… or “indescribably sad”. Deeply saddened seems to be the episcopal vocabulary, so I best not use it.

Since Tuesday, having been strangely compelled to listen to the whole of the Synod’s to-ing and fro-ing, I have been utterly bereft of words. Utterly bereft of confidence, of belief in myself, almost, but not quite, of belief. I have not the least desire to be a bishop, but I am old enough to remember the vitriol and the pain of the women priests campaign. What I found compelling and painful then – without the least desire to be a priest – I have sensed a hundred times more keenly now that I am ordained.

Without words, I have relied on others’. I have read voraciously, not always sure if helpfully, people’s opinions and reflections. I have watched the disbelief turn to pain turn to argument. I have bookmarked and favourited, if not re-tweeted (links will come when I re-find). I have survived on the words of those closest to me, and on those in pain and offering reassurance and support across social media. I have survived on the gentleness of my parishioners reaching out seeing pain to tell me how much they value me. But still it hurts.

It hurts, not because I want to be a bishop. It hurts because to some this whole thing was not about bishops, not about the quality of the legislation. This is about the validity of women’s orders in of themselves. This is about if I am a fraud when I get up and put my collar on, rather than being truly in holy orders and sent out to work for the kingdom. It hurts because while some people think differently to me, and I try my hardest to respect that they feel differently, they don’t all pay that respect back. Even if I struggle to respect how your reading of scripture and tradition differs from mine, I don’t ever question your fundamental personhood in your vocation. By doubting my capacity for priesthood, you are denying my integrity before God, denying my very identity. Is that really your right to judge? Did the church not spend a load of time in church history lectures worrying about the validity/efficacy of the sacraments regardless of the person of the minister?

I’m not a very good feminist, and I don’t think we should be arguing on grounds of equality. If we can’t put our point on theological grounds, then we’re barely worthy of ‘winning’. (I feel the same way about gay relationships, for the record, which I’ve actually spent more time studying to be sure of what I think theologically – and I also hurt because I don’t think we’re going to ‘deal’ with ‘the gay issue’ until we’ve ‘dealt’ with ‘the women issue’ and a delay at the beginning of this chain sees us taking longer before we can clear the decks to seriously concentrate on what else there is to do).

Because I’m not a very good feminist, I am possibly guilty with a lot of the liberal church who just think that love and respect and getting on with it somehow doesn’t need fighting for. In the same way that I won’t vote for any political candidate/party who spends their literature slagging off the others without giving me anything to base a vote on (or prints on glossy not recyclable paper), I struggled with a sense of ‘sides’ and perhaps that was a mistake. A wise old priest I know saw this coming, and tried to persuade my mum to stand for synod – that would have been one vote more…

It hurts to see ++Rowan ‘fail’, a man whom I deeply respect, and it hurts to see +Justin ‘fail’ before he’s even begun. It hurts to think that actually no-one has ‘won’ – and it hurts to think it might not be fair next time – that ‘we’ won’t have ‘won’ any more fairly than ‘the others’ ‘won’ (or didn’t) this time, that we might have set out to skew the synod representation the other way, that there’ll be even less provision next time. Still, this latter point bothers me. I, stupid dear old Anglican that I am, *do* care about those who think differently to me, *do* care about minorities. And yet, [bits of] two lots of minorities who probably in all truth could go through life without actually having to deal directly with my or any other woman’s ministry, have not only denied the church and wider society of the very real and enriching gifts of some women, but denied many of our male leaders that complementarity that they – by a huge majority – have asked for and would welcome.

It hurts to see pain and disbelief turn into tribal and even personal attacks. It hurts to see the media pick up the angles and lose the maths. It makes me sad to think we have to work harder to persuade people that we are not irrelevant to them.

It hurts to see people I love hurting and confused. It hurts to see trust negated, dismissed. It hurts to be told that we don’t know what the church wants, we should wait. It would have hurt to see legalised discrimination…

And there in lies the hope of Holy Saturday. Michael Sadgrove said on Tuesday, tonight is for lament, tomorrow for reflection, the next day for thinking about the future. Now I am torn as to ‘what next’ – I have no more desire to ‘fight back’ than I had to ‘fight’ in the first place.

I hope and pray that the sheer number of people galvanised to show their support and care for the women clergy and the men who support them and feel equally hurt by Tuesday, the people on the street who have engaged me in conversations (and allowed the space for not saying how stupid the church is, but showing almost subconsciously that the church does matter to them), I hope and pray that the ‘fight-back’ is that of a church mobilised to look beyond its walls and say here is the church that wants equality, that wants to care about everyone, that wants to leave noone behind or out in the cold, here is the church which wrestles with scripture – even the seemingly ridiculous bits – and can come to different conclusions but refuses to cast people into the outer darkness for doing so. Here is a church which – if we look as positively as we can at the suggestion the no votes were to the measure itself – refuses in fact to legalise discrimination and allow women to be essentially second class. Here is a church which calls people so powerfully to its message that so many of us have lived on such a tide of emotion this week. Here is a church which pulled itself together, sat back down together and voted for the Living Wage, a church where the next ABC will not sit silently in the face of corporate sin, a church where we are committed to the most marginalised of society, putting in hours to food projects, housing projects, education projects, parenting projects…

Maybe, just maybe, whilst we may worry about loss of face, of reputation (which hasn’t been exactly high, so on the one hand…), of credibility, of whether we self destruct, become disestablished and even more irrelevant than we already are [purported to be]; just maybe, sitting here at the foot of the cross, we have hope in the resurrection. Just maybe, we revise thinking and look at being truly equal in God’s eyes and the church, neither male nor female. Maybe the invidious Act of Synod has to go. Maybe we have to relearn to trust God and each other – maybe we have to learn to be trustable.

