I spent part of Thursday with a group of ordained women in the diocese…the first such gathering for some time, if I’m not mistaken. It was interesting that responses to the invitation had been quite hostile from some women, who felt that by even meeting together we were putting back the clock to the bad old days. They seemed very sure that gender issues no longer mattered in the diocese at all and could not imagine any possible value in being together.
Regular readers will know that my experience here gives the lie to that. Who knows quite what may happen in the parish on 3rd July when I celebrate the Eucharist for the first time? Writing that essay for the Bishop, I was aware that the “expectations of priesthood” part was dominated by anxiety over the reactions of some key people here…I’d barely begun to address what the reality of priesthood might mean for me.
Meanwhile, our hostess of Thursday is married to the vicar of one of the bastions of exclusive church, though I should stress that he himself is on the side of the angels. Indeed, he and the Bishop (God bless him: he is such a wonderful man!) have plans to change things in that parish, and C. has a half-time parish post a few miles away, with the positive expectation from the diocese that whenever she is not leading Sunday worship there, she will attend the Eucharist in her husband’s church, duly collared, just to remind the congregation that ordained women are indeed a reality.
It felt wonderfully subversive to be in a room stuffed with ordained women just yards away from this high profile traditional shrine! We joked about storming the citadel and hugging the pillars…would they crumble at our touch??
One girl reported back from WATCH, which anticipates increasing hostility from Reform and Forward in Faith in the weeks leading up to the General Synod debate on women bishops, and encouraged us to support their campaigns. The expectation is that, since there is no logical reason not to ordain women bishops in a church that has an inclusive priesthood, all the old arguments about ordaining women at all are likely to surface again, complete with the oh-so-essential vitriol. As one woman commented, it will be a “Last Stand”, and those are traditionally bloody affairs.
I would never see myself as remotely militant…my conscious journey towards ordination began only when the door had already been opened by others and I doubt if I would have found the strength to be obedient to God’s call if I’d had to fight to have it recognised. But I thank God for my calling every day, and for those braver than I who worked to make it possible. So I’m posting off my membership form later today…Being largely liberal types, who keep hoping that people will be reasonable, the pro-women groups within Synod are less adept at high profile military style campaigns. FiF and Reform have memberships in the thousands; even if you’re not a natural joiner, now might be a good time to consider it, if you feel that the church is the richer for the gifts of ordained women.