Some brief questions on the ordination of women bishops within the Anglican Communion

Several things have confused me about the recent Anglican vote on the ordination of women bishops. They are as follows:

  1. Why do so many, unconnected to the Anglican Church, feel strongly one way or the other about this issue?
  2. Why do so many feel they have any cause or right to voice an opinion and, more to the point, for it to be heeded on matters within an institution to which they are otherwise entirely unconnected?
  3. Why did recourse to scripture feature so little on either side of the debate (irrespective of the side of the debate to which one falls)? 
  4. Why are those in favour of female bishops so concerned with appearing ‘in-step’ with the feelings of the country when plethora of other views held, even within the liberal wing of the church, are out of step with modern British culture?
  5. Why are those against female bishops bothering to mount any sort of case when the argument, to all intents and purposes, was lost with the ordination of female vicars?
  6. Why do those against the move draw the line at ordaining women bishops? Is it not arbitrary to accept female vicars but not female bishops? If the issue is one of authority, why not accept the move and draw the line at Archbishop or the see of Canterbury itself?
  7. How can those against female bishops consistently assent to the Queen as head of the Church?


  1. Andrew,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I should affirm that I am also a convinced non-conformist and share your views in that regard.

    I should qualify that Q 1&2 were aimed at those who have no connection to the visible or invisible church at large. If one is a Christian, then one is part of the body of Christ and, as such, the things we do and say effect other parts of the body, irrespective of the local congregation/denomination to which we subscribe.

    Really, I was aiming at those who felt the 'right' to voice an opinion of any sort when they have no connection to the church worldwide (not only the Anglican Church but the catholic church – in it's truest sense!). Why should people with no regard for church or scripture have any right to a say on matters from which they are completely unconnected? Free Churchers are not unconnected from the Anglican Communion – despite what we may like to think! Secular leaning people who make no claim of religiosity, never attend the Anglican church (or any other church) and are defiantly 'non-christian', in my view, forego any right to comment… yet comment they do!

    I understand the distinction between 'supreme governor' and spiritual head. However, I have long been convinced this is something of a fudge. More to the point, as I allude in Q6, the issue of bishops becomes an arbitrary line to draw (a) once we have female priests/vicars and (b) when we are willing to tolerate a 'supreme governor' who is not male. In respect to (b), the only option left to us – to square that circle – is to argue the Queen has no spiritual authority. If that is the case, one must ask what her authority/role in the Church actually is? If she is imbued with any authority at all, then we are dealing wit the same issue as that of female bishops. If she is not, then her function is entirely arbitrary and unnecessary and her 'governance' actually a non-governance.

  2. Hi Steve

    For me the answer to 1 and 2 is that although I am a convinced nonconformist the CofE is still the state church. In a sense, therefore, I don't wish to have anything to do with it but the majority of people in the UK think that what the CofE thinks IS what Christians think. So it's good for all of us if that's as close as possible to what the Bible teaches….

    On 7 the answer is straightforward – Anglicans do not believe the Queen is the head of the church – they believe God is. The Queen is the “Supreme Governor” but this is not the same as having spiritual authority within the church – evangelicals didn't have a problem with Victoria either in a much more consevrative age!

  3. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I should probably point out that I am a fully paid up complementarian… so no quibbles with your comment!

    I wasn't really seeking to scratch around complementarian/egalitarian issue, if I'm being honest. Just asking some questions pertaining to the various positions of those on all sides.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Steve – I think some really valuable and perceptive points … As someone who grew up in a really good evangelical C of E church, I guess I watch on with great interest/sadness, knowing what a good thing the Anglican church can be …

    For my own part, I can't help but feel that part of the problem is that a lot of Christians and the Church have bought into a rather worldly view of “equality” – a view that says that I should be allowed to do the same role/job as anyone else regardless of gender etc etc etc … In other words, my equality exists purely at a functional level – I am only equal if I am allowed to do the same job/have the same authority as someone else …

    Whereas, biblical equality goes much deeper than that – it is inherent – we are created equal, in the image of God – male and female are both equally valuable, precious and have dignity – not on the basis of role/job/authority etc, but because they are created in God's image.

    But this means that we are then able to possess different roles/authority without it being any threat to our equality or status, because it is not dependent on that – it's dependent on being made in God's image and being saved in Jesus Christ … God teaches us in 1 Corinthians 12, that the church is a body with many different parts with different gifts and different roles – all are necessary, valuable, vital to a healthy church and the church is worse off without any of them …

    Personally I believe that the Bible teaches that a church leader should be a godly, servant hearted man who loves Jesus, loves people and wants to see people coming to know Christ and growing in their love of him. This is not because I don't think women are capable of leadership, but because I believe this is what God teaches in his Word. Believe me, it would be a lot more convenient for me and I would much prefer to believe that women should be church leaders – but I genuinely don't think this is in keeping with what God says in his Word. I think women have a hugely vital and valuable role to play in the lives of churches and I think we should be careful not to fall into this trap of thinking that a person's job/responsibility is the measure of their equality. Church Leaders or even Bishops who trust in Jesus are no more saved or loved or valuable than anyone else!!!

    Finally, I think that we should be careful about trying to make the church (God's people) reflect modern life too much – the church is meant to be more about showing people what God is like, reflecting God rather than mirroring the trends of society … A royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9-12), though of course we also do need to engage with our culture in order to proclaim the good news of Jesus to a world that desperately needs it …

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