Maybe we can build on the fact that we are being talked about, the fact that there are young men and women as well as older men and women who are prepared to give up everything to follow a compelling gospel of love and forgiveness (oh yeah, maybe we have to learn to forgive, and to love again too), and maybe as people question what on earth we’re on, they do realise that we are on earth, not Zog, and that we care about each other and about them. Maybe in random conversations on the bus or in shops, in a renewed mundane apologetic, just maybe, the message of Christ and the good news of the gospel can be spread beyond the church walls in a way which it wasn’t being last week. Maybe, just maybe, there is an Easter Sunday to come. Maybe we do have to wait, but maybe that isn’t a quiet vigil but an active witness (still avoiding ‘fight-back’ or ‘fight’).

Maybe, just maybe, our lament is heard as we throw it all onto God, and maybe, just maybe, our hurt and our trust (for trust we must) and our prayer (for pray we must) and our self-inspection – will be clothed in resurrection glory. (Resurrection glory that was *ahem* revealed first to a woman).

There have been many words written and spoken while I’ve not had any. I have no energy to repeat or engage with some of the things with which I fully agree or with which I would like to wrestle. But some of those I’ve found helpful to me I will add below. I so sincerely thank those who have been expressing pain, anger, support, in all forms and media, for being there to be walking alongside.





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4 Responses
  1. David Lee says:

    Much of the “anti” vote was done by conservative evangelicals.

    I was brought up conservative evangelical. I’m still appreciative of much that I gained from this. The c.e. wing is, if you like, the ecclesiastical “mother and father” that the commandment wants me to honour. And I do honour this…

    … for the most part …

    … but not, emphatically not, for Tuesday’s appalling actions.

    Kate, rest assured that this vote was not in my name, nor in the name of many, many of us.

    We’re hurting with you.

  2. Elizabeth Kaeton says:

    Ah, Katie, you’ve summed up the “indescribable sadness” of many on both sides of The Pond.

    By some strange cosmic irony, the day of the synod vote was also the anniversary of the birth of Pauli Murray. Murray was the first woman African American to be ordained priest in The Episcopal Church, presided at her first Eucharist in the chapel where here grandmother, then a slave, had been baptized. Among so many of her accomplishments (co-founder of N.O.W. – National Organization of Women – first African American woman to earn a doctorate at Yale Law), she was also a poet who wrote “Hope is a song in a weary throat.”

    This post gives testimony to the truth of Murray’s poetic line.

    Synod only delayed the inevitable – for precisely the reasons you so beautifully – and painfully – articulate.

    You are not alone. Thank you for this.

  3. Katie+ you have summed it up quite well – and the sadness extends throughout the world. While we have been ordaining women since 1976 and we’ve had many women bishops in the Episcopal Church, there are still those who question my orders. When I arrived in my current call, several walked out including the organist who was very vocal in his opposition to women priests (For want of a chromosome, the organist was lost!).

    Our call is not valid because people say so … it is valid because the Holy Spirit made it so. Take courage my sister.

  4. Stephen Cox says:

    Hi Kate,

    Read with great interest and real concern for the Anglican Churchs’ situation on the topic of female Bishops. As you may remember I am a Roman Catholic and we have spoken a couple of times when we were stewards at Durham Cathedral about this issue as it is close to many hearts in the Anglican community but is not really fully understood by many outside it, including, sadly, mine or me. I had to study the struggle to allow female clergy into the Anglican Church as part of my History BA and know of the deep divisions this has caused. The position in the Catholic Church is made clear on the subject of female clergy as we follow strictly the teaching of St Paul on the place of women in the life of the Church.

    Whether or not some of us think the Roman Catholic way of thinking on St Paul’s teaching should move on is another question, but it has, in some way in the Anglican community. My question is this. If female ordainations to the priesthood have been accepted, why is their such a struggle still to allow female bishops? I realise the vast increase in responsibility and influence a bishop has of corse but in essence if a female has been allowed into the inner circle of the Anglican set up as it were and is then at some point deemed to be capable of advancement, then is the reluctance by some (only 6 voting members I believe), purely on theoogical grounds or something else? I know in recent years both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church have been working together to become closer after 500 years of schism but it seems to me sadly that the schism in the Anglican Church and community is in danger of causing irreperable damage to itself. I pray to God truely, that He helps you find a way to best serve Him and His people whichever way that may be. For myself, if this includes female priests or bishops, if they have a pure love of God and His Church (which is in effect its community), then so be it.

    Take care and God bless you in your ministry