gut-reaction.html

    I think for me it raises big questions about the nature of ‘Church’ – what do we mean by it, what did Jesus mean by it, what does it mean to be C of E? Do we hold a different view of Church to say, Roman Catholics? Is it important that we stay fully committed to the Church, and if so, what exactly are we committing to?
    Looking for silver linings, I hope this vote will have highlighted to many, across all parts of the Church, the need to actively participate in these kinds of decisions, but not just the big ones – being part of PCCs, deanery synods and so on, I hope it will encourage people my age to want to get involved and be part of change, rather than just ditching the Church altogether.

    • nickparish says:

      Hi Claire,
      Thanks for your comment. It does seem to be a time of questioning, doesn’t it…
      The issue of trust, which you raise on your blog, is a big one here. I suppose the crucial thing is we can trust God even when we feel we can’t always trust His people.
      I hope that this will be an encouragement to people to get more involved in church (though I remember suggesting that we didn’t vote one of our young people onto PCC precisely so that they could be protected, at least for a couple of years, from the pain of divisions that can come in any such group) I know I could have done more to make my voice heard on this one (though I don’t think it would have swung 6 votes … )
      It is always tempting, isn’t it, to leave what we believe to be a sinking ship (and I’m talking in general terms here) but sometimes the ship just needs to be repaired.

      • Claire Jones says:

        I agree. I was talking to someone this morning, a baptist friend, who told me about the discussions she’d had in the past with Anglicans, and they described Church as a boat from which to fish, and though it has many holes in, that’s the nature of churches that are made up of people. We choose to be part of the C of E because we think it’s the best boat from which to do our fishing, and we do all we can to patch up the holes and make it better fit for purpose.

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