An issue of unity
Posted: 18 Jan 2013 @ 00:15
A false dichotomy is made between politics and theology. The Bishop of Chelmsford in his article acknowledges the effect on his theology of his encounters with women’s ministry. Other contributors are not so candid, but theological viewpoints generally find favour when they match personal experience. This is a legitimate means of making theological choices, as long as the potential dangers of this approach are guarded against. A theological viewpoint can be changed on occasions after an intellectual examination of its merits; more often than not, however, it is the disparity between the viewpoint and an experience that prompts a re-examination. There is something honourable about sticking to one’s views, despite their unpopularity with the majority, but a willingness to adapt one’s view to changing circumstance is also to be respected.
These are not abstract considerations. One view expressed in our pages is that the women-bishops issue cannot be properly resolved until the whole Church has a clearer view of what a bishop is or does; what the differences are between men and women; what is the nature of authority; even what are the correct methods of making such decisions. Another view, not expressed here, but represented to us as we embarked on this exercise, is that these were merely delaying tactics. A sufficient consensus existed for the C of E to press ahead with consecrating women as bishops, and a full theological appreciation of such a move could be made only once it had been experienced. But, whether influential or redundant, the theological views expressed on these pages offer an insight into why the issue has been so contentious between people of good will. If there remains a desire to understand the arguments, here is a means to do so.
This ‘Church Times‘ editorial gives a very fair understanding of the situation in the Church of England regarding the failure of the recent General Synod to authorise the Ordination of Women as Bishops in the Church. The fact that the Church Times has devoted several pages to the arguments – both pro and anti – highlights the fact that many members of the General Synod have no clear understanding of the theological and social implications of the place of women in the Church – despite the length of time that has been devoted to both sides of the arguments, both in the press and other media in the discussion so far.
Here is one of the salient points in the arguments:
“There is something honourable about sticking to one’s views, despite their unpopularity with the majority, but a willingness to adapt one’s view to changing circumstance is also to be respected.”
It would appear that those who hold the traditional arguments against the ordination of women have not yet come face to face with any of the women who have already been ordained. Therefore, their opinions have not been modified in any way by the fact that women clergy have contributed largely to the ongoing work and mission of the Church – in ways that may not have been possible without their contribution. Opposition to women’s ministry on the grounds of their ‘unsuitability’ can no longer be sustained.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand