Category Archives: Women

BREAKING: CoE Synod Approves Women Bishops!

The Guardian live blog of the synod has just reported that all three houses have approved the legislation:

General Synod votes for female bishops

General Synod votes in favour in all three houses:

Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention.

Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, 4 abstentions

Laity: 152 in favour, against 45, 5 abstentions.

That’s approval rates of 93%, 85%, and 75%, for each of the houses of bishops, clergy and laity, respectively.

This will have been the first vote of three.

From a CoE Twitter account:

about to take first of three votes on women bishops. first vote is on principle, second and third on enabling legislation

UPDATE:

Synod has also voted to amend canon legislation, meaning there will be no distinction between men and women in church law

- Guardian live blog

On the motion

That the Canon entitled “Amending Canon No 33” be finally approved

there voted

Bishops 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 recorded abstention
Clergy 164 in favour, 24 against, 3 recorded abstentions
Laity 153 in favour, 40 against, 8 recorded abstentions

and the motion was carried with the necessary two-thirds majorities in all three houses.

- Thinking Anglicans

More, as further detail becomes available.

Some twitter commentary:

From ProfB 

Hey, it worked! Now I’m even more embarrassed to be Catholic! Thanks, Anglicans.

From 

After 500 years the has finally decided that two X chromosomes is not a barrier to leadership. Well done

In his first report from the synod, Andrew Brown quotes Tom Sutcliffe, previously opposed, who says that

the measure would now bring “episcopal femininity” that would enrich the church.

Women Bishops: Approval by 100% of Dioceses!

Women bishops for the Church of England have come one step closer.

Bishop's Mitre

 

Anglican News reports:

The Church of England’s dioceses* have now all voted in favour of the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops. Manchester was the last diocese to vote and they approved the motion at a meeting of their Synod yesterday.  In 2011 both London and Chichester diocesan synods voted against the legislation.

The February 2014 meeting of General Synod referred the current Women in the Episcopate legislation to the dioceses.

Diocesan Synods all voted in favour of the motion: ‘That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.’ Continue reading Women Bishops: Approval by 100% of Dioceses!

Cornwall Supports Women Bishops.

Cornwall just became the latest Anglican diocese formally to endorse proposals for women bishops.

Truro Cathedral

 Diocesan synod is now almost complete, with sentiment thus far overwhelmingly in favour. Every synod that has already voted, has carried the motion, usually overwhelmingly, and in each of the three houses.  Overall, the useful chart at Peter Owen, which summarises the votes for all dioceses, now shows the cumulative votes so far for each of the three houses as:

  • Bishops:  55  (96%)  in favour, 2 against.
  • Clergy: 1205 (92%) in favour, 98 against.
  • Laity: 1362 (93%)  in favour, 100 against.

(For the detailed picture at each diocese, and the scheduled dates for those still outstanding, go to Peter Owen. )

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Teenage Pregnancy and the Christian churches – some practical suggestions for action

Pat Dickin

This paper proposes possible practical lines of action that could address the most pressing needs that require initial and immediate attention from the Christian Churches in order to start formulating an active response to the extremely high rate of teenage pregnancy in the UK.

There is a need for further training for youth workers and children’s workers. A cursory glance through training manuals for youth workers and Youth Ministers yields a surprising result: sexuality and teenage parenthood are not addressed in any form, perhaps supporting the misleading perception that teenage pregnancies will not happen if they are not spoken about. It is imperative that churches and training institutions train their workers to be more aware and prepared for the reality of teenage pregnancy, by gaining more information of the government and social services available in their local area; enquiring as to the nature of the rights and entitlements teenage parents have, finding out about counselling services in their area, and on making a decision (through the Diocese or church leadership) as to the education that will be imparted to the youngsters from the church. This “education” will entail dialogue and at times challenging the ‘official education’ of the denomination and taking a stance that might be acceptable to everyone at the start of the programme.

