The General Synod of the Church of England has voted not to have women bishops, until it deems it otherwise fit. The decision comes in spite of the two decade-long or more deliberations on women ordination as priests. Interestingly, it turned out that it was the Laity which voted against the plan; no matter how small the majority was. For the benefit of the worried ones among the laity who are skeptical about having women bishops, it would be quite interesting to go along memory lane in the course of Church history regarding the various roles women have played and posts which they have held. A cursory examination of the Church during the First Century would be helpful. Biblical records show us that in pre-church era women had important leadership roles and posts in religious settings and society. Then it would be good to look at church membership and the position of women in church and society today. Another vital consideration is to ask what Jesus Christ would have said and done today. Having to wait for another General Synod decision for some years is a long, unnecessary but inevitable wait.
During the exodus of Israel under the leadership of Moses, he responded to Joshua’s anxiety and jealous, protective concern for him, while he urged Moses to forbid those who were prophesying outside tent where the select group of leaders and Joshua were with Moses. Joshua was not aware of the fact that those men were appointed by the LORD also. Moses was quick to encourage his assistant and said: ‘‘Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them.’’(Numbers11:29). The Lord’s gifts and ministry appointments were not and still are not the exclusive reserve or monopoly of a select few. The gifts are inclusive of the women too! Early In the Exodus, great Miriam was a Prophetess!(Exodus 15:20). Deborah was a Prophetess and a Judge in Israel during the early formative years of nationhood. By that she was NUMBER ONE person in the whole nation.As prophetess and Head of State,she heard from God and gave instruction to men and women,including Barak,who was the newly appointed military commander.Barak as a man called upon to lead the army was afraid,until this notable woman accompanied the army into battle. It should never be forgotten that whilst Barak was fearful,Deborah was full of courage and faith in God.Victory was won and all the prophecies of Deborah came true.In addition,a woman had the glory of putting finishing touches to the war(Judges 4:4-10, 21-23).
As a woman highly favoured of God, the Virgin Mary,was the vessel through whom our Lord and Saviour was born. Mary was submissive and obedient to the will of God.Greater than all other women before and after her,the Virgin Mary occupies a pride of place in the Church and an extra-ordinary place in Roman Catholicism.Eamon Duffy,in his book ’The Place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Roman Catholicism’,opines that the central Catholic teaching about Mary originates largely from the Gospels of Luke and John,from certain portions of the Pauline corpus and from the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation.He asserts further that the Roman Catholic tradition almost deifies Mary and near elevation to that of the Christ.There is much controversy over the teaching,which is not acceptable to Protestant belief.However,the fact of Mary’s greatness has never been in contention.Shortly after the birth of Christ, his circumcision and the purification rites for Mary his mother, Jesus was brought to the Temple to present him to the LORD,being the first male child that opened the womb.That was done in obedience to the Law of the Lord.Prophetess Anna was in the temple when Jesus was brought in.Like Simeon,Anna also spoke of Jesus in the hope of redemption for Israel (Luke 2:25-38). Many women were responsible, committed and reliable supporters as well as facilitators in the earthly ministry of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Who would forget so easily the ministries of Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary of Magdala and the additional unique ministry of Mary, the mother of Jesus? These were women who stood their grounds where most of the male leaders went into hiding,soon after the arrest, crucifixion and burial of Jesus! Mary of Magdala was the first to see Jesus after he rose from the dead and the first to testify about the resurrection. (Matthew 28:7-10; Mark 16:9-11; Luke 23:55-56; 24:1-11; John 20:1-18). Did the men believe her report or testimony? Certainly not; until Jesus appeared to them later(John 20:19-20).What a pack of timid men they were before Pentecost! The fact that Mary of Magdala was sent by Jesus to the Apostles made her qualify as a SENT person. It is asserted by some that she was the Apostle to the Apostles. How true indeed! Who and where then are those ignorantly undermining the status of women in the church? A Christian woman should be able to rise to any post in the church as a Priest.A Bishop is first and foremost a Priest. The same is true of an Archbishop,Patriarch, Prelate or Pope;they are all basically Priests!The Church of England should repent and retrace her steps in the unscriptural stand which informed the decision taken at the General Synod,to prevent women from being consecrated as Bishops.
In the upper room,in Jerusalem,on the day of Pentecost,there were women among the 120.Men and women alike were all filled with the Holy Spirit(Acts1:13-15,2:1-4). The first Christian in Europe was a woman,called Lydia(Acts 16:14-15). Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles recognizes and pays respect to Aquila and Priscilla,Christian couple,who had a church in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19) at Corinth. The couple were makers of tent as their means of livelihood alongside Paul, hence their closeness. Another notable couple; Andronicus and Junia were highly respected among the Apostles and older in the faith than Paul(Romans 16:7)!
Twenty-first Century observations in the church across the world show that majority of worshippers are women. Agape Focus observes in the United Kingdom and Nigeria that female worshippers and members are in overwhelming majority.News from around the Christian world prove this also. Statistical studies by the Christian Research confirm this fact for England.The Church, by the ordination of women as Priests has already set the stage for the elevation of deserving female priests to episcopal status! To act contrarily,is a negation of the original act of the General Synod, which ordained women as priests.The conservative members of the church coming to mess up Synod decisions should reread their Bibles,revisit the past synod decisions, repent and behave better next time!
It is a fact of the Twenty first Century that women in society do hold very important posts. Her Majesty,Elizabeth II,The Queen,is by the grace of God,the Official Head of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Spiritual Head.The United Kingdom has been privileged to have a female Prime Minister,in person of Margaret Thatcher. In her days in office,she was no push over and she was able to hold her place in the committee of nations.Women in England and across the world have proved and still continue to prove their mettle in various fields of endeavor;as educators,economists,politicians,soldiers,scientists,sportswomen,astronauts, responsible parents,priests,bishops,nuns,deaconesses,evangelists,and pastoral leaders.Women indeed are a formidable component of any category of human activity in past and modern societies. In spite of the array of evidences,one wonders yet why some so-called conservatives seem to present a stance of unawareness or ignorance about the significant roles and high potential of women!
However, it should be noted that it constitutes a disservice to Christ to appoint homosexuals as female Bishops.What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.Having halted the consecration of a homosexual male earlier, the same standard must be upheld for any lesbian. There should be no double standard.This is not being sexist in any way! Any man or woman in true practice of celibacy qualifies for consecration as Bishop. For other prospective aspirants to the office of Bishop,such a person must be the husband of one wife(or the wife of one man). Christ,who loved us and washed us from our sins by his own blood has also made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5-7). Let the women never be hindered again from holding higher positions(Bishop inclusive)in the ordained ministry;be it in the Church of England,other Anglican Communions,Methodist Church Nigeria,the Roman Catholic Church or any group of Churches! Which male Roman Catholic Priest in the Twenty first Century is able to match the exploits of the late Mother Teresa? Notable,diligent,zealous and faithful female priests do abound,who are competent to be made Bishops.There is neither Jew nor Greek,there is neither bond nor free,there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:28-29). In the words of the Apostle Peter we read: ”But you are a chosen generation,a royal priesthood,a holy nation,a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praise of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Which in time past were not a people,but are now the people of God:which had not obtained mercy,but now have obtained mercy.”(1 Peter 2:9-10); Earlier he described us as living stones, spiritual house and holy priesthood(1Peter 2:5). Jesus Christ,the chief cornerstone,elect and precious, is the owner of the Church. He never underrated women;neither should the Church do so this Century or ever again. Those who have ears should listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to the entire Church and not only the Church of England!