Today marks the end of a 12-year debate within the Church of England on whether or not to open up the bishopry to the female gender. Sadly, while the motion to allow female bishops past in both the House of Bishops (97%) and the House of Clergy (64%), it failed in the House of Laity by six votes….
Current church law states that this issue can be brought back for another vote in the “same form” during the present general synod’s term – meaning that the issue is now off the table until after 2015 (unless the top six leaders in the church decided to allow an exception, which would be a rare move).
It should be noted that women have been allowed to serve as priests within the Church of England since 1994 (there are even some female bishops currently serving within the larger Anglican Communion). The main debate with female bishops is what to do with those parishes who do believe that a women should be in leadership. Should those parishes be allowed to ‘shift’ leaders and have a male bishops? If so, what does that mean to the historical boundaries and geographical areas of the bishopry? As you can imagine, this is a very heated topic that I doubt will go away…
Interestingly enough, the Vineyard had to make a similar choice in the not so distant past. Being an family of independent churches (i.e. each local church ordains and chooses their own pastors), we had some church with women pastors – who, naturally, wanted to be included in the national conversation on the direction of the Movement. This lead the Vineyard USA National Board, led by Bert Waggoner, to release a statement in 2006 allowing women to serve at all levels of leadership (i.e. they can be a regional leader which is the Vineyard equivalent of a bishops – something that, by the way, that happened this year).
Sadly not everyone in the Vineyard liked this choice…leading several local churches and individuals to pull out of the Vineyard. Yet, happily, the majority of people stay within the movement – including myself and the Payette River Vineyard. (As a side note, I’m not an ‘true’ egalitarian as I believe that it is better to have couples ordained as pastors and bishops as any local or national body of believers needs the viewpoint of both genders).