Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Women Bishops and Baptists

My own journey as a women in ministry has not been as easy one.  Opportunities to preach and to use my gifts have been sadly lacking.  There have been times that I felt rather much life a jack-in-a-box waiting for someone to push the button and release me from my confined black box.  Thankfully God's light shines in the darkness and I have never lost my hope of truly being the women of God that I am meant to be.  We are all a work in progress and I will never be the finished product this side of eternity.  

Having spent 15 years as a financial adviser I have been used to working in a man's world where basic salaries were higher for men than women just because they were men.  In the world of commission based sales however, gender is not an issue as earnings are dependent upon performance.  I liked this levelling of the playing field.  Most people are not paid by commission but are salaried.  I have no idea whether the gender pay gaps are getting smaller, or not, I hope they are.  I hope that more women are being promoted to executive level.  To me this is an issue of justice.  It is not really about the money.  It is about having an equal playing field and the opportunities available to you whether you are male or female, and indeed whether you are black or white, able bodied or disabled.  It is a question of being able to reach your full potential and not being boxed in, or hitting some kind of glass ceiling, or as someone on twitter referred to as 'the stained glass ceiling.'  Today the Church of England Synod discussed, prayed, and voted as to whether women could be bishops.  Today was a sad day and I weep with my Anglican clergy sisters.        

Synod voted: 
House of Bishops 44 for, 3 against, 2 abstentions
House of Clergy 148 for, 45 against, 0 abstentions
House of Laity 132 for, 74 against, 0 abstentions
The measure for women bishops is not approved. 

Today there was also good news, Ellinah Wamukoya was consecrated as Southern Africa's first Anglican bishop.  Wow!  Fantastic!  Hallelujah!  Thank you Lord!  Why not in this country?  You can argue theology all you like but for me this is about the 'old boys network' and a church culture that needs to change.  

Looking at the results of the Synod's vote an obvious conclusion can be drawn.  There is a need for church leaders to teach their congregations (the laity) that there is no male or female in Christ, that women have been given the same gifts to lead and indeed have been called, by God, to use those gifts.  I am not an Anglican, I am a Baptist minister who believes in the priesthood of all believers but also that God calls individuals, men and women, to lead his church.  I have no desire to be a bishop, that's not my bag, but if the Anglican church are going to appoint bishops let them appoint my sisters as well.  The need to teach our congregations this important lesson is necessary in Baptist churches and indeed across our denominations.  Violet Hedger was the first female to be accepted for training for Baptist ministry in 1922.  Ninety years later there are still many Baptist churches in England and Wales who will not entertain a women as minister.  Opportunities are limited for my Baptist minister sisters as well.  Will this still be the same 100 year after Hedger was accepted for training? 

Please let my sisters and I out of the box.     

The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  John 1:5