Women bishops – finally

20140714_164946http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140714_164946.jpg 448w" sizes="(max-width: 270px) 100vw, 270px" />Yup, this afternoon the General Synod finally voted to allow women to become bishops, 20 years after the church had agreed they could be ordained as priests. Changing Attitude England has been totally committed to the equality of women in the Church, and equality hasn’t yet been achieved – but this is a huge step forward, releasing energy for the future. Changing Attitude rejoices with our sisters and brothers in WATCH that their years of patient and sometimes impatient campaign work have finally borne fruit. We will continue to support WATCH as the legislation is progressed and the first women bishops appointed and consecrated.

20140714_165056http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140714_165056.jpg 448w" sizes="(max-width: 270px) 100vw, 270px" />Today’s debate was divided by lunch. The morning session revealed a new atmosphere in Synod. People speaking from a variety of positions were positive, realistic, generous, open and honest. The debate could not be ended by a motion for closure – if people were standing to speak they had to be called. John Sentamu, chairing the debate, was clearly wanting to terminate the debate by mid-afternoon, especially when a number of ‘headship’ evangelicals began repeating familiar tropes about the failure of the church to want them, love them and make space for them. The failure to secure a ‘headship’ bishop was raised several times.

 

Eventually no-one remained standing and Sentamu allowed three closing speeches, the penultimate one by the

20140714_165039http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140714_165039.jpg 336w" sizes="(max-width: 182px) 100vw, 182px" />Archbishop of Canterbury. But it was the final speech by John Spence, a blind evangelical Christian who rose to become managing director of Lloyds bank after he had lost his sight, which transformed the atmosphere and secured a pro-vote. He spoke with force and passion to those opposed to the measure, telling them: “Your faith is my faith, is all of our faith, and every one of us has a vital role to ensure that the searing vision of the risen Christ is taken out into this country, trust not misplaced. You, like me, will come to see … I am confident that we can walk hand in hand, and return the risen Christ to his rightful place at the centre of this country, its conscience and its culture.”

Despite having been asked to allow a celebratory reaction after the vote, Sentamu said he wanted the result to be greeted in silence. Applause broke out in the gallery but he suppressed it. The media were gathered outside and as women began to gather the press pounced. Synod staff reacted by trying, again, to suppress the celebration because the noise was disturbing members in the chamber. Eventually, after the last vote had been taken, members left the chamber, champagne appeared and a spontaneous party sprang to life. Arun Arora, in media supremo at Church House, continued to try and suppress the noise and the emotion, intervening in an interview being conducted with the Bishop of Gloucester.

20140714_165453http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140714_165453.jpg 448w" sizes="(max-width: 270px) 100vw, 270px" />Why is our Church so keen to suppress the inevitable outpouring of emotions and the celebration of something people have been working for with dedication, conviction and passion?

As some of the speeches acknowledged, the LGBTI issue is next on the agenda and the anti-forces are preparing their campaign. Change has been made easier because Synod has changed for the better in the last two years thanks to the more relational process of group work and conversation. Confidence has grown and there is a greater freedom around. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy – it isn’t.

Comments

  1. Tori says

    Do you know where I could find a video or full manuscript of John Spence’s speech? I’ve read about it on several websites, but can only find a few short quotations.

  2. says

    You’re quite right. One battle has been fought and one, but it’s just one skirmish in the ongoing fight for true equality and recognition that all humanity is part of God’s creation and each one is precious in his/her eyes. If only we could love each other in the way God intended and Jesus called us to do, we’d truly be in God’s Kingdom, come now.

  3. says

    Quite right, Colin. This is an important mile-stone on the journey to justice and peace in the Church of England. It was good to note that even the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales are able to state that this decision will not affect basic agreements that already exist between the two Churches. Who knows? One day the prospect of gender or sexual-orientation may no longer be a factor of the division that we have experienced in the Church in the past. Justice will out – simply because that is what God requires of all of us. Deo gratias!

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