Make use of existing information and courses offered by charities in schools. There are some – although not numerous – charities that have already taken steps to address these issues. These charities and organisations have already collected relevant information and are well versed in the practical options available. Christian organisations could invite speakers (from organizations such as Care, or Options) to come to their premises to give talks to the leaders and ministers in the church, to inform the church’s own education but also to open new channels for teenagers to be able to talk openly about the pressures they are experiencing and explore, together with the church leadership and their parents, possible ways to respond, react and educate non-Christian teenagers with an informed Christian message.

Offer a breadth of Christian responses to pre-marital sex. As the analysis of the historical development of attitudes towards sexual relationships has shown, it is difficult to identify one single attitude towards sex as being the only and righteous approach. Because all these methods have reached secular society through higher education and research, the church is now in a position to choose which approach can be consistently taught.

The churches are in a unique position to offer other alternatives especially those relying on pastoral care, such as in-house relationships (“buddy system”) that would allow teenagers who found themselves in this situation to be able to talk with several trustworthy people within their community and in a safe environment.

To facilitate spaces and opportunities for parents to talk openly with their children about relationships and sexuality. These could take the shape of open days attended by parents and their children in which conferences, work-shops and discussion boards could open a dialogue across generations on relationships, sex, precautions, appropriate self-awareness and self-confidence, etc. Some people who were interviewed find this approach difficult to endorse, however SEU identified the need for conversation to be opened up between parents and teenagers. Lloyd & Lyth (2003) in their report about a one-off drama production and accompanying work-shops in a school in North Yorkshire identify, among other interesting points, that “although a high proportion of children felt that sex was not openly talked about between parents and their children, over 70 percent would have liked to talk to their parents.”

Kiddy (2002), after addressing the difficulty in making Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in schools appealing and relevant to young boys and men, suggests that “community-based SRE can offer a viable alternative and should bring together parents, young people, faith groups and the wider community to address the issues of teenage pregnancy and sexual health”. This is one of the few mentions in secular writings of the possible involvement of faith communities in tackling the issue of unwanted teenage pregnancies, and it is done in the context of facilitating spaces for communication. The church and its community are in a unique position to offer a safe place for parents to come with their teenage children and learn together; this opportunity opens the door within the parent-child relationship to discuss a difficult topic from a common starting point. Taking up and building on these opportunities provides the church with an inimitable opportunity to extend its teaching and mission to families and teenagers; networking with other institutions in the secular world to provide the health education required, or simply providing parents with a moral and faith-full starting point to talk about the pressures their teenagers are facing from their peers.

A plan of action is necessary. Although the results will not be seen for many years, not taking any action at all (that is, continuing in the same train of action as at the moment: doing nothing) will have predictable results: a failure to reduce the scale of teenage pregnancies, with the consequential detrimental value laid on the family core; social, attitudinal and behavioural issues with the children of teenage parents, who according to the statistics are more likely to be involved in criminal activities and perform badly academically. It is not the church on its own that will bring the changes about. The government is already taking steps calling on the educational and health systems to take action and responsibility. The church needs to step in, use the power of influence over those it can still influence, and exert a positive teaching experience. The church has the opportunity to fill the faith and moral vacuum that is gripping British society that leads many people to search for ethical answers in other faith practices. This means that foremost, Christians must openly speak about Christian beliefs: the value of relationships and community links and support, and the belief in marriage as the future of the family and the community.

The church holds a great richness in her history, a history that remains alive in the present and that her leaders can draw on with ease. The church, and all Christians alike, therefore, have a great responsibility to address this issue and facilitate change. The timely reminder put forth by Grenz on the validity of celibacy as an option young people should be encouraged to consider, rather than feeling forced into sexual relationships by their peers and the media, should be taken up by the Christian organizations with the greatest urgency, and serve as a foundation to the message that not all sexuality needs to find its expression in genital sexual relationships (i.e. intercourse).

The paper from which this article is taken attempts to address and frame a theological scaffolding that could inform and shape a response – much overdue – by the Christian Churches to the social reality of teenage pregnancy. I aver that the need for a change in the way the church and her ministers talk, preach and teach about teenage pregnancy is born purely out of the pastoral and ethical responsibility the Christian Churches carry as embodying the greatest commandment: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22.37-40). This love needs to find a practical expression to vulnerable and lost young people with the greatest urgency.

