Something very important had just taken place. The Church of England’s legislative body (quite rightly in my view) agreed by a huge majority to affirm the ministry of women as equal to that of men. This on its own would be an important symbolic step, one which will be given more historical significance and biblical resonance when the Church of England consecrates its first female bishop, and then consecrates several more who will be the best candidates for the roles for which they are considered.
Not being a woman, I am hesitant to comment on this issue. It’s a bit like being someone who has no children (as I am) and knowing that it is absolutely in my best interests not to critique, question or criticise the way a parent chooses to handle their kids. I might have opinions. I might hold them strongly, but it almost certainly isn’t within my province or gift to voice those opinions.
The thing is though, quite apart from the fact that most of the best clergy (subjective opinion, I know) are women and so it makes logical sense to me that they might well be the best to be bishops and this is enough for liberal old me, what’s happened this week has resonance for every single person with an interest in the Christian faith.
First, all are called. There’s no special club, gender-defined or otherwise (read; race, disability, experience or any other kind of “minority” group) which is called by God. There is no person, people group, or even nation about which God is not intimately enthralled. This week I have been again drawn to Zephaniah 3:14-17 in which God promises His people that He will be with them, quiet them with His love, rejoice over them with singing and for whom He is mighty to save. The calling we all have as people of God is to be His sons and daughters – equally beloved, equally precious in the eyes of our Father and equally invited to the glorious joy and challenge of giving our lives to love God with everything we have, love ourselves, and love our neighbours.
Second, the vote has shown that, even when we disagree on issues of belief or practice, it is possible to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with one another and before our God. When our disagreements fall away, we are left with a core truth – Jesus is Lord of all and he has called us all to life and love with him. We are invited to live as offerings, lights shining the hope of God into the world in the power of the Spirit. We do this best together, not as isolated individuals. We, in the Church, the Body of Christ are definitely better together.
Now there’s a campaign to get behind.