There were always going to be tears this morning but I had thought the tears would be because one side had lost, and losing always hurts. I had not expected the tears to be of loss, anger and even a certain amount of betrayal. Betrayal by a system that allows an overwhelming majority to believe one thing but a minority to win on essentially a six vote technicality.
Today we face the possibility of another five years wait until women can break through the stained glass ceiling and be raised to the Episcopate. Did you know that a shark can have a gestation period of up to 42 months, they will not deliver their young until they are sure the baby is fully developed. Women gained the right to become priests on 2nd February 1992 and at the same time it was agreed that they would have the right to become bishops at some point in the future. Yesterday, 214 months later it was deemed by a small minority that the baby was not fully developed.
That is one hell of a gestation period. If we can’t develop the baby in 214 months there seems little hope for us. The tears this morning, at least some of mine are of anger and frustration. It is not a question of when for those who voted no. It is a question of never. There is no situation in which they will accept women as Bishops and we are deluding ourselves if we think there is. There is little point in going through the whole process again in five years time for there is nothing that will change the minds of those who are against the view that a woman’s calling is equal and valid to that of a man. Just listening to the live feed yesterday I became weary as each side said the same thing. What was the point? Every single person went into that room knowing how they would vote, it wasn’t a debate it was a public speaking competition, albeit one made marginally more interesting by the ever reduced time allocated to each speaker, a sort of cross between Just a Minute and Name that Tune.
I have listened to several people from the No campaign and I am surprised by their failure to appreciate what they have done. Susie Leaf talked about moving together united. United? This is the greatest split in my memory of the church. Do she and the many others I heard talking about “working together for the future of our church” really appreciate the damage they have done. It would seem not, their naivety frightens me. For if their view is so narrow and their insight so poor they are not the kind of people I want leading me in faith.
The No campaign have lived with women priests for 20 years, true they have not liked it and have allowed themselves to become isolated from their diocese, served by flying bishops and creating island communities within the greater whole of the Church of England. But they cannot deny the existence of women priests, and as priests they have been called by God. Did he merely whisper to women whilst bellowing to the men? Is their calling less valid, less real? If not, then surely God called them to minister fully and for some that may mean becoming Bishops. I would like to know how many No campaigners can look a women priest in the face today and say that she is called by God to serve, for yesterday you made it quite clear that she was not.
“He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Indeed He did.