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What’s wrong with Women Bishops?

July 10th, 2010

The controversial issue of the ordination of women, and especially the appointment of women bishops, continues to be a discussion point within the Anglican communion. A recent blog by Richard Perkins, the minister of a new Anglican church in south-west London is an excellent summary of the position held by many evangelical Anglicans and others who hold to what they believe is the biblical position. He says,

Given that we’ve had a woman Prime Minister, a woman as Head of M15 and we send women to war it’s surely a little anachronistic that an institution like the Church of England should prevent women from having the top jobs. Of course, whether they’re the top jobs is a discussion for another time. ….But people increasingly find the ineligibility of women for the Episcopacy as an act of outrageous and ‘criminal’ discrimination. It may well be that Government Legislation will one day make it a criminal offence to ‘victimize’ women in this way.

To deny positions of authority and leadership to women in the church is not meant to cause offence. But because of where our culture is, it does. But just because the culture is saying something doesn’t necessarily require us to change our position, but it ought to send us back to the Bible to make sure we’ve got it right.

Christ Church, Balham is part of a group of churches in the west end of London known as Co-Mission churches. These churches are vibrant, growing congregations, and are popular among a younger generation of committed Christians. Their position on the issue of women bishops does not seem to detract from their ability to attract and use the gifts of able, talented young men and women.

I had a conversation recently with a senior Anglican cleric, and he was pointing out that, in some English dioceses, if a candidate for the ministry expressed reservations about the ordination of women he would almost certainly be rejected, but another candidate could express concerns about basic Christian doctrines like the resurrection and no eyebrows would be raised. If true, that seems to send out a crazy message: we know exactly what the Bible teaches about the ordination of women, but we aren’t sure what it says about the resurrection.

The ordination of women as ministers or their appointment as bishops is not a gospel issue, but it is one which requires careful biblical reflection. I am sure God does not want us to be confused on such a practical issue.

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