Women Bishops – This is Wales, calling the Church of England

Women Bishops  6To have contributed one vote towards yesterday’s historic “yes” vote for women bishops in the Church in Wales feels special. I was there five years ago when the Church in Wales rejected women bishops, and I saw the pain that so many were feeling at that time – many tears of sorrow and incredulity were cried. Yesterday, though, it was tears of joy that were flowing at the Church in Wales’s Governing Body. For someone like me, it was a happy and jubilant day, which had affirmed an important biblical principle – “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). For many of my colleagues, though, it was the pinnacle of many tireless decades of praying and campaigning.

The debate yesterday was remarkably gracious – with both sides contributing with warmth and humility. Anglicanism, after all, has always been a broad Church, and we already have many different and contrasting voices within our theological and liturgical spectrum. Yesterday’s debate showed that we were no different to any other family – a motley crew of diverse folk held together, most of the time at least, by love and respect.

My own brief contribution to the debate seems a distant memory by now. However, a number of friends and colleagues have asked that I reproduce the words that I spoke from the podium. Below are therefore those words, reprinted in the knowledge that my friends and colleagues in the Church of England might be inspired by the fact that, at the moment that I spoke them, I truly believed that the Governing Body was going to vote “no” and that I was to return back home disheartened again. As it happened, the Bill went through effortlessly, with members of all shades of theology (evangelical, Catholic, traditionalist, liberal, charismatic) voting conclusively for women bishops:

Women Bishops 3“Yesterday, we heard about the rise in the number of children attending our churches. But once they hit their teens, it’s then they really start questioning. I coordinate a group called The Journey in the diocese of Llandaff, for 16 to 24-year-olds. A few months ago, we held an event called Grill-a-Bishop, and Bishop David Wilbourne came to be grilled by a group of over 30 young people. The question of women bishops was the very first issue they wanted to discuss. These young people came from different churches from across the diocese and hailed from a range of theological backgrounds, but all of them seemed to be of the same opinion – that NOW is the time for women bishops.”

“Listening to the discussions of these young people, it was clear that, yes, this is to do with theology, but it is also to do with the health of the Church, it is to do with affirming the ministry of all God’s people, and, with the nations cameras looking on, it is to do with the Church’s credibility in our society. I have no doubt whatsoever that voting against this Bill for women bishops will be extremely damaging to how the vast majority of young people view the Church in Wales – those young people who come to our churches, but also to those on the periphery and to those who do not attend.”

Women Bishops 2“As an outgoing chaplain at a large University and as coordinator of The Journey, I felt I had to try to say something about a group who aren’t represented here today. To the majority of teenagers and young people, continuing to say “no” to women bishops, especially as we already ordain women priests, is seen as nonsensical and backward. It is something an increasingly unbelieving age-group finds unbelievable.”

“And I personally find it unbelievable that I could be going back for this year’s Freshers Week at the University, for my last few weeks as chaplain there, to tell the students that we didn’t pass this Bill. It is certainly true that women bishops are not the answer to our problems as a Church, BUT it is also true that our problems will get a whole lot worse if we keep saying “no” to women bishops.”

20 thoughts on “Women Bishops – This is Wales, calling the Church of England

  1. Thanks for posting this. It really underlines how important this vote was. It shows how the Church in Wales, with the grace of God, can live with turmoil of change. Without embarrassing change we grow stifled and stun tented, with such a healthy attitude to change resurrection is always possible.

  2. Go Trystan, fabulous words! Would love to pass this onto my parents in Manchester praying that England will now follow suit, hope you don’t mind 🙂

    • Hey Pete. I see your argument here, and I do actually know what you mean. I think all sides, in almost all debates, are guilty of divorcing particular verses from their context in Scripture. As a verse which sums up the Spirit of the Gospel, though, I still love it! Also, I hope my post casts its net wider than a single verse. Still, I always love reading your blog posts – your reasoning is always sharp… one of the reasons I’m looking forward to hearing you speak at the theological commission! See you then, Trys

    • Hi Ben. The Church in Wales continues to be a broad church, which includes so many varied and valuable traditions. I was touched by the respect and humility of both sides at GB, and also how many of my friends, from my time at Wycliffe Hall and St Stephen’s House, as well as those in the diocese, have been polite, considerate, and full of grace on Twitter and Facebook. We now wait to see what the bench of bishops come up with. You’re in my prayers, Trys

    • I cannot speak for Trystan, but I am fairly certain he would say, as was said in the debate, that there is a place for those who find themselves unable to accept women as priests and bishops in the Church in Wales, and that you can trust the bishops to provide a way to secure that place for you.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I’d spent the afternoon glued to Twitter trying to piece it all together and very unsure as to what the outcome would be.

    As one of those people who’s been stuck on the periphery for a little while, trying in vain to resist being pulled back into the fold, it’s refreshing to know that there appears to be far more positivity and, most importantly, hope, compared to the fallout of the last GB vote. I hope that the CofE Synod is looking to us, and learning.

    • Hi Crispin. It was very tense and a fascinating day, which swung back and forth with different rounds of voting. Yes, “hope” is such an important word in faith, as it is in every part of our lives 🙂 Great that Twitter was so successful at Governing Body this year! Take care, Trys

  4. I think that we can so easily think that going the unconventional route or the path not already trodden is forsaking tradition, and I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion and thus welcome this vote (and your reaction to it) very much. I would add to your argument as a point of clarification but also as challenge that the ‘broad church’ idea should not become a safe haven for slucking in other areas, as it seems to me that whilst in the eye of society this is an important resolution, it is even bigger for the Welsh Church as a whole since the context of the mission field will change dramatically.

  5. Pingback: Reasons to be Thankful: A Year in Review | Trystan Owain Hughes

  6. Reblogged this on Trystan Owain Hughes and commented:

    The Church of England General Synod have just approved the motion allowing women to be ordained as bishops. It brings back memories of the Church in Wales Governing Body’s vote last September. On an historic day for my Church of England friends and colleagues, I thought this blog post was worth sharing again…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s