As a non-CofE Christian, I would be the first to admit that I do not really understand the CofE. The heirarchical structure seems to bear a striking resemblance to Saturn’s rings: the closer you look the more levels of complexity there seem to be. Why?
It seems to me that the battle over women in the clergy was lost in 1994. Why there should now be a particular fight over the women as bishops without bringing into question women priests is unclear to me. Perhaps someone could enlighten me?
It seems simple: women are excluded on the grounds of 1 Tim 2:11-15. This trumps any appeal to ‘tradition’, which appears to be the main argument against.
There is much made of the fact that many women ‘feel called’ to the priesthood. This raises the interesting question of what constitutes a ‘call’. The women in question seem to have wholly subjectivised the whole thing. Because of an inner feeling, they demand the right to be made priests/bishops etc. I listened to The Bishop of Fulham, John Broadhurst, on Channel Four News last night (who, on the whole, made a pretty ham-fisted job of opposing the motions, IMHO) argue that it was not for individuals to claim a calling but for the church to call. I agree with this. There needs to be both subjective and objective elements. Subjectively, a man (!!) must have a sense of call and purpose about what he is contemplating. But objectively, the broader church must check that he is gifted and qualified (though the guide for this is not tradition, but Scripture). For this reason, a woman can never be called to the ministry, no matter what feelings dwell within.
But this argument will never win the day amongst the liberals. They are only interested in the politics. So looking at it politically, as I see it, there will come a crisis. But it will happen when the liberals realise that the only reason the CofE is viable is because the conservatives financially shore it up. Then the liberals will come back from the brink. They will schmooze with the conservatives in order to preserve themselves. The question then is whether the conservative evangelicals will have the courage of their convictions to once and for all deal with the theological gangrene that they live with every day.