Church of England votes against women bishops - what do you think?

(25 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 21-Nov-12 11:36:17

Yesterday, the General Synod of the Church of England voted not to allow women to become bishops. Though the legislation was supported by the majority of both bishops and clergy, lay members voted 132 votes in favour and 74 against - overturning the measure, and delivering a crushing blow to those who've campaigned for equality over the last few years. There's more info here.

The bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, called it " a very sad day indeed, not just for those of us who support the ministry of women, but for the future of the church, which might very well be gravely damaged by this."

What do you think? Will the church's image be significantly damaged in the eyes of the public, leading it to be increasingly sidelined in public life? Or is this an issue which cannot and should not be judged by 'normal' standards of equality. If you're a CofE member, are you appalled by or accepting of the Synod's decision - perhaps you're even considering leaving the church because of it?

Mumsnet Bloggers have already posted on this: Dillytante challenges women who worship within the CofE not to brush this under the carpet, Glosswitch suggests the real issue is institutions not valuing women as much as men, while Edinburgh Eye argues that while the Church is within its rights to discriminate, its bishops should now have no place in the House of Lords.

Let us know what you think here on the thread, and if you blog about this issue, do post your URLs here - we'll be tweeting them all.

OP’s posts: |
knackeredmutha Wed 21-Nov-12 12:01:03

I think it is just so sad, it makes the Church look so completely out of step with the rest of society. And it was the laity that crushed the vote. Embarrassing, really.

OddBoots Wed 21-Nov-12 12:12:57

As a member of the CofE I feel very sad, sad that it wasn't passed and even more sad about the rules surrounding the vote which gave an against result when over 72% voted for. The result does not reflect the views of the majority of members or voters.

I do think that in light of this the gracious thing would be for the bishops to leave the house of lords, even if would put aside arguments about faith leaders making our laws it is not correct in these times for prejudice on the grounds of sex to be allowed amoung our law makers.

TinTinsSexySister Wed 21-Nov-12 12:15:24

The point is that it isn't really the Church that has voted against women bishops, but a small number of lunatic radical laity.

It's a bloody outrage and, although I am not in any way religious, I feel sad that the Church, which has clearly been trying to modernise itself, has been set back years in terms of the way it is perceived.

That some women themselves voted against this beggars belief and that sets back feminism back about 1,000 years.

They should be made to apologise publicly not just to all the women of the clergy but every woman in every CoE church around the country that give their time and talents to helping the church and its communities.

I am livid.

Uniitee Wed 21-Nov-12 12:16:37

Tragic, which modern democracy required 2/3 of the vote to win... Sums it up really. Great pity.

WomanlyWoman Wed 21-Nov-12 14:37:42

It's ridiculous. What I didn't realise until today was that there are seats in the House of Lords which are reserved for bishops only. This means that there are effectively men-only seats in our legislative chambers which is a disgrace. Lee Chalmers has started an e-petition about this: No women Bishops, no automatic seats in the House of Lords

BelaThePony Wed 21-Nov-12 15:26:39

I've signed the petition.

Also blogged on it - I don't think that any religion should get the special treatment that the CofE currently gets, but especially not if they are institutionally sexist.

ivykaty44 Wed 21-Nov-12 15:29:55

I wish we could get ride of organisations that will not allow equality - this organisation is in our parliment, schools, royalty. We need as a nation to vote on whether they are allowed to stay if they vote for discrimination

Trills Wed 21-Nov-12 15:32:37

If they were just someone else's church I'd say it was those people's problem, not mine.

If they are all of our church, then they are answerable to all of us.

DillyTante Wed 21-Nov-12 15:40:38

Thanks for the link up Kate.

Do you know what really pisses me off? People like the Arch Bishop of Canturbury are saying how it makes the Church look out of step with modern trends and they have to modernise, as if the only reason they think women should be Bishops is because it's the Done Thing now. No one is saying what a travesty it is that for years we have let women's voices go unheard and caused them to feel unworthy, not to mention the waste of talent and wisdom from precluding women from the upper echelons of the Church.

It's almost as if he is saying "look guys, I agree with you, but we've got to look like we are at least trying so that we can keep them all coming on Sundays".

And don't get me started on CallMeDave's "we yes it is a bit shit but y'know it's the church, we just have to let them get on with it stance at PMQs. Like the CofE is some ancient uncle sitting in the corner at family parties spouting racist and sexist shit, and the family just let him get on with it because "that's just what he is like" and "he's from a different generation".

And not being a Christian or a church goer does not mean you shouldn't still be upset about this. This is about women as a group being subject to age old discrimination, that is legally enshrined in our laws.

Petherwyn Wed 21-Nov-12 17:21:42

I have signed the petition. It's incredible that an institution such as the Church of England appears to be both exempt from equality laws and is eligible to have it's senior members at the heart of government. Can anyone explain why the laws that apply to other organisations do not apply to the church?

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 21-Nov-12 17:51:52

That's a great post Bela - thanks, we'll tweet now.

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Trills Wed 21-Nov-12 17:52:58

I agree, it's not about being "modern", it's about being "fair".

confuddledDOTcom Wed 21-Nov-12 18:06:28

I'm not CoE although I am a Christian (both grandads are/ were ministers, my "uncle" is the head of the FCoE) and it does anger me. It is not a Biblical principle and I feel far from it! I know the Bible sometimes gets bit of a reputation for being sexist, but it's only from a modern interpretation without looking at what was actually being said at the time. Paul was quite a radical feminist for his time so it's disgusting that he is the reason that people are keeping women out of leadership roles in church!

