Traditionalists voice opposition in debate over women bishops in the Church of England

The Queen presiding over ninth general synod in London, courtesy of the cofe.anglican.org

By Catherine Mumford

The Church of England’s general synod drafted legislation yesterday permitting the ordination of women bishops. 

The topic has evoked major debate between traditionalists and progressives.  The concerns over the “feminisation” of the church have spurred 50 traditionalist clergy and 5 bishops to convert to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Queen, the Church’s supreme governor, made mention of the clear tension in her address, saying synod had “many issues to resolve” in order to remain “equipped for the effective pursuit of its mission and ministry.” 

The broad traditionalist view is most strongly supported by the Biblical model of males in the leadership position, both in the household and the church.  Indeed Keith Newton, the Bishop of Richborough, and a recent convert to Catholocism, points to research that says if one wants children to go to church it needs to with both mom and dad.  He worries that men will not feel comfortable worshipping under female leadership, saying “So church becoming more feminine could be a problem.”  

Progressives, on the whole, see the ordination of women in the Church of England as a natural progression from the first female priest being ordained sixteen years ago.  Women now make up a third of the clergy.  That day marked a significant shift in the Church and was puncuated with similarly volatile dialogue as can be seen today. 

The legislation is connected to a broad range of concerns and hopes alike.  Traditionalist Dr. Reverend Peter Sandlon voiced that he would be reluctant to serve under a woman bishop, but his chief concern is that the growing influence of women clergy will lead to the ordination of openly gay bishops

The vicar of St Mary’s in Primrose Hill, Marjorie Brown says women have helped make the Church less starchy and remote for both men and women, and brought it closer to the society it serves.  She noted further that  “female clergy are trying to find more inclusive language and imagery. We’re not trying to change the Church, just to be more inclusive.” 

Those on both sides of the issue will continue to fight for what they see as the righteous decision.  The Queen reassured the 480 laity, clergy, and bishops in London that “Christian history suggests that times of growth and spiritual vigour have often coincided with periods of challenge and testing.”

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