The church places the burden of sin on one third of British teenagers, those who by their own admission are involved in sex at very young ages and outside of marriage – the only acceptable place for sex to take place according to the official teaching of the majority of Christian Churches. For one of every three teenagers, the church is a place where they do not feel welcome, indeed where they have no inclination to go, as the perceived message they will receive is one of condemnation, exclusion and imposed guilt. The Christian Church has the opportunity to change this around: this necessarily requires the church to self-examine her teachings and re-assess where and why guilt is being placed. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour as much as ourselves (Matthew 22.39; Mark 12.31) and without judging them (Matthew 7.1-3; Luke 6.37). It is therefore the church’s responsibility to teach, preach and proclaim, by word and example, a Christ-centred non-judgemental message that encourages positive relationships with others (our ‘neighbours’) within an equal society. This can only be translated in opening up dialogues where conversations have ceased, affirming relationships instead of domination, encouraging a self-examination of the individual where each person is re-affirmed rather than condemned, and gifts, talents and positive attributes are seen as assets and not as flaws.

This is the concluding section to ‘Teenage Pregnancy and the Christian Church’ by Patricia Margarita Lenton de Dickin submitted for the Degree of MA in Theology for Christian Mission and Ministry, May 2008

References

  • Biblical quotes are taken from The new Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, (Metzger & Murphy, eds), New York: Oxford University Press
  • Grenz, S.J. (1997) Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective, UK: Westminster / John Knox Press
  • Kiddy, M. (2002) ‘Teenage Pregnancy: whose problem’ in Nursing Times, Vol 98, Issue 04, (24 January 2002), UK.
  • Lloyd, K. &Lyth, N. (2003) ‘Evaluation of the use of drama in sex and relationship education’ in Nursing Times, Vol 99, Issue 47 (25 November 2003)
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UNFOLDING ADVENTURE

Christina Rees

This article first appeared in ‘New Directions’ (the monthly magazine for members of  Forward in Faith) at the invitation of its editor, Nicholas Turner. We reprint it here with his permission, as it is relevant to all within the Church of England who seek to engage with the issue of opening the episcopate to women I believe that part of what we are seeing at this time is God breaking down unholy barriers of our own making and causing us to face our fears and prejudices by the cleansing and purifying power of his Holy Spirit. The obedient response is for us to submit ourselves to God’s action and to try to discern the ways in which we are being called to change.

Change is, of course, often painful and difficult, for individuals as well as for institutions. As Christians seeking to remain faithful to our heavenly Father, change can be a real threat: have we heard and discerned correctly, or are we being led astray into error? In his email inviting me to write this article, the editor (of New Directions) referred to the place in which we are now in the Church of England as the ‘end times’. I realise that it must seem like that to many. With all that is in me I fervently believe that it is not. In fact, I see where we are now in the church in regards to opening the episcopate to women as the dawning of a new era in which we will discover more of the kingdom of God among us in greater strength, power, truth and grace.

Part of what we have to acknowledge is that none of us knows precisely where we are being led. The walk of faith is an unfolding adventure, requiring, step by step, trust in the guidance and indwelling of God’s Spirit. We are reliant on God not only as individual disciples but also, corporately, as an institution.

As individuals, we need to take responsibility for our spiritual health and discipline, our attitudes and actions. As the institutional church, to a greater extent, we have to rely on our systems, structures and leaders to keep us attentive, responsive and faithful. All of this requires trust, something that has been in woefully short supply in our church.

Trusting one another and being willing to discuss issues about which we hold very different views does not imply, or necessarily lead to, agreement. What it can do, though, is lead to a greater understanding of each other’s views and concerns and a greater sense of our connectedness in the heart of God.

