Tag Archives: women bishops

Intersex, Women Bishops, and the Body of Christ

The story of Rev. Sally / Selwyn Gross neatly encapsulates the challenges of intersex people to Roman Catholic rules on the ordination of women. Male-identified at birth, Selwyn was raised as male, and became a Catholic priest. When medical tests revealed that internal biology was primarily female, Sally transitioned – and was forced out of the priesthood.
In the Anglican church, there is no problem with the ordination of intersex people, as there is no bar to women’s ordination in the first place, nor are there barriers to promotion – up to the rank of bishop. Then the stained – glass ceiling is struck, for intersex people and for women. We know from science that the intersex phenomenon is entirely natural and complex, including a small but significant proportion of the human population. The absolute division of us into a neat two-part binary, is simplistic and a dangerous ground on which to base rules for ordination (or for marriage, for that matter).
The theologian Dr Susannah Cornwall has specialised in the intersex challenge to theology, notably in her book “Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ” . In a new paper, reported on in the Church Times, she applies these considerations to the debate raging in the English Church over women bishops.   The trigger for her intervention came in a paper by those opposed to women bishops,”The Church, Women Bishops and Provision”which argued “When we stop receiving Christ in his essential maleness, his humanity becomes obscured”.
Essentially male?

Intersex conditions undermine the assumptions about the clear delineation between male and female which underpin the theology of Christians that oppose women bishops.

Dr Cornwall says that many contemporary theological accounts of sex, gender, and sexuality take too little heed to the existence of physical intersex conditions.
“The important question is what definition of maleness the authors of The Church, Women Bishops and Provision are using, and what it is in which they believe that maleness inheres,” she writes. “Intersex dis­turbs the discreteness of maleness and femaleness, and might therefore also disturb the gendered roles which are pinned to them.”
Dr Cornwall believes that “very little” has been written about the impact of such conditions on theology and the Church’s ministry.
“Generally, there has been a growing awareness that intersex exists but not specifically theological reflection,” she said. “The pastoral concern is the big impetus for my project, but I don’t think it’s possible to do that without thinking about the theological considerations.”
 – full report at Church Times 
In her paper “Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision”, she argues that it is not possible to know “with any certainty” that Jesus did not suffer from an intersex condition, with both male and female organs.
In an extraordinary paper she says: “It is not possible to assert with any degree of certainty that Jesus was male as we now define maleness.
“There is no way of knowing for sure that Jesus did not have one of the intersex conditions which would give him a body which appeared externally to be unremarkably male, but which might nonetheless have had some “hidden” female physical features.”
Dr Cornwall argues that the fact that Jesus is not recorded to have had children made his gender status “even more uncertain”.
She continues: “We cannot know for sure that Jesus was male – since we do not have a body to examine and analyse – it can only be that Jesus’ masculine gender role, rather than his male sex, is having to bear the weight of all this authority.”

Recommended Books:

Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey: Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach

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Church of England women bishop plan passes key threshold

The proposal to approve women bishops for the Church of England has just passed a key threshold: of the 44 diocesan synods, 28 have already approved the proposal – comfortably more than the half of the total (i.e. 22) that were required, with 14 votes still to come.
While approval at this stage may well have been expected, there are two features that particularly interest me. One is the sheer scale of support, and the other the very clear rejection of a compromise motion, to assuage the male hardliners who simply cannot countenance serving under a woman.

The sheer scale of the support thus far is impressive: 28 synods have voted in favour, and just 2 against. In most of these, support has come from all three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, and frequently by huge margins. The dire warnings of a seriously divided church, and the probability of a serious schism, are unfounded. The dissenting voices are few. When they see the scale of their defeat, most will learn to adapt. Some no doubt will choose to leave, or seek allegiance to an alternative hierarchical  structure – but they will be few.
The compromise motion, recognizing the inevitable victory for the proposal, aimed to sugar the pill for conservative male clergy by providing for alternative structures whereby dissenting male clergy could avoid reporting to female bishops, by working instead with a parallel structure consisting exclusively of men. This is obviously insulting to women, and has been roundly rejected. Just 6 of the 30 votes so far have supported the compromise. That is, 24 have rejected it – already more than half. The compromise cannot reach the minimum of 22 required.
Although it is clearly supported by a majority of the dioceses, this was just one (important) landmark along the way. The proposal still has some way to go. Next, it will have to be approved by the full national synod, with parallel votes in favour required from each of the three houses – of bishops, clergy and laity. The scale of support at diocesan level, coming generally from all three houses, should make passage at this next level pretty  much a formality. Thereafter, it will have to go before the British parliament.
Legislation to introduce women bishops into the Church of England has moved a step closer, according to supporters.
So far 28 out of 30 of the Church’s regional councils, the diocesan synods, have voted to endorse the legislation.
Having been backed by most of the 44 diocesan synods, the measure will return to the General Synod next year.
A further motion with extra concessions for Anglicans who cannot accept women bishops has been supported by just six diocesan synods.
The Church’s national assembly, the General Synod, may vote finally on the legislation next July.

