Church of England Rejects Appointing Female Bishop: Female American’s Reaction

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Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Cen...

Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower. Seen from south. Image assembled from 4 photos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Church of England has been letting women serve as priests since 1994 but on November 20, 2012, it voted against letting women serve as bishops. Though most of the Church supported women serving as bishops, the voting procedure requires a two-thirds majority in each of its three houses (Church Rejects Appointing Female Bishops). The measure easily passed the House of Bishops (44 to 3) and the House of Clergy (148 to 45), but it failed by only six votes in the House of Laity (132 to 74) (Church still won’t allow Female Bishops). The Church of England needs to become more modernized and accept that women are equal to men or else it will not last.

Women are an  important part to the Church of England since female priests account for 1/3 of clergy members (Church Rejects Appointing Female Bishops) and in 2010, for the first time in the history of the Church of England, more women than men (290 women and 273 men) were ordained as priests (New Women Priests than Men). Since the number of women in the Church is only going to increase over the next few years, women will continue to push for equal rights in the Church. If the Church allowed women as bishops, it could move on to more pressing issues, like war and world hunger, but instead it has to deal with ancient sexist rules. Women priests are not the only ones who want equals rights, even men within the Church wish to see female bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury (symbolic leader of the Church of England) Rowan Williams agrees that the Church needs to become modernize in order to survive, “We have, to put it bluntly, a lot of explaining to do. Every day that we fail to resolve this to our satisfaction. . . is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish” (Church Rejects Appointing Female Bishops). Already the Church’s population has decreased; in 2010, the Archbishops’ Council showed that less than 2% of Britons attended regular service (Church votes against Women Bishops). Meanwhile, a July 2012 poll showed that 74% of Britons favored the Church of England allowing women bishops, showing that the Church of England is going against the wishes of the English (Church votes against Women Bishops). This vote will not make more English believers but further diminish its popularity. Though the Church of England refuses women bishops, there are female Anglican bishops in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States (Vote Rejecting Women Bishops). The Anglican churches did not experience the wrath of God when they allowed female bishops, showing that it is possible for the Church to change its ways and make female bishops.

One reason that Traditionalists voted against women becoming bishops is because female bishops would hold superiority over men (Church still won’t allow Female Bishops).  As St. Paul wrote, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (New King James Version, Timothy 2:12-14). The Traditionalists wish to follow scripture that was written by men nearly 2,000 years ago, scripture that has been translated over the centuries. Another reason is because Jesus only had male disciples – even though some consider Mary Magdalene to be a disciple since she also stayed with Jesus at the cross when all the other disciples left and she was the first one to see him when he was resurrected – but surely Jesus did not consider her important.

According to the Church rules, the vote may not be brought back before the synod during the current term, ending in 2015. “There will be women bishops in my lifetime,” Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu promises (Church still won’t allow Female Bishops). The issue is no longer with just the Church since the Church has 26 places reserved for it in the  House of Lords Chamber and the Synod’s decision means these places are exclusively set aside for men. In England, a petition wishing to have bishops thrown out of the House of Lords after the Church of England voted to retain the ban on women being ordained was created – it reads “We call on the Government to remove the right of the Church of England to have automatic seats in the House of Lords, in line with its commitments to equality and non-discrimination, set out in the Equality Act (2010) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979)” (Women Bishops House of Lords Ban). Labour Member of Parliament Chris Bryant said parliament should consider repealing the exemption from equality legislation for churches in order to force them to consecrate female bishops and Tory Member of Parliament Claire Perry said the Synod’s vote was “incomprehensible” given the Queen was the supreme governor of the Church of England (Women Bishops House of Lords Ban). There is even talk that several members of parliament are going to investigate the voting process and see if Parliament can force the Church to allow female bishops – a move that could threaten to separate church from state.

Until this vote, I had no idea that the Church of England did not allow female bishops since the number of religions allowing women to be priests, pastors, bishops, etc. in the United States has been increasing.  Traditionalists need to stop following scripture in the Bible that puts men above women since women have shown to be capable of doing anything men can, including leading a congregations. The bible’s ancient text is based on ideas and culture 2,000 years ago; if the Church does not adapt to modern views, it will not last in modern times. Parliament should get involved with forcing the Church to change its views since the Church is not separate from the government and should also follow the Equality Act set by the government. If the church chooses to live in the past, the government should separate the Church from the government, allowing the Church to focus on fixing its identity problem or watching its popularity drop even further.

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