As part of the subject of this article I was asked to address the issue of how a church that consecrates women as bishops will ‘cope’ with the continued existence of those elsewhere on the churchmanship spectrum as honoured members. First of all, I greatly hope that we will not merely be ‘coping’ with those who, for a variety of reasons, disagree with women’s ordination. What I would like to think is that we can come to the position of living, working and ministering more honestly and openly together.

That will require an ongoing commitment on the part of the mainstream church and those who remain opposed to women’s ordination to mutual respect and mutual acceptance. It will also require on the part of Forward in Faith and Reform an acceptance of the reality of where we are in the Church of England in regards of the position of women.

Back in 1988, the then Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, said, ‘I believe women ought to be ordained to the priesthood … I believe that truths which were there from the beginning in the Christian faith can lie dormant until the social conditions are right for them to be perceived. And I affirm that the time has come to express this truth in the life of the Church.’

A year later, Dr Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, said at General Synod, ‘I remain of the conviction that the ordination of women to the priesthood ought to be construed as an enlargement and extension of the historic Christian ministry.’ Neither of these men could be described as capricious revisionists, and their comments arose from years of rigorous and serious engagement with the issues, something to which the  Church as a whole has been committed for many years.

As a result of this engagement, women were ordained as deacons nearly twenty years ago and as priests twelve years ago. There are over 2000 licensed priests who are women, and now one in every five Church of England clergy is female. Over the next few years we will be drafting legislation that will make it legal for women to be consecrated as bishops.

There cannot be genuinely mutual respect unless this reality is acknowledged and accepted – not necessarily agreed with – but accepted as where we are as a church. Only
then can we go about the business of honouring each other’s presence and position. We have got to where we are by a steady, prayerful and painstaking process that will continue in our synods and in the College and House of Bishops. Our church is imperfect, but it is what we have. We hold in tension the reality of the church as a particular institution and also our understanding of the Church universal as the body of Christ. In that Church there are no synods and working parties, no legislation and arrangements, only Christ as the head, ‘from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.’ [Ephesians 4.16]

Until the eventual reconciliation of all of creation with God, until the ultimate triumph of love, we will have to live with our flawed and imperfect structures and also with our flawed and imperfect selves. Theologians tell us that God has the patience to wait for,and the power to bring about, this ultimate fulfilment and reconciliation. If only our perspective and vision could be so enlarged! It is apparent that, with the issue of women’s ordination, and with other issues where there is difference, we cannot agree on what Scripture says or even on how to interpret it There is, of course, the principle that, when there is a seeming contradiction in Scripture, to go for what is clear and to build on that. One thing that is clear is that we, men and women, together, are made in the image of God: ‘So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’ [Genesis 1.27] There is not more of the image of God in the male and less in the female, or more of God in the female and less in the male. Together, and equally, we are made in God’s image.

It is also clear that the baptism of Christ is not different for males and females, but the same for both. All those who are baptized into Christ share the same inheritance. Hence the famous cry of women, ‘Either ordain us or don’t baptize us!’ Likewise, men and women are to share equally in the ongoing life of the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, men and women together received the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire and in the sound of rushing wind.

When Paul wrote his great treatise in his letter to the Romans on the pre-eminence of salvation by faith and of new life in the Spirit, it was not a gendered message. Women and men together were included in the salvation offered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul, the traditional Jew, was passionate about the transformed state of those who are in Christ: ‘But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.’ [Romans 7.6] This liberation was not just for men, or just for women, but for both men and women.

In 1 Corinthians, when Paul enumerates the gifts of the Spirit, it is clear that they are not given only to men or only to women, but to all who are in Christ. After his wonderful description of the parts of the body of Christ, Paul writes: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.’ [1 Corinthians 12. 27–31].

In 1992, Desmond Tutu, then Archbishop of Capetown, wrote, ‘I am more convinced than ever before that theologically, biblically, socially, ecumenically, it is right to ordain women to the priesthood. The most radical act that can happen to any human being is to become a member of the body of Christ. If gender cannot be a bar to baptism, then gender cannot be a bar to ordination. The Bible is quite clear that the divine image is constitutive of humanity, irrespective of gender.’ In that one comment, Tutu encapsulates the far-reaching ramifications of what it means to be a Christian. Former views of what men and women were, and what they could and could not be, or do, are replaced by a new understanding of our identity in Christ.

