embarrassed … and more

What can I say?
Along with many others, I feel a whole kaleidoscope of emotions following the vote of Synod yesterday.
I actually cried.
I genuinely felt sick.
Today those feelings do not seem to have relaxed much.
I feel pretty ’empty’.

Today I find myself totally embarrassed to be connected with the Church of England. Despite that embarrassment, I still love her, which kind of infuriates me. Maybe St. Augustine felt similar when he cried, ‘the church is a whore but she’s my mother!’

Today I have heard and read comments. The comments claimed the measure did not get through Synod (I can’t say wasn’t voted in … because the overall majority still voted yes!) due to alternative provision for those unable to accept a woman bishop. Yet … the ‘no’ speeches yesterday were, in my opinion, far more about the old arguments of male headship ….  nothing new from 20 years ago when I started Christian ministry. Surely we already dealt with that when the church correctly voted for women priests!

20 years and it seems we have gone backwards. Not only am I embarrassed but I believe the nation now sees the church as an embarrassment. As a clergy person in a pioneering role in a town with real people who can’t understand why we don’t have full inclusion already … I am concerned how this will effect the mission of the church. I fear the trust relationship we have with many will be lost …. no one wants to trust an embarrassment or a joke! That is clearly what we are. And, there will be consequences in that relationship in our communities.

There is a clear issue here that I do wish to voice. It’s fairly obvious to me that how Synod works needs to be addressed. If Synod members are truly representative, as in vote according to their electing diocese wishes, then this measure would have passed easily. If people were voting with integrity and following the wishes of those who elected them, then only the representatives of two dioceses should have voted no. It seems people have got elected and voted on personal grounds rather than acting as the representatives they should be. I struggle with that.

These people have deprived the church of God ordained female leadership ….. and you only need to look at the church to see that we are not functioning properly, due to that deprivation. Without an inclusive house of bishops we are incomplete.

But for now this gets us nowhere.
All we can do is pray.
In this season I find strength in the morning prayer canticle based on Isaiah 43:
‘I WILL make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’

I pray, O Lord, that you make that way soon!

6 thoughts on “embarrassed … and more

  1. Rob- I support women bishops and was disappointed by the result.
    But- some of the reaction- yours included, if you’ll forgive me- seems a bit over the top
    There’s a mechanism the church has for deciding these things- people are elected to general synod- as representatives, but not as automatons who just have to follow the majority view back home. Also the 2/3 majority is presumably there as a requirement to try and encourage consensus.

    I saw your tweet (on this site- I’m not on twitter) saying you were ‘sickened’. At the same time, there was still something approaching a war in Gaza. In that context, ‘sickened’ seems very OTT in reaction to a procedural vote on women bishops.

    It seems likely there will be women bishops before too long- and it’s probably best we keep calm and carry on in the meantime.


  2. Thanks for articulating with honesty and passion. Good blog. Especially the credibility issue and grassroots. Good to see you yesterday. I thought it was a very helpful and very inspiring day

  3. James

    Thanks for your comments – although you believe my reaction to be ‘OTT’, I 100% stand by what I have written. Indeed, I gave myself a good 24 hours to reflect on the situation.

    Everything is indeed relative, but your comparison to the situation in Gaza is, in my opinion, fairly irrelevant. If we followed through more fully the implications of your statement, then it sounds like you are suggesting that we can never become outraged at anything, because there will always be something occurring in the world that will, ‘in context’ mean actually we are ‘very well off and have no right to complain’.

    I have a concern that you think this is a minor thing. Gaza sickens me. As a person of 50% Burmese heritage, the situation in Burma sickens me. The fact that thousands of children in England alone are living in poverty sickens me. They all sicken me because what we see here is a great injustice coupled with discrimination and values that are neither right or biblical. The over-riding value in each of these situation, which is also apparent in the topic we are discussing, is that these people do not matter, they have no value, they are sub-standard in some way.

    The fact that the church of God, a place where all should be welcome, where there is no jew nor greek, slave nor free, male nor female, straight nor gay has become a place of prejudice is, actually, even more sickening because the church should know, and do, better! Until Tuesday we had a situation that was handed down to us historically. But now, we have this situation by choice. The church is a place where everyone is fully included. Anything less is, actually, sickening!

    You speak correctly of the voting system. The two thirds majority is good and right as this means we need to discuss and listen to each other. The listening there is very very important. The church has been discussing this for the whole of my Christian ministry. People have apparently been listening to each other. Many of the arguments against on Tuesday were the same arguments that were made 20 years ago in Synod, i.e. they were arguing women should not be ordained. Well … we’ve passed that point and quite rightly we have excellent women priests. The dioceses overwhelmingly, not marginally, but overwhelmingly voted for the legislation. No – the representatives should not be ‘automatons’, but they do need to listen to those around them. If the dioceses were closer in their decision making, all good and well, but they were not. With such overwhelming opinion across the board to return the vote in the house of laity that we received was indeed sickening.

    I am afraid your last comment … ‘it’s probably best we keep calm and carry on in the meantime’ seems to rather trivialise something that the church I love has been debating hard for the last 20 years!!! This is an injustice … and my reading of the gospel suggests, or rather plainly shouts, that as Christians we are to stand up against injustice. That is what Christ does all the time.

    On reflection, I would like to add angry to my sickened! I am angry and sickened because, since the vote, I have met women priests who feel rejected, undervalued, discriminated against. Two even told time they felt like a ‘sub-class’ of person. Many were even starting to doubt their calling from God. Yesterday one said to me ‘maybe I’ve got this all wrong and we shouldn’t be ordained!’

    I’m angry for my colleagues who I know are amazingly gifted God ordained and called priests!
    I’m angry that we are deprived of these good gifts because we cannot yet experience these gifts in their fullness in the Church of England. I’m angry also, that some think this is just some trivial matter that will be sorted one day. ‘One day’ is not good enough.

    We will carry on. I will carry on … but I will continue to speak out in the face of injustice and discrimination. Anything less then I would be denying my calling and reading of the gospel.

  4. Matt – it was great seeing you as well.
    Very emotional to be sending the Archbishop off in that way ….. he will be missed ….
    But yes – great day and good to hear about the sustainability of FX … and an understanding of our situation!

  5. This is such a passionate post. I wasn’t going to comment on it when I first read it, because I am not familiar with how your system works of voting, but the fact remains that I can understand your disappointment.

    The discussion of the role of women in the church seems to just be never-ending, but personally I can’t understand why God would give women gifts of teaching/leading and then not be allowed to use them for his glory? It makes no sense to me at all.

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