Friday, 9 October 2009

Women Bishops But Not Fully Empowered

On a chess board the two Bishops are dressed in the same colour, start from roughly the same place, seem to have the same focus, but they never meet. The reason is of course that one uses the white square and the other's the black. The King and Queen, between them have the same basic move but the King can only move one square in any direction and the Queen can go as far as she pleases.

The Church of England is planning to legislate so that female bishops will be more like a hamstrung King that a fully fledged Bishop when their ascent to the Bishop's seats comes to be some point after 2014. For yes there are moves afoot to replace a stained glass ceiling in the way of those female vicars that are good enough for being a full participant in the House of Bishops. The Church of England has been listening to submissions from many opposed to the ordination of woman bishops and looking for the need of their special care when the inevitable comes to pass.

Ruth McCurry chairs a group supporting the ordination of woman bishops and sees worrying signs of what is happening:

"You will have a group of people who don't recognise each other as bishops. What kind of church do they think they're in when they are not in communion with each other? You are legislating this schism into existence and you are creating a two-tier church, a category of second-class bishops. People could refuse to receive communion from Rowan [Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury] if he were to ever ordain a woman as a bishop.

"Unfortunately I have come to terms with the fact that you cannot have women bishops without discrimination, lots of men will be discriminated against too, and this poor committee is trying to find an elusive formula that will keep everyone happy. They can't."

So is the Church of England really legislating itself into a schism? Quite possibly. However, other denominations have not just had the equivalent of women bishops but some have even had female leaders. Moderators of the General Assembly here in Scotland and the like. The fact that some in the Church of England are still so pent up on the gender of someone rather than their ability to perform the duties is a travesty in the 21st Century. Without women priests there would be a lot of vacate parishes, or overstretched male vicars covering extra flocks. To deny them the same career track as their male counterparts, or deny them part of the duties upon promotion, is something that the Church leadership should not allow.

Having brought female vicars into being the Church must recognise that the cream will rise to the top. As in all walks of live and must be allowed to do so unhindered and unfettered.

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