Thursday, November 22, 2012

Women bishops - apology

I give thanks to writer Michael Wenham for his blog, Diary of a Dancing Donkey, but more so for his insight into the Church, the women who serve in it and helping us see what Jesus saw in women. How those in the Church of England can go on about what Scripture "says" as opposed to what Our Lord "lived" and "taught" in word and example. I think in many ways we have been "reading" His "teachings" not quite the way He intended [indeed, a bold statement for a lay person to make but you'll get over it and simply know it's me being me]. It gives a whole new meaning to "come and be my disciple", and "go and DO likewise" [my emphasis]. Michael gives a sincere perspective on the recent vote not to allow women to become bishops in Church of England, UK>:

"Last night I thought it might have been a mistake to listen to the afternoon live stream of the Church of England General Synod's debate about the ordination of women bishops, since whenever I woke - which was quite often - my mind was mulling it all over. I found myself surprisingly upset. So I resolved to write a letter today to my women friends who are also priests and were most immediately injured by the marginal defeat, but it also extends to all who feel that they have been discriminated against by a church they love."

19 Churchward Close
21st November 2012

Dear Sisters

I am very sorry that you were so grievously hurt yesterday.

I have to confess that not so long ago I would have been among 45 clergy voting against the women bishops' measure yesterday and I might well have used sermons to say why. About twelve years ago, when the possibility was beginning to be mooted, I remember being asked over lunch at Lee Abbey what I thought about women being bishops and answering that I was against it and wouldn't serve under one. I have repented since.

Four things convinced me that I was wrong. The first was the succession of women in training for ordination at Wycliffe Hall who came on attachment or to preach in our parish. I'm not making comparisons! We had good male ordinands, of course, but it struck me that to be a female ordinand you had to be outstanding. I can remember them all and they were all inspiring. It's not that they set out to change my mind, but merely that they themselves set me thinking and reassessing my previous view of what the Bible said.

Secondly, I had had no time for those who explained away the "plain meaning of Scripture". For me the Bible was, and remains, true and the ultimate authority. So I didn't approve of attempts to wriggle out of its difficult teachings. However I have come to see that the original context is crucial both to our understanding and the application of the Bible. (I have a feeling this is known as hermeneutics.) I didn't find any idea of gender hierarchy at creation in Genesis; it seemed to be introduced as a consequence of the fall. I found that Jesus came to reverse the effects of the Fall and bring in the Kingdom of God

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour”.

This accorded with the radical way that Jesus interacted with women, overturning the oppression to which they had been subjected - so that the first response of faith to his incarnation was by a woman, the Virgin Mary, (a contrast to Zechariah the priest); the first Gentile apostle/evangelist was the Samaritan woman; he commended Mary of Bethany for sitting as a disciple at a rabbi's feet; he entrusted the good news of his resurrection to Mary Magdalene; and one could go on. He utterly reversed the accepted subordinate role of women.

The rest of this magnificent article can be read at Diary of a Dancing Donkey. It is well worth the read but mostly, and importantly, the revelation that we can be wrong about a thing, and have our hearts opened by Christ's blazing love and the comprehension revealed to us by the timelessness of an all-knowing God, who loves us and loves all, and always has, women and men.

Michael also recommends a book at the end of his article. A picture of it is up above though you will see it when you read his post. Catherine