In the last 24hrs I’ve cried in public, been asked by several complete strangers what I’m grinning about, and literally bounced up and down, quite a bit! And why have I been making such an exhibition of myself? Because the General Synod of the Church of England has passed legislation enabling whomever God is calling to be bishops to be ordained as such, irrespective of gender. And I’m really excited! (Also relieved, delighted and a bit overwhelmed.)
I’ve no ambition to be a bishop or even a priest. The ministry to which God has called me has long been open to women. So why does this mean so much to me?
This is not just about recognising the calling of individual women to the episcopate. It’s not even just about women. It’s about justice. It’s about the outworking of God’s kingdom. It’s about the Holy Spirit leading the church one step closer to the truth that God’s love and grace and calling are given freely, generously, and to everyone.
And perhaps the most exciting thing about synod’s decision is this: we are about to see a generation of women who have never been told by the church that there are things they can’t do because they are women. A generation of women who have never had their vocation denied, or seen another woman’s vocation denied, by the church because of their gender. A generation of women in the church who have never been told “God doesn’t call women to x”, never been ‘put in their place’, never been told to sit down and shut up. A generation of women who have grown up seeing strong female role-models in the church – lay and ordained – and thought nothing of it, just seen it as ‘normal’.
And we shouldn’t underestimate that. The girls I see now in my toddler group will, God willing, be that generation. And that generation, men and women, will grow up in a church where limiting according to gender the ways in which someone can follow God’s call is no longer acceptable. For this generation, for the church to discriminate on grounds of gender will simply be unthinkable.
And I hope and pray this will make them more attuned to other inequalities, less tolerant of the discrimination which the church still perpetrates against LGBTI people, disabled people and others. I hope this generation, who have never known sexism enshrined in the canons of the established church, will be outraged by the injustices they see. I hope and pray they will lead the church into a more equal, more just way of being, closer to the kingdom of God. And I’m excited about that.
I’m excited too at the prospect of a generation of women who haven’t had to spend so much time and energy justifying their very existence to the church they serve. I’m excited about what God will do with and through that generation. I don’t know what the Spirit will do with the freedom and liberation conferred on this generation by synod’s vote yesterday, but I think it will be a sight to see….. watch this space!
At morning prayer this morning we prayed Psalm 89:
” I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my lips I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.”
This is a great move forward for the Church of England. It is a step towards the total liberation, grace and love which God offers to all. And it is good news for this generation and generations to come.