At my church we have a pastorship team, a husband and wife both are ordained and take an equal role within our church.

Alreethinny Wed 21-Nov-12 18:25:51

I've signed the petition and here is my blog about the vote on women bishops.


The Church of England obviously hasn't progressed since Henry the Eighth founded it, in order to get rid of a wife. The church is still sacrificing women as expendable items. As a woman I'm equal in the eyes of God, but apparently not in the eyes of the Church of England. angry

GrimmaTheNome Wed 21-Nov-12 20:53:33

confuddled - Paul a radical feminist? The one who wrote that letter to Timothy? confused

The Christian religion has been sexist ever after; a few denominations (Methodist, URC, Quakers...apologies if I've misseed some) do treat women equally but they are the exceptions which put the rest to shame.

confuddledDOTcom Wed 21-Nov-12 23:13:55

You have to understand the context of what's written. We read it like it was written by a 21st century man to another 21st century man and it wasn't. It was written about certain events at the time. People have for hundreds of years taken the context away and used those verses to mean something other than they do, those that you mention (and I can mention more) are the ones who have actually taken the time to understand. The RC church decided early on to make sure women could never have access to those roles, they knew what they were doing. It's only recently that they've admitted that the Bible doesn't say Mary was a prostitute, a lie that was made up to push women aside. This is the whole difference between faith and religion.

The verses about hair and dress are relevant to the time. Timothy was in a rich Roman city and the Roman women wore lavish hair styles and clothing. How you presented yourself was a sign of your wealth, it was to draw attention to you and your purse more than anything else. Paul did not feel this was a good way for people to behave in meetings. You're there to honour God, not draw attention to yourself and how rich you are - now this is something that I know people in church today could do with understanding!

Paul often refers to a couple (husband and wife team) who were joint leaders of a church that he set up and he always refers to the wife first and he also set up women in other roles, so the idea that Paul doesn't allow women to teach doesn't fit with what we know. He doesn't only talk about women being silent, there are several occasions when he says that people should be quiet and not disruptive of the service, so it's probably a case that services were being disrupted a lot. It says in one verse that women were asking their husbands questions during the service and these should be saved for home. The way that Paul states certain things that are recognised truths - Adam was created first etc - would suggest that at the time there were people trying to teach new Christians (who weren't from a Jewish background) false doctrines.

There is just so much out there on this subject and I'm no where near as understanding on it as some people, so I can only write a snapshot of some of what I do understand. My uncle says we should always read with the 4 Ws and the H (who, what, where, when, why and how) that unless you understand those when you read you are not going to get the full message.

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 22-Nov-12 11:21:40

We were just discussing the fact that some seats in the Lords are now effectively reserved for men, and wondered whether an identical number of seats should be reserved for women... <idly ponders a Mumsnet cohort in Upper Chamber> wink

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GrimmaTheNome Thu 22-Nov-12 12:57:20

For true balance, shouldn't they be female atheists? wink

GrimmaTheNome Thu 22-Nov-12 13:19:18

confuddled - I asked about this one on another thread, apparently scholars think that although 1 Tim starts off saying its from Paul, it probably was someone else anyway - so the first W was wrong! Your uncle is wise - would that everyone applied those tests to scriptures.

OatyBeatie Thu 22-Nov-12 13:29:56

Agree that 13 of the 26 lords spiritual seats should be taken away and reserved for women. But what about the 92 seats that were reserved for the hereditary peers in 1999? I think that just a very few of these are held by women -- presumably as a result of some of their hereditary occupants dying and places being filled in a less primitive way? What I don't understand is why the formalised exclusion of women from some seats (as I understand it, their exclusion, at the time of the 1999 reforms in the Lords, from 92 + 26 = 118??) didn't result in a powerful campaign to have formalised positive discrimination -- 118 women-only seats, appointed with a view to hanging the gender culture of politics and ensuring some sort of equality audit in policy-making and scrutiny. All the usual chestnuts against positive discrimination don't apply when women are formally excluded from some seats and men are formally excluded from none.

Nothing will happen of any worth, though, because we just don't have any respectable mechanism at all for principled constitutional change. Horsetrading occupies the place of principle.

DillyTante Thu 22-Nov-12 23:14:16

There is an interesting comment on my blog from a female Anglican priest.

vwallop Fri 23-Nov-12 15:09:10

Hello folks, I wrote a post about this and the nice Mumsnet tweeters suggested I share it with you:

bravemum Fri 23-Nov-12 18:01:29

Whilst I don't know the details of the debate, the message that is being sent is that women are inferior. It troubles me that in 2012 my children are being brought up in a C of E Church School, where the spiritual direction is coming ultimately from a religious minority who think it is ok to send out messages like this.

What an earth does this look like to those of other faiths who feel 'judged' for not respecting women's rights??

I am mystified, saddened and wish someone would explain what exactly is wrong with having a women as a bishop, given the head of the Church is already a woman?

Igmum Sun 25-Nov-12 21:37:37

I grew up a Methodist (loads of women preachers and ministers since the start) but switched to our local CofE Church a couple of years ago to give DD a chance to attend a Sunday School. I was horrified at the vote against women bishops and doubly horrified at the way votes were counted shock.

The only good thing I can see coming out of this is that at long last the debate has switched from a focus on the tiny minority of the lunatic fringe who don't approve of women bishops and the sort of special measures that should be taken to help them, to concentrate instead on the vast majority. This result seems to have shocked everyone so maybe as a result we will get a far better settlement smile.

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