As someone who was quietly thanking God that the vote to introduce women bishops was rejected, I would actually echo Becca Dean’s Sorry from the Church, excluding the sadness and the apologies.
My heart goes out to those people who are hurt and disappointed by the vote against women bishops, especially to those women who feel they’re being disempowered and undervalued.
I am privileged to be part of a church and a wider church network which does value women: their gifts; their passions; their contributions. I see women cherished, encouraged, trained and celebrated. The assumption that those who do not think that women should be bishops are not prizing women is at best an unfair caricature. If it were true that all Christians in the country who hold this view are bigoted misogynists, then that would be both toxic and indefensible. I know many, many church leaders who are humble, who honour and esteem women and who are beacons of sacrificial love for their wives, who would not be comfortable serving under a female bishop. Is it really loving and kind to accuse these men of undervaluing women? And would it be fair to force them to go against their consciences by submitting to female bishops?
Our culture believes that to be equal in value you have to be the same; to be diverse is to be unequal. So for women to be valued as highly as men, they have to be the same as men. This belief has now soaked through into the Church, which is why so many women are feeling that the rejection of women bishops is a rejection of them as precious members of the family and the Church.
The Bible, though, tells us that men and women, both made in God’s image, are equal in value and that they also have different roles. This is counter-cultural, but Christians are used to that, aren’t we? We have ‘good news’ about a God-man being tortured and executed. We learn and teach that those who are first will be last and the last will be first. Is this what Lord Sugar preaches? Let’s not be ashamed when our beliefs are, as Rowan Williams put it, “not intelligible to our wider society”.
Look at Jesus, the king of the universe. He submits to his Father in everything: “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Even if you disagree that women should submit to male authority in this way, I hope you can see that in asking you to do so, people are by no means degrading you. They’re asking you to do what Jesus does. If Jesus can joyfully submit, then I’m going to fight my instincts to be the boss and try my best to submit too, so help me God – and He will.
In a world that tells me that I should go back to work full-time, those in my church affirm my decision to be a stay-at-home mum. Surrounded by women who are determined to power to the top of the career ladder, whatever the cost to their family, I am encouraged that what I’m doing is of eternal worth. In my church I’m valued more highly than anywhere else. The feminism of the world does not liberate me, and even as I resist it, it still oppresses me. I’m thankful to those who have taught me that my role is distinct from my husband’s, and as such have enabled me to flourish as I grow into the woman God made me to be.