The media today is in a bit of a frenzy about the decision of the "out of touch" House of Laity in the Church of England to vote against women bishops. Some verged on the hysterical, with television showing women clergy crying when the decision was announced. Predictions of the break-up of the Church, of failure to attract the younger generation and disestablishment are just a few of the apparent consequences of this "incomprehensible" decision.
But is this true? Far from being "out of touch", I believe that the laity were very much "in touch". The feeling that I get from most churchgoers that I have spoken to over the years seems to indicate that they only have a minimal interest in their bishops. With a bit of luck we might get a visit perhaps once a year from the Auxiliary Bishop for a confirmation service but only once in the past 30 years can I recall a visit by the Diocesan Bishop. No, what churchgoers are most concerned about is the quality of the Incumbent at their local church, and they would appear to be totally unconcerned as to whether the priest is male of female, although there does seem to be a preference for married clergy.
I don't profess to understand the theological arguments over women clergy, and I have no basic objections to them at parish level or indeed as bishops. What I do find of concern are the arguments in favour of women, which seem to be based mainly on the current view of political correctness. I was unhappy about the way that the original decision was made to admit women clergy and some of the consequences. Some of the women didn't seem to have appropriate priestly qualities (not that all the male priests have them either) but I recall a scene shown on television following the ordination of the first group of women; There was about a dozen women clergy hugging and kissing each other and one shouted, waving her arms in the air,"Hallelujah, We've got our first lesbian priest!" To me, this didn't appear a very Christian action and certainly not one which would encourage me to attend one of her Services.
So what would have happened if the synod had agreed to have women bishops? I believe that there would then have been an all-out campaign by women's organisations to have a woman bishop appointed, whether or not there was someone suitable for the post. Can you imagine what would be said if a male was appointed to the first available post following the passing of the measure? The concept of the best person for the job seems to have gone out of the window since sexual equality became the 'done thing'. But then what would be next following the appointment of this woman bishop? Yet another all-out campaign, this time to have an equal number of woman bishops, followed, no doubt, once this had been achieved, by a campaign for the first woman Archbishop.
I believe that the right decision has been made for now and that far from being "out of touch", the House of Laity is correct. A decision forced on the Church by a mixed bag of women's rights campaigners and secular liberals does not, to me, seem the right thing for our Established Church.
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