The Church of England (England) CoE(E) General Synod has voted against accepting the ordination of women bishops. (It is perhaps more accurate to say they failed to get a two-thirds majority by six votes to formalize female bishops as a tenet). The CoE(E) is the mother church of more than 80 million world Anglicans. I have worked for the Anglican Church (Diocese of Christchurch); I was a full time pastor for five years.
The CoE was started by Henry VIII, a secular prince, and was built on murder and adultery, and as a political and spiritual counter to the secular excesses of the Roman Catholic Church (then a world super power). Henry ransacked and robbed all the property of the English Catholic monastries to replenish his treasury and murdered its monks.
There are many Anglican female vicars in New Zealand, including lesbian ones, whose partners live in Church-paid vicarages. Christchurch has an Anglican female Bishop (who is Canadian, Bishop Victoria Matthews who is a devout Christian woman). Somewhat incongruously, the spiritual ‘head’ of the Anglican Communion Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Christchurch recently, currently a female bishop’s see (chair).
Several Anglican provinces have women bishops: The Episcopal Church (USA), the Anglican Church of Australia, The Anglican Church of Canada, and The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. I think also the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. This decision is a regional one and the wider Church is divided by different practices.
The well-known comedy The Vicar of Dibley was in part, a satire of this ridiculous anomaly.
The problem is, that many parishes oppose having top female leaders, and the Church is democratic. It also decides everything by large Committee, so difficult decisions can take millennia. Believe me, trying to effect change in the CoE is like carrying water uphill in a sieve. There is also growing concern about the increasing ‘feminisation’ of the church, which is turning many men off because it is imbalanced towards the culture of women and does not adequately reflect masculinity. (It probably doesn’t help that its ordained men wear dresses) . This is partly the result of historic social phenomenon, particularly in Anglo-Saxon cultures, since the Industrial Revolution.
Moreover, African dioceses are concerned at dilution and apostasy in Western churches and are making a stronger biblical stand on orthodoxy. For some, this includes female ordination.
As an ex-pastor I am at odds with the Anglican Church on this, and have criticized the Catholic Church on this publicly too.
It is clear to me, that Christ was liberating of women. He stepped outside cultural norms to purposely elevate women: he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, a cultural no-no; the first person he appeared to as the resurrected Christ was Mary Magdalene; his closest disciples were women; he associated with ex-prostitutes and was criticised for this by priests, etc.
The CoE is an historic human institution that responds to faith but it is not the biblical “church” as such which as far as God is concerned -as clearly outlined in the Bible- includes all people who believe and trust in Jesus of whatever gender, culture, age or grouping, including people inside and outside organised religious expressions (Jesus was often at odds with the religious establishment).
Christians have been viscously and repeatedly persecuted and murdered by “the church.”
But where I mainly disagree, is that the Christian biblical church is not supposed to be hierarchial. The Presbyterians and Brethren cultures addressed this by distinguishing themselves with their presbyters (elders) tenet. Appointing Anglican bishops, vicars or Catholic “saints” over other Christians as hierarchial authority figures is biblically forbidden. Christian “office” is supposed to be servant-based and humble, the whole point with the washing of the feet role-play.
The current controversy over the ordination of female bishops is more to do with human cultural norms rather than anything to do with Christian biblical theology, with which it is at odds. It is a working out of a hopelessly divided “Communion” across the globe, with different cultural practices.
The CoE and the Catholic churches are worthy institutions. They are big, and therefore have their bad points (and bad eggs) as do non-church cultures (political parties, government departments, financial institutions). But they do amazing good, and assist people towards God; we all come towards God from different angles (I do not mean through different religions which is pantheism not Christianity).
My perspective is that female ordination is really just people wrestling with cultural issues within a religious context (in the same way that the USA Scouts movement or USA Armed Services has wrestled with issues of sexuality). I find the current controversy definiatively human and separate from core theology.
While I appreciate and support fellow Christians within the Anglican or Catholic folds, as a biblical Christian I cannot support the idea of formalized hierarchies that God does not condone. It is irrelevant to me, whether they are women or men. The Bible does not support special ‘sets’ of people being canonized and classified as of more significance than others.
The Bible has some sound advice on this, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).
Both the Anglican and Catholic churches are simply barking up the wrong theological trees.