Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Women Bishops

Initially I was surprised to see that I had neglected this blog for so many months but this lack of posts is symbolic of my lack of progress on the "faith situation". I've been in a bit of limbo and slipped back into atheism. I have started to feel inauthentic and stopped describing myself as a "Christian".

I've been trying to make sense of the "Women Bishops" vote. If God exists and he has a plan then what was the purpose behind what happened?

It's trying to find answers to questions such as this which leads me to love unintended consequences. If you want to read more about that then try www.freakanomics.com.

It occurs to me that one unintended consequence of the failed vote is that everyone is talking about the Anglican Church and getting really passionately vocal (for and against), including me. My outrage at the vote has, curiously, drawn me back towards faith.

Last week my friend said "It makes me SO angry that I want to become a woman bishop, and I'm an atheist".

I replied that when looking at the New Testament, Jesus was very much ahead of his time in how he treated women and put women to the fore. I spoke about  the story of Mary and Martha. My friend stopped me and said "You talk about Jesus like he was a real person". I said "He was!". My certainty surprised me. Those words have stayed with me for a week now, like a coat I can't, or don't want to take off. I am now struggling to understand what it is that I don't believe in. I believe that Jesus was a real person who did what he said he did. Surely that counts as a mustard seed of faith?

It has been so exciting to see my twitter timeline awash with tweets examining the meaning of the bible. Quite often I am reading some amazingly insightful comments from non-Christians. 

I've copied below a few tweets that struck a chord with me. Caitlin Moran, writing in The Times, summed it up nicely saying that it's like being able to be an MP but not the PM or work for NASA but not go into space.

So so sad. Just voted for another 8 years of arguing with each other while the world watches with incomprehension. Don't give up on Church.

The Queen should do an episode of undercover boss where she tries to get a job as a Bishop in that Church Of England she's in charge of.

It was once rumoured that from the top of Canterbury Cathedral, on a clear day, it was almost possible to see the 21st Century.

As it is, many people, atheist or not, have gained an understanding of the workings of the church. I had never heard of the "House of Leity". People have had access to scripture and discussed scripture. How extraordinary that the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:13 is being discussed on twitter.

I'm using the English Standard Version below but it is worth checking out other translations.

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man in Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God".

I have to say that I'm with the Bishop of Liverpool, who in his speech in favour of Women Bishops explained that Christ is not less than God and therefore a woman is not less than a man. So the meaning of this paragraph seems to hinge on the meaning of "headship". 
Those against women bishops just lift out the middle bit "the head of a wife is her husband".
Whereas the Bishop of Liverpool says "God is the head of Christ” can't mean Christ is subordinate to God or a less authority than God because that would be denying the full divinity of Jesus.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams sums up how many people (not just clergy) are feeling "There will be people feeling profoundly vulnerable, unwanted and unsure".
I cannot understand the line of thought of our Dean, in saying that he voted against to prevent a schism in the church.
Surely both positions cannot be correct. One group is right in the eyes of God and one group is wrong. Those who have, I imagine, studied scripture most closely must be the Bishops so I would take their lead.
I cannot think of a worse position than being a Woman Bishop, who is told by a church "You are not wanted. We want a man". I cannot imagine how awful that would feel. It would seem to me that, the very fact that a church wants a man, is the very reason they should have to have a woman, because whilst I can understand that some people may genuinely feel it is a faith based issue, my gut feeling is that there is a larger group who unthinkingly wish things to remain as they have always been. 
Wouldn't "stand-in" Bishops be colluding with those who are against?
Just imagine that this wasn't about "women" but about colour. The words could not even be thought or written down as it would be met with utter outrage but is it really any different?
I believe the church should make a decision one way or another and some will stay and some will leave. Both positions cannot be right.