Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Women Bishops Part III

(BBC Online)
Further to my previous two postings on this subject, it's worth pointing out that, in the US, the Episcopal Church there has elected Katherine Jefferts Schori as it's first leader by a narrow vote of 95-93.
This is only to be expected, considering the fact that the Episcopal Church in North America has women bishops, that it was only a matter of time before one of them was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA.
But it is not going to be helpful in the problems the church is facing worldwide. They are already difficulties over the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, although that is another story.
What do I think about this? Well the same as I do over the current problems in the Church of England, which I will metion shortly. I feel a bit torn, on one hand I almost wish the americans hadn't elected Schori, because it will rock the boat and could cause all sorts of problems. Whereas I happen to agree with the idea of women priests (although there was a time when I didn't), as I regard it as Biblical and morally right. That said, if I were a Roman Catholic, or a High Church Anglican/Episcopalian I would probably think differently on this, as my ideas on what defines the priesthood in general would be different. The question over Schori's election is not whether it is the popular or trendy thing to do, it is whether it is the right thing to do? Those who elected her believe it was the right thing to do, because, believe me, it would be easy not to, if only to have a relatively quiet life.
As for the Episcopal Church in the UK (otherwise known as the Anglican Church, or the Church of England), there is a debate at the moment as to whether to elect women as Bishops. Again, this is inevitable if women are already ordained priests. What I do find slightly distressing though, is that some Roman Catholics have called for a break in relations with the Anglican Communion if that happens, or rather a more frosty relationship.
I can understand why many feel that way. To take their view, the liberal wing of the C of E is behaving like a wiful petulant child, wanting things that, in their understanding, goes against 2,000 years of history, apparently refusing to consider their feelings and hurts over this issue, i.e. what's the point of continuing?
And because I once shared their views on this I can empathise, as some who are against women priests or bishops are not being sexist, rather there is the symbolism of the Church and who fits into what criteria that is being disrupted in their eyes. They would argue that there are female saints and female doctors in the Church, and yes, there is also the Virgin Mary.
But I urge the Roman Catholic Church not to freeze relations. I cannot see it as being helpful at all and we have much to learn from each other. Speaking as a Methodist, we have women priests and bishops (or rather ministers and chairs of districts), and yet we have fairly good relations with both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.
Another aspect of this is that there are aggressive minorities within both the liberal and evangelical wings of the Church, who are keen to whip up this issue in order to enforce a few points and settle a few scores against various groups. We must not let them because they want the anglican community to split and make their own stamp on the Episcopal Church worldwide, and if nothing else such behaviour is a long way from how Jesus Christ behaves.


Lola said...

I know very very very little about the whole ecumenical stuff, but i think the debate is about whether the RC and Anglican Churches could continue their discussions about possible unity in the the light of women bishops, not whether they should freeze relations...

Also, I do not understand the difference between women vicars debate and women bishops debate.

Paul Burgin said...

Ah, I didn't catch the bit about unity discussion. That's the press sensationalising things again! :/
The women bishops debate is a progression from the women vicars one (which with regards to the Anglican Church is almost in the past). I think the furore about women bishops is just another step in an area which people either want to go or don't!

Lola said...

I don't really see why it's a progression though - If you're going to have women priests then surely you should have women bishops?

There seem to be some people who are in favour of one but not the other - that's what confuses me.

Bizarrely, I tend towards the orthodox position on most God matters (at least on matters to do with the Church as opposed to issues of individual conscience / the law, where I tend to be much more liberal), which is odd for a leftie feminist.

the dĂșnadan said...

It isn't just about the Episcopal Church of America simply going against 2,000 years of 'history'. It is about the EC going against the Sacred Tradition of the Church, which comes to us from the Apostles.

As I think about it now, I think the ecumenical effort really ended with the admission of women to the priesthood in 1990/1. Their admission to the bishopric is simply a deepening of that divide, not the creation of a new one.

However we look at it, I think the ecumenical effort is now dead. For the Catholic Church its ultimate end was the reunion of Rome and Canterbury. With women in the Anglican priesthood at priestly and/or bishop level, that reunion will never be possible.

I hope that there is no frostiness between CC and Anglican Communion. At the same time, the hierarchy should not pretend that right now the two sides are anything other than what they are: estranged brothers.

Paul Burgin said...

I can only understand the difference Lola in that people are trying to defend their theological boundaries, even if it is a small foot of land! But yes, if there are women priests and if that is right, then why not women bishops?
As for orthodoxy, I tend to be conservative and evangelical in my faith (I came to agree with women priests because of my reading of the Bible in trying to understand the whole thing), but more liberal in my politics. I also try and understand and empathise the other point of view, with regards to my faith, but that means people can easily misunderstand where I am coming from. So in a way, I know what you mean with regards to being in a odd position for a leftie.
Dunadan, there may well be estrangement but there is still brotherhood. Christ is capable of the extraordinary, so I have hope for the eventual reunion between all Christians.

Lola said...

I think that people sort-of assume that leftie types will also be liberal in their religion, but that's not always the case.

I tend to separate the 2 things - I just don't view the women priests debate as a matter of women's equality, even though if women were barred from anything in the secular world I would have a hissy fit about it.

Paul Burgin said...

I don't either, strangely enough! Although as I stated earlier, my support of women priests is not because it is trendy, but rather because, in my view, it is Biblical

Tiber Jumper said...

This issue of the anglican communion splitting is yet another excellent proof in real life of why the church needs to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Without any final authority over issues of faith and morals and how to interpret the Bible, history will repeat itself again and again as the churches have been doing since 1517. It's Deja Vu all Over again.

Paul Burgin said...

I agree, although deep down none of us who are sensible wants division (which is part of the tragedy). The problem comes when we as Christians try and make God in our own image!