Tuesday 20 November 2012

On Cliffs and Hanging

So this is what the Game show hosts call “Make-up-your-mind time.” For once, the Guardian and the Telegraph agree — this is Decision-Day. Like everyone on all sides, I’m praying. On days like this the Church chances the notion that the rather slippery and elusive concept of God’s will can emerge and take flesh. The risk is real, both that it will and that it won‘t. I read again what I’ve said on this blog about women and the episcopate. Back in July 2008, it struck me that the mountain those opposed to this had to climb was to come up with some way their sticking points, however irrational, could be positive and missional — good news. This has not happened, perhaps because it could not be done.

Since then, considerable ingenuity has gone into attempts to square the circle between justice and voodoo, almost successfully at times. We nearly discovered Schrödinger’s Cat with a Hat — she both is and is not a bishop depending on whether the box is open. Along the way many have said “there is no doubt this will happen — the only question is how.” They are probably correct, politically, but it doesn’t help to have lost focus on why and what it could mean to have women in the episcopate. Also, there's a danger that this way of speaking has created an illusion that any institution can stagger on for ever finessing the detail without losing something of the plot.

On offer is a considerable, almost fatal, compromise of principle, but most progress in the world is made crabwise. Looking at the big picture, it would be tragic to waste another seven years on this issue, and, given the sheer quanitity of thought and prayer that has gone into the present sticky compromise that’s on offer, the idea that one more wee heave will dissolve the knot is purest moonshine. Permitting blacks to sit on white beaches may leave a vestige of apartheid. It may be less good than abolishing white beaches. But it’s progress. MLK said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

If not now, when?


Flying Fantastic said...

What do bishops in the church of england do, anyway?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

The theory is: “Bishops are called to serve and care for the flock of Christ. Mindful of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, they are to love and pray for those committed to their charge, knowing their people and being known by them. As principal ministers of word and sacrament, stewards of the mysteries of God, they are to preside at the Lord's table and to lead the offering of prayer and praise. They are to feed God's pilgrim people, and so build up the Body of Christ.

They are to baptize and confirm, nurturing God's people in the life of the Spirit and leading them in the way of holiness. They are to discern and foster the gifts of the Spirit in all who follow Christ, commissioning them to minister in his name. They are to preside over the ordination of deacons and priests, and join together in the ordination of bishops.

As chief pastors, it is their duty to share with their fellow presbyters the oversight of the Church, speaking in the name of God and expounding the gospel of salvation. With the Shepherd's love, they are to be merciful, but with firmness; to minister discipline, but with compassion. They are to have a special care for the poor, the outcast and those who are in need. They are to seek out those who are lost and lead them home with rejoicing, declaring the absolution and forgiveness of sins to those who turn to Christ.

Following the example of the prophets and the teaching of the apostles, they are to proclaim the gospel boldly, confront injustice and work for righteousness and peace in all the world.”

Steven Carr said...

'Like everyone on all sides, I’m praying.'

Whose prayers about women bishops were answered?

I'm sure there was a very good reason why God answered those prayers.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...


Steven Carr said...

I don't pray, unlike the opponents of women Bishops.

I was surprised at the decision, but then you would expect an atheist to be surprised when prayers really are answered.

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