Why the Church of England Desperately Needs Our Prayer

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The clone is (almost totally) right when he says,

And you know what? I genuinely don’t know which of those two options is the right one.

But I’ll tell you what can’t be right, and that’s to suggest to the 469 voting members of General Synod that they have to vote a particular way because otherwise they will be going against God. It’s got to stop because it will ruin the next 48 hours and possibly the 48 months after it. This is the most important vote we’ve faced in two decades and if things carry on as they are both sides will lose despite whichever way the count of votes goes.

So please, dump your partisan hashtags and comments and just use a simple tweet – #prayingforsynod. Can we not just do that for two days? Is it so wrong just to turn to God and say “Your will be done”?

Is it?

No, I don’t think so. Well almost. I’m going to disappoint him and I would have been 100% behind him were it not for this letter in the Independent today…

 We, as clergy of the Church of England, stand alongside Rowan Williams, Justin Welby, and the dioceses of the Church of England, in hoping that the General Synod will vote on Tuesday to allow women to become bishops in our church.

We believe wholeheartedly that this is the right thing to do, and that the time is now right to do it. There are many reasons for this belief, and we highlight just some here.

First, because the Bible teaches that “in Christ there is no male or female”, but all people are equal before God. Just as the churches have repented of our historic antisemitism and endorsement of slavery, so we believe that we must now show clearly that we no longer believe women to be inferior to men.

Secondly, Jesus treated women radically equally. He encouraged them as disciples, and chose a woman as the first witness to His resurrection, at a time when women’s testimony was inadmissible in law.

Thirdly, we have promised as clergy to “proclaim the faith afresh in every generation”. We fear that failing to take this step would do the opposite, proclaiming instead that the church is more interested in the past than the future.

The legislation to be voted on represents enormous compromise from all sides. Those who wish to avoid the ministry of women will still be able legally to do so.

We hope and pray that all will feel able to work together in the future with the trust and respect that should characterise our church.

This does, genuinely drive me to my knees for 2 basic reasons.

First, if this is meant to be “a Biblical argument” then I fear very greatly for the place of the Scriptures as authoritative and normative in the Church of England. Any fair understanding of the conservative argument against Women Bishops would acknowledge that it has absolutely nothing to do with a view that women are “inferior to men”. It is utterly disingenuous at this point in the debate to launch such a puerile attack effectively branding every opponent of women bishops as a misogynist. The conservative  argument sits independently of Gal. 3:27 and, indeed, affirms it.

To then move on to antisemitism and slavery is another utter canard. These are matters on which, it is certainly true, certain elements of the church have had varied views at different times but the overwhelming consensus over the decades and a prevailing view in the early church was that anti-semitism and slavery were wrong. By contrast you cannot find anyone arguing for a female episcopacy until very very recently. Are we really suggesting that the church has been, almost in totality, wrong on this issue for 2,000 years? What arrogance.

“To be more interested in the past than the future” is in many ways a great statement of flattery to the church. We hold the Scriptures as our prime authority and that is certainly to “be more interested in the past”, at least when it comes to setting it against contemporary and future social trends as an alternate source of authority.

Finally on the issue of compromise and trust, I written here on a number of occasions about that. It is, once more, the height of arrogance to suggest that the position set forward is adequate for conservatives when they been united in declaring that it is not.

So I fear greatly for the Church of England.

First, because if this is meant to be “Biblical argument” then we are in for a torrid time going forward if we have any hope of having the denomination we love truly ruled by the Word of God. Second, because if this is meant to be “trust and respect” then I fear that we are yet to be utterly “’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her (internal) war”.

I would still urge you to vote against the measure (which will not be a surprise). But much more than that please be in prayer for the Church of England – I fear much more is at stake than we can possibly realise.

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  1. Tregonsee

    “I fear much more is at stake than we can possibly realise.” Yes, we had an election like that here in the Colonies a couple of weeks ago. It did not end well for the future.

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