Not a real blog.
Why I will never blog about the question of opposition to Bishops who are women.
A bit of a personal memoir.
When the first women were ordained priest in the C of E back in the '90's I was already at theological College training for ministry.It was an odd time; I went through selection when it was only possible for me to be a deacon, but I knew I felt called to be a priest and that was very much part of the process even before the vote.All my female tutors were ordained priest at the end of my first year of training.It was a fluid time, where we were all learning a new shape of church.
As a deacon, a year after the first ordinations, I went to a deanery with a high proportion of Forward in Faith clergy, and one of my fellow deacons was himself FiF.Although he was ordained separately under alternative episcopal oversight, our Diocese insisted, rightly I think, that we should all go on a pre-ordination retreat together, and do post-ordination training together.By dint of this sensible policy, John* and I got to know each other and were quite friendly, sharing lifts to POT and talking freely, interestedly and completely without rancour about our differences of opinion on women's ordination and our hopes for how it would eventually all work out.
When the time came for our respective priestings, John was to be ordained in his own parish on the Saturday evening, whilst I was to be ordained in the cathedral on the Sunday morning.John, a delightfully open chap if ever there was one, invited me to attend his priesting.My Bishop gladly granted me leave to come out of retreat for the evening.I dressed in mufti and sat in the congregation while all the other clergy robed and processed; I was just pleased to be there and felt hopeful and eager to contribute in some small way to the growth of mutual understanding and consideration.
John's ordination looked a bit like this
After the ceremony John, radiantly happy, thanked me for being there and seeing his Bishop approaching, turned smiling to introduce me.I saw the shock on his face as the Bishop in question blanked both of us completely, sweeping by without even a glance. Looking back, I remember that moment as the end of a hopeful, if naive era.John and I continued to be friendly whenever we met, continued to share lifts, and he never ceased to be lovely.But the sense of hopefulness seemed to disappear.The thing that closed down our friendship as far as I could see was alternative Episcopal oversight, and the hard-line attitude that went with it.Any hope of dialogue amongst a new generation of priests was simply snuffed out by it.
Chapter was never a particularly happy place for me to be. Many of my fellow clergy were hostile, and I wasn't sure enough of myself to rise above it.I tended to shrink into myself.One day, the priests who were so offended by my ordination called a special chapter meeting attended by one of the three ‘alternative’ Bishops.I went along with my training incumbent, and as the only woman present sat quietly and listened while they freely vented their feelings about women’s ministry.One by one they spoke about how it – how I - was hindering them in their own ministry.I remember staring at my toes and thinking ‘How am I hindering you?All I want is to minister quietly in my own corner. No-one is stopping you - it is you who are hindering me!’But I said nothing at all.Afterwards my training incumbent assured me that my silence had spoken volumes, but looking back I can paraphrase this to “Thank goodness you didn’t cause a scene.”
So I’m not getting involved in this discussion about taking care of the feelings of people who can’t accept the ministry of women as Bishops. I've been through it all too many times already. I've spent too many years being vilified and belittled and not causing a scene. I accept that it hurts and upsets them. But it hurts and upsets me too.
*Not his real name. Protect the innocent and all that.