Welcome step towards women bishops

By Savi Hensman
November 21, 2013

The Church of England’s decision to move a step closer towards allowing women to be bishops is a welcome move. By 378 votes to eight, General Synod backed a package of proposals to take forward legislation which may be approved in 2014.

This is about far more than opening up opportunities for advancement to a few senior women. Bishops have an important role in supporting, and coordinating the work of, congregations across a geographical patch and linking them to a wider fellowship of Christians, past and present. Barring some of those gifted by the Holy Spirit with the ability to carry out this work well has been a sad waste.

What is more, such discrimination has damaged the church’s capacity to witness to the good news of Christ’s love which breaks down barriers and to invite all, regardless of ethnicity or gender, to join in transforming the world into a place of justice and peace.

In contrast, in a world where women are still often excluded and even abused, and men can feel trapped by harmful expectations, having senior clergy or elders of all sexes can have a powerful symbolic as well as practical impact.

Allowing women to be selected as bishops is not enough on its own: cultures and structures that exclude also need to be addressed. A side benefit of this may be to help the Church of England to free itself from patterns of behaviour that get in the way of mission and ministry, including the remaining trappings of a feudal past.

While bringing about major change remains a challenge, the progress towards legislating for women bishops is encouraging.

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© Savitri Hensman is a regular Christian commentator on politics, economics, society, welfare and religion. She is an Ekklesia associate and works in the equality and care sector.

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