I’m supposed to be in the library working. And I was working (Robin Greenwood, Parish Priests: for the sake of the Kingdom, if you must know) until my twitter stream began to bring in feedback from the Oxford Diocesan Synod and the voting on women bishops. Now I’m much more interested in women bishops from a theological and justice/liberation point of view than a purely feminist one (you can try and push me on definitions, but I dunno how far you’d get) but whilst all term I’ve been watching with interest the results come in, it’s now getting eurovisionly exciting as the weeks draw to a close and there are a half dozen dioceses at a time. Today, the deadline for votes, I feel the need for a swingometer to clock up the last data.

Suddenly I see an irony in sitting in westcott library with a pile of old books (not counting Robin) and my iPad, following modern social media monitoring the attempted overturn of ancient discriminating structures. I’m hopeful for the future looking at the majorities in the houses of laity, that people will see that the church on the ground understand that the world has moved on and we are called to represent Christ afresh in each generation, not in ways that are outmoded, discriminatory and profoundly diminishing of the potential for ministry where the approaches and styles of women are included in senior posts.

As I type Oxford has just thrown out the following motion with a large majority, and York are still contemplating it. Talking to women in Teesside, before I left work, about how frustrated they felt that their priestly ministry even was not valued, indeed in places barely recognised, I had expected the current discussions, but I wish the ABY could be as brusque as John Pritchard and encourage his diocese to move forward with every intention of working to make the code of practice work, rather than keep on fighting for the old days. Look at the results. Only 2 dioceses have not recognised and embraced the need to move on and get on with kingdom work instead of going round again in circles. Protecting those who feel discriminated against now in more secure terms against undoing the unprotected discrimination of centuries?

My prayers are with those who cannot accept the positive that has been felt by those working alongside and receiving the ministry of women in those years since the church by my student house at university billboarded its entire noticeboard with a single sign for months: this church plays no part in the apostasy of women – it’s burned on my psyche. With those who trained with me, in apparently brotherly affection, whose personal respect for me cannot extend to an acceptance of my vocation. With my sisters here and with our male peers who recognise that their ministry will be enriched, supported and enhanced by our differentiated but complementary ministry, ministry that they are happy to believe Christ called us into and are happy to work alongside us in.

But it is time. Time to stand up and be counted. And now the counting is nearly over, time to reflect on the voice of the church, and on all the unheard voices of the people out there who are in the church or who are not in the church because it seems to them to reflect an unjust, dehumanising organisation undermining itself in that we preach all are equal in the sight of God but do not act it. It is time to seek the grace to accept, both the decision and its emphatic nature, and the tiny sliver of potential that maybe, just maybe, God is trying to tell us that there are better things to come, and that by embracing the episkope of chosen women as well as men, we become open to vocations being fulfilled which may breathe amazing spirit into our church.

To quote Robin [when I said "as I type" above, it was just before I was interrupted for help by Bertha, on whom more shortly, so is no longer quite so new, as the following motion has now been carried at York - shame - but almost makes this more poignant]:

Women, lay and ordained, though often stigmatized and hindered, their concerns ignored, misunderstood or silenced, frequently prove to be navigators of passages to a new way of being church. Despite the many crushing and humiliating setbacks that women separately and together have met, Churches are slowly recognizing the new possibilities they bring for the Church’s spirituality and notions of power and task in society.

And Bertha? As we embroil ourselves in episkope, I currently have the immense privilege of engaging in my tutor group with the first woman from Zimbabwe who has been sent to train for ordination to the priesthood. She’s just been telling me how frustrated she is at not being able to use computers, that wherever computers exist, people do things for her – even send faxes or emails for customers at internet cafes – how empowered to use the Internet they are not. As I watch social media updating me on whether able women can be promoted, sitting next to me is a woman of great faith, and great potential, for whom hopefully by the time she returns to Zimbabwe, her [westcott-trained] bishop will have managed to win the debates on ordaining women; a woman who wants to learn not only her formational stuff, but also how to use computers and the Internet, so that when she gets back, noone will be able to hold or hide information from her. May she, and we, continue, at every level, to be navigators of passages to a new way of being church

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