The General Synod of the Church of England narrowly voted against allowing women to be bishops on Tuesday, November 20th. The measure was passed by the House of Bishops and House of Clergy, but was rejected by the House of Laity by only six votes.
As a staff member of Christians for Biblical Equality, I am, of course, very heartbroken by this turn of events. I believe that this decision is not reflective of the teachings of Scripture, and that it has a negative effect on the body of Christ. To our sisters and brothers who are directly affected by this decision, please know that CBE holds you in our prayers! We pray for healing and restoration. We pray for strength and comfort for you today.
But as we pray and grieve over this hurtful decision, let us also turn to God in hope and thankfulness. As we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US this week, let us say thanks to the women and men in the United Kingdom who fought for this measure to be passed. Thank you to the women, who, though they cannot be ordained as bishops, will nevertheless continue to serve in their churches, following God’s call even though the church tells them “no.” Most of all, let us be so very thankful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice forgives, redeems, and empowers all of us equally; who told women to “Go and tell the good news” without restraint; and who stood before women and advocated for them, even when crowds were ready to hurl stones. Thanks be to God!
I thought it appropriate to post this with a picture of Theodora, a passionate Christian woman from the ninth century who is celebrated in a Roman basilica as “Theodora Episcopa,” or “Theodora, Bishop.” Bishop Theodora built churches, closed brothels, and created a convent where ex-prostitutes could live and support themselves. Her reforms as empress of the Byzantine Empire gave women property rights and guardianship over their children. She also outlawed the killing of women who were believed to be adulterous. My point is this: Even when humans create stumbling blocks, God’s work will not be stopped. God has, does, and will continue to use women to share the Gospel. We celebrate that today! We hope and work for the day when women in the General Synod of the Church of England, and throughout the body of Christ, will officially be recognized.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:1-5, TNIV).