I have just wasted two days of my life listening to the live broadcast from General synod and following the twitterers. It was compulsive. Unless you are a women priest it is hard to explain how important it was. This blog is supposed to be about the glorious things I see as God is working in the world especially in my small part of the kingdom. I wasn’t going to talk about women bishops, (how often did we hear from the chamber, ‘I wasn’t going to talk to the amendment but……). Here is my pennyworth.
I was a teenager in 1978. The same age as my daughter is now. Growing up in a rural parish there were no female role models in the church, apart from some very elderly nuns in a nearby convent. Women sang in the choir, did the flowers and church teas and as far as I saw that was how it was. Despite this, I knew I wanted to be a priest. I’m not sure it even occurred to me at the time that it wouldn’t be allowed. What stopped me was a sense of not being good enough or worthy enough. It wasn’t until I went to university that I understood that a debate had been going on. There I met some deaconesses and felt their pain of rejection as the synod that year told them again that the time was not right for women priests in the Church of England. I had no idea how long some women had been patiently and graciously waiting. I am sad for those who waited all that time and for whom the decision to ordain women came too late. I am hugely grateful to those pioneering women born before me who have made it easier for me to function as a priest in the Church of England. It amazes me sometimes, that even though we have had women priests for 16 years I still get, ‘You are the first lady vicar that I have seen take a service’ comments. As little as 5 years ago one of my parishes were in turmoil when they realised that the bishop was ‘imposing’ a female curate on them.
I hope that my daughter never has to contend with those feelings of rejection. I don’t want her to ever think that she is a second class person or not good enough because she is a woman. Fortunately she was born just after the first women were ordained to the priesthood and there are now plenty of fantastic role models out there. BUT I don’t want her to have to wait until she is my age to see a women bishop that functions on an equally footing to her male counterpart. Who knows? Perhaps she will see the first female archbishop before she is my age.
I am learning that there is a stature in waiting. It seems ironic to me that in 1978 it was the house of clergy that voted against the ordination of women saying that the time was not right. Today, it is the house of clergy that are affirming women as they voted against the archbishop’s amendment. I am glad they have made this decision. God comes and shares our lives and he changes us (albeit slowly). I am sorry for some who feel rejected by the decision that synod has made. We do know what it feels like to be told constantly that we are not good enough.
No-one would notice if I left the church. If the voting had been different I would have carried on regardless because I love this job and I love the people I am called to serve. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I get to do the best job in the world. Today’s decision makes it a little easier even though I would have preferred it if we could have women bishops without having to compromise which seems to have been forgotten about in the debacle.