In the months to come I pray that we might be able to reflect in new ways on the infinitude of God’s unconditional love and on our own absolute indebtedness for our very existence and for our capacity to relate, to reflect, to love and to be loved. I like to think that we can begin to trust God more as we dwell on the mystery and wonder of the universe we inhabit, and on our own place within that universe.

To what extent are we willing to discern and discover God’s purposes for ourselves, our church and for all of creation? To what extent are we willing to allow ourselves and others the freedom and opportunity to be changed into the likeness of the Lord? Do we dare to accept God’s invitation to join in the Divine Dance? Whatever we choose, however willing or unwilling we might be, we can trust that the Dance will go on.

Christina Rees is a member of The General Synod of the Church of England and of its Appointments Committee, and a founder member of the Archbishops’ Council as well as on the Church of England’s Communications Committee. She is a member of CSCS. Christina is best known as the Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church) but is also a member of GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod), as well as a supporter of Inclusive Church. She speaks and preaches widely and is a professional life and business
coach. Her books include ‘The Divine Embrace’ and ‘Voices of this Calling’.

 

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TEENAGE PREGNANCY: ARE THE CHURCHES TO BLAME?

Jane Fraser

This was the rather controversial title of a paper I wrote for inclusion in ‘Opening Up: Speaking Out in the Church’ [edited by Julian Filochowski and Peter Stanford, published by Darton, Longman & Todd last year and reviewed in the Winter 2005 edition of CSCS News]. It was pointed out to me by the Press and Communications Officer in our Diocese of Worcester, that I couldn’t write about the lack of engagement by the churches in this social problem without doing something about it myself. Duly chastised, I met with the Bishop, the Social Responsibility Officer, the Director of Education and the Youth Officer for the Diocese. Out of that meeting came a proposal for me to write a ‘popular’, shortened version of the original paper to be published as one of a series of diocesan booklets containing stories and critical comment on social justice themes. They are meant to be read and studied by a wide range of people, both within the faith communities and in wider society. They are circulated to churches and other faith groups, voluntary and community agencies, statutory organisations and local authority departments. A brief press release from the Diocesan Offices at the time of publication of the booklet stimulated a flurry of interest in the media – radio interviews locally and in London, and press reports in both Worcester papers and the Birmingham Post. For a little discussion booklet it was unprecedented and one can only surmise that the juxtaposition of God and sex was the trigger! However, it was a golden opportunity for me to highlight a Christian perspective on the wider issue of teenage sexual behaviour that didn’t encompass the popular view that the Church is entirely condemnatory but, on the contrary, presented a compassionate analysis.

The other outcome of my discussion with Diocesan officers was to take up one of the recommendations in the booklet, to offer training to church and voluntary organisation youth workers on talking to young people about sexual matters. The Diocesan Youth Officer, working in collaboration with the Worcestershire Council for Voluntary Youth Services, arranged an evening workshop that was appreciated by those who came. It was
of particular value for those who were fully aware of the need to discuss sexual matters with the young people with whom they had contact but were nervous about broaching the subject, or those who were uncertain about strategies that were known to be effective.

We are now exploring the possibility of joining forces with the local Teenage Pregnancy Unit to organise a local conference on the subject for any health, social services, voluntary or church personnel who share our concerns and are motivated to engage in a constructive way with the issues.

If any of our members are interested in this topic or the project in general, you may download the booklet entitled, ‘Teenage Pregnancy: A Church Problem?’ from the Worcester Diocesan website www.cofe-worcester.org.uk You will need to click on ‘Social and Economic Engagement’ and then on ‘Publications and Resources’, where you will find it listed under the ‘Just So’ series of booklets. I am also happy to offer a workshop on ‘Talking to Young People about Relationships and Sex’ for a small fee and travel expenses.

You can contact me on training@revjane.demon.co.uk or by phone on 01684 594715.

 

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