Women Bishops – Winning the Outsider?

Posted by Karen Soole Karen Soole
How are we to bring an end to ‘the overdue perception of the church as an out-of-date, old fashioned and bigoted organisation’?[1] This is the question that synod addressed this week as they once again tackled the issue of women bishops. Those in favour are concerned that the church is no longer seen as ‘a repository for ethical guidance, but as a force for immorality in society’[2]. Behind these comments is the assumption that the outsiders’ perception of the church is correct and if ‘society’ is mature enough to understand true equality for the church to deny it is immoral. This is the same argument that is used to support same sex relationships in church and no doubt will be used by some to deny the exclusive claims of Christ at some point in the future. I am not saying that those who believe that women should become Bishops all fall into this camp but I am aware that many do. The role of women in the Church is in itself a secondary issue but only if we are genuinely taking our authority from scripture and not culture.

How sad all of this has become! To argue from culture is a rejection of the authority of God’s word dressed up in clothes that seeks to win the outsider. It was extremely ironic, if reports are to believed, that although proceedings at synod normally begin with the set reading from the lectionary it was omitted on the day of the vote because it was 1 Timothy 1:11-14.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

Who says God does not have a sense of humour! A passage in which Paul argues not from culture but from scripture! Some will say that I am naïve and say I am taking the bible too literally but I would counter with the argument that Dick Lucas always used, ‘I don’t take the bible literally but I take it seriously.’

The Telegraph had a poll on line this week asking this question, ‘do you believe religious texts should be taken literally?’ It is a vague question allowing scope for any religious text but suppose it asked, ‘do you believe the bible should be taken literally?’ These are the options they gave:

•Yes, they are the word of God

•No, they need to be read in the context of their time

•I don't care

•I am unsure

The problem with this selection is that none represent the view I hold of scripture. I do not take the bible literally but I believe it needs to be studied with care, in its context with an appreciation of its literally style. This does not detract from it being the word of God in fact it adds to the beauty of His word and neither does it detract from its authority. The culture in which the bible writers wrote does not diminish the principles they taught. God speaks through His word, it challenges, it rebukes and it leads us to Christ.  The Telegraph got these results.

•Yes, they are the word of God 28%

•No, they need to be read in the context of their time 49.6%

•I don't care 20.3%

•I am unsure 1.5%

No surprises here. But if we listen to culture and not the bible we will never hear God’s voice and we will never lead others to Christ. If Synod really want the Church to be relevant to people today they need to take great care who they listen to by aping society’s values Synod will guarantee the irrelevance of the Church. Our society needs to know Jesus who is not out-of-date, old fashioned, or bigoted. Women bishops are not the issue- Jesus is. Our culture does not know him and undermining the authority of the bible will not help them to get to know him.

1 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10631399/Women-bishops-plan-fast-tracked-after-warning-change-urgently-needed.html

2 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10635510/Women-bishops-We-Christians-need-to-face-up-to-facts-about-Bible.html