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Women bishops get clergy blessing

“THREE-quarters of Anglican church leaders in Staffordshire have thrown their support behind allowing women to become bishops, despite concerns from some churchgoers.
The move has been described as “long overdue” and will finally place women on the same footing as their male counterparts in the Church of England.”
The Lichfield Diocesan Synod met on Saturday to debate and vote on the motion.
The diocese is headed up by the 98th Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, and is served by 294 full-time stipendiary (paid) clergy and an even larger number of non-stipendiary (volunteer) clergy and lay ministers.

Ninety-four people voted in favour of the changes, 31 were against and two abstained.

Although the national body, the General Synod, has already agreed in principle to women becoming bishops, it still needs to win the backing of at least half of the 44 dioceses across England for it to become law.

‘Overwhelming’ support for female bishops at Synod meeting – Ripon – Ripon Gazette

The Anglican proposal to approve female bishops needs the support of a majority of diocesan synods to move ahead. So far, every single one has voted in favour, in most cases overwhelmingly – as in this instance, from Yorkshire. 
That will not end the matter: it will still need approval at the national synod from each of the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity. But the pattern thus far is that at diocesan level, support has in fact been coming from all three houses. This proposal will pass. Once it has become a fact, opposition will fade away, just as opposition to women priests faded once people met the reality of women priests – and recognized their value.
“Church leaders from North Yorkshire and Leeds have voted overwhelmingly in favour of women bishops.
The Diocese of Ripon and Leeds stretches from south Leeds to the borders with County Durham.
Its Synod, or governing body, met on Saturday, October 1, at the David Young Community Academy in Leeds to debate a draft measure called ‘Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women), which has been forwarded to every diocese in the country by the General Synod.
The Synod decided overwhelmingly in its favourwith the vote to approve the women bishops’ measure going 74 in favour and 7 against with 2 abstentions.”

‘via Blog this’

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Women bishops law in Anglican Church makes progress

“This month the campaign to allow women bishops in the Church of England could clear another hurdle.
Supporters are surprised and encouraged by the backing it has been getting in the Church’s regional councils, or synods.
“We were expecting positive votes but the overwhelming majorities have been more encouraging than we expected,” says Helena Jenkins, a parishioner of St Luke’s church in Sevenoaks, Kent.
“I like to think it’s the Holy Spirit moving, because I just feel so strongly that this is the right way for the Church to go,” says Ms Jenkins, a member of the campaign group Women and the Church.
“And I think even some people who have difficulty with the idea of women in ministry have been listening perhaps more than they were.”
The measure needs the approval of half the synods of the Church’s 44 dioceses before it returns to the General Synod, which could take a final vote on the measure next July.
So far all the 17 diocesan synods which have voted have backed the legislation.”
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Sheffield synod votes in favour of women bishops

In the Anglican communion, the squabbles over gay bishops and women bishops are closely linked. The threats of secession,  and calls for special treatment for priests and parishes who dissent on women bishops, have been widely reported. It is worth noting therefore, the less widely reported, slow and undramatic progress of the diocesan votes to ratification of the synodal decision to approve women bishops. 
In the latest vote, the Sheffield diocese has joined those voting in support of the proposal. I do not have an up to date tally of all the diocesan votes so far, but the last time I saw one, the total number of votes against was – nil.
The simple fact is, that at least inside the UK, the opposition to women bishops is a distinctly minority position. There will in the relatively near future be women bishops, selected from the large pool of excellent women priests, and those few who remain opposed will quickly get used to them – just as after initial misgivings. most Anglicans quickly got used to female priests. 
In the same way, there will also quickly follow widespread approval for gay or lesbian bishops. It’s only a matter of time.
“REPRESENTATIVES of the Anglican Church in the Sheffield region have voted in support of women bishops.
A motion was carried by 37 votes to 28 with six abstentions. The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, voted in favour at a meeting of the Sheffield Diocesan Synod last Saturday.
The outcome indicated the laity was more convinced that the clergy. Laity voted 23-16 in favour with one abstention, clergy 13-12 with five abstentions.”

Women Bishops, UK

To judge from the press commentary, you could easily think that the Anglican Church was deeply divided over the issue of women bishops. In fact, repeating a pattern seen in the Catholic Church on many issues of sexual ethics, it is now clear that the church as a whole has no problem: the noise is coming from a handful of dissidents, and a significant further proportion of the resistance is coming from some moderates who themselves support the change, but are reluctant to upset the conservative wing over women (and gay) bishops – yet appear to be less concerned about the very real injury done to the women and gay men they are excluding. Fortunately, the British people as a whole are a different story entirely:  research shows that only 10% oppose women bishops. From Ekklesia:

Only one in 10 British adults oppose the introduction of women bishops in the Church of England, according to an independent poll conducted by YouGov. Pollsters found that 63 per cent support the move, while 24 per cent have no view and three per cent are unsure of their opinion. The poll, which was not commissioned by any body external to YouGov, comes shortly after heated debate about women bishops at the Church of England’s General Synod. Supporters of openly gay bishops also outnumber opponents. Thirty-nine per cent say they are in favour, with 27 per cent against. In addition, 31 per cent have no opinion, while three per cent say they don’t know. The figures are likely to reinforce the popular perception that Christians are reactionary and reluctant to change. Christians who support sexual inclusion argue that churches should be at the forefront of social change, not struggling to keep up. The researchers found that women were more likely than men not only to support women bishops, but also to support gay bishops.