Anxiety over women bishops – where is faith in God’s infinite, loving presence?

I’m preparing to leave for the annual residential meeting of the Changing Attitude trustees, being held this year in North Reddish, between Manchester and Stockport, in the parish where trustee Clive is incumbent.

The annual residential enables us to reflect on the past 12 months and from there, address the needs of next year focused on our vision, strategy and financial needs.

Next month’s General Synod will be on our hearts and minds. Changing Attitude is committed to the full inclusion of all in the Kingdom of God, and the time for women in the episcopate is NOW. Members of Changing Attitude will be present at Synod to support our brothers and sisters in WATCH.

There are many in our Church who approach this critical General Synod meeting with high levels of anxiety and fear. I’m concerned for my sisters and brothers in the Church, for effective mission and evangelism, and for our ability to proclaim and embody the Kingdom of God in our society.

Conservative pressure groups, whose strong faith conviction can give me a sense of inadequacy or inferiority, seem to have lost some of their conviction and are issuing statements of despair. There is a fear that life as they have known it will come to an end if the legislation is enacted.

Replace the Measure, a recently-launched web site which seems to be linked to Anglican Mainstream, say they (but who ‘they’ are isn’t revealed on the site) will show that the Measure as it stands is not fit for purpose, because of its unjust treatment of significant minorities within the Church of England. It must be stopped before it damages the Church irreparably.

The General Synod Catholic Group claims traditionalists would become second class Anglicans served by second class bishops.

A majority of the Church of England Evangelical Council is concerned that there is a serious possibility the measure may result in their exclusion from the Church.

Church Society members are loyal Anglicans, committed to the supreme and final authority of the Bible as God’s written Word, adhering in good conscience to the Bible’s teaching on male headship in the family and in the church.

The ministry within the Church of England of a substantial body of ordinands, younger clergy, lay leaders and laity will be threatened by the proposed Measure. If they are rejected by their beloved national church it would be immensely damaging to the Church of England and to our country.

Being a faithful adult  Christian

The legislation is not setting out to treat some unjustly, or to exclude anyone, or to create second class Anglicans, or to threaten or reject anyone. The language used by these groups reveals their fears and anxieties – and the weakness of their faith and trust in God, who is always doing new things in creation through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The ministry of Changing Attitude in the Church looks forward always with hope, faith and trust towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Life will not come to an end for any human being when women bishops become a reality. Each of us makes choices all through our lives as to whether we opt in and engage with the human race and with God’s divine, sacred, loving, creative energy – or not. That’s the choice we are presented with daily.

If Synod fails to enact the legislation, I will be deeply disappointed, for my sisters in the Church especially, but not for them alone – the whole people of God will continue to be diminished as a result.

But it wouldn’t be the end for me (but then I’m a man, so …). It wouldn’t be the end because nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. What surprises me is that those who claim to be most Biblical and most faithful to God are anticipating such loss with fearful feelings.

Whatever the outcome, I will continue to be deeply spiritual, to pray, meditate, love, campaign, be passionate. But I may do so with less dependence on the resources of the Church, which are already frequently detrimental to my spiritual health and well being. But I’m an adult: I can choose to deal with the Church in an adult way, even when the Church acts in a less than adult ways towards me.


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