Saturday, 16 April 2011

Votes for Women

I had the chance this week to vote on the issue of women becoming bishops. The vote didn’t count for anything except to give a wider national picture to someone at some point. It was a pretty typical church debate. The liberals umm-ed and ahh-ed about including everyone, while a conservative stood up and gave an impassioned plea on behalf of the “oppressed minorities”.

It was moving though. He spoke from the heart and the liberal catholics probably all thought of friends and churches they knew, people who would be hurt and feel excluded by a changing church. The only problem is that any women who might already be feeling hurt and excluded are easily forgotten. If someone’s going to get hurt it always seems more charitable to do nothing but, without slipping into Edmund Burke cliches, doing nothing, in an unequal world, can be equally unkind.

The Church has already previously ruled out any possibilities that would lessen the significance of diocesan bishops or leave women in a less full expression of this. (This didn’t stop them tabling a second proposal to effect this at the meeting.) These options would just serve to introduce more schismatic divisions to a church already fraught with contradiction, or again engrave inequality on the broken stone tablets. But this means that the current proposal, with whatever code of practice is to come, is the only possible means to remove one of the most significant remaining inequalities from the church.

We have traditionalists on one side and disenfranchised women on the other. The choice is not doing nothing or hurting traditionalists. The axe is laid at the root of the tree. Either we again surrender our credibility and capitulate to injustice and bad theology, or we accept that the Gospel today requires us to fully recognise the ministry of women.

My deanery voted against the measure. It shocked me. I would not have thought it possible that a majority of people would reject a basic principle of equality. It is a misplaced kindness that is unkind. An ungenerous generosity. An unreasonable compromise. It is time that liberals find their voice and ring the changes.

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