Author(s)Lee Gatiss
Date 22 July 2014

Through his word, the Bible, he has made it clear that the elders/bishops of a church should be godly men who live and teach the truth and can refute error (see e.g. 1 Timothy chapters 2-3 and Titus chapter 1). This in no way contradicts the God-given equality, dignity or ministry of women, all of which are also affirmed by Scripture. As our Church's legal constitution states, we are not at liberty to interpret one part of Scripture as 'repugnant' or contradictory to another (Article 20), and so we cannot set aside God's good designs for the leadership of his church in a desire to affirm this right equality.

While we may regret the General Synod's recent decision to go ahead with this novel and divisive development, we are thankful that some provision has been made in the legislation for those who in good conscience cannot see it as a positive move. We are grateful to be assured that the Church still wishes us to flourish, and will provide mechanisms to ensure this.

Our sincere prayer is that any natural cynicism we may feel about the credibility of this claim (not least the expressed aim to consecrate 'at least one' conservative/complementarian evangelical bishop) may be shown to be unnecessary by the gracious and generous ways in which the new system will be operated.

Why has this situation arisen in our church life? Great pressure has been brought to bear upon the Church of England in this matter by the state and by the prevailing political and media culture. When the church follows the ways of the world, we are called not to panic or lose heart. As the Apostle Paul says, 'As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry' (2 Timothy 4:5).

However, we ourselves must also confess our failure to submit to God's word and to Jesus as Lord in the ways we have sometimes spoken and acted with regard to gender roles and relationships. We have not been as painfully clear or faithfully persistent in our teaching as we ought to have been. We must repent of our failings even as we call the rest of the church, and the world, to repent of theirs.

As the Lord Jesus said, 'Repent and believe the good news, for the kingdom of God is near' (Mark 1:15). Nothing can be hidden from him, to whom we must all one day give an account of our lives.

For those who would like to read more about why some are opposed to women bishops, see the excellent chapter by Ben Cooper in our new book, Confident and Equipped: facing today's challenges in the Church of England.

There has also been a statement by Reform.