Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Appointment of female bishops

The Church of England has appointed its first female bishop, some 20 years after the appointment of its first female priests.

Libby Lane has been ordained as the Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony performed by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

As part of the ceremony, Dr Sentamu will lay hands on the new Bishop as he prays for her, a long standing tradition of Christian prayer.  And that's where the problems begin.

Next week, Rev. Philip North will be ordained as the new Bishop of Burnley.  Dr Sentamu will be present at the ceremony, however he has decided not to join in they laying on of hands on that occasion - only 2 bishops will perform that part of the ceremony, being described as "those whom the priest will be able to serve sacramentally."  Seemingly this is due to Rev. North's strong opposition to the ordination of female bishops.

The theological arguments for not ordaining women to positions of authority have been made many times, such as in this article - nothing will be gained by repeating them here.

However, the Church of England, after prayerfully considering all arguments both for and against, made a decision to ordain female priests 20 years ago, and recently made the same decision with regard to female bishops.

Some people, including Rev. North, still believe that female priests & bishops are wrong.  I understand that, and although I disagree, I respect his right to those beliefs.  But, the Church of England has now begun to ordain women to those roles.

One of the Church's own guiding principles on the ordination of women bishops states:

Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter.

"Acknowledge" means more than just agreeing that the decision has been made - it means accepting the decision, and working within the framework that the decision brings.

The continuing divisions on this subject are a cause for concern.  Of course, we will always have differing opinions on the way things are done - that's part of the reason why different denominations exist.  However, differing opinions shouldn't mean refusing to work alongside people.

Let's pray for all concerned, and for the Church of England as a whole, that divisions can be worked through, and that the Church can be one body.

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