I am in Oxford for the annual College of Bishops of the Church of England. Not exactly a pleasure, but a necessity. I like the people, but the issues don't get any easier. (A bit like life, really.)
The conundrum we face has to do with how to get the General Synod to agree on the admission of women to the episcopate (enable them to become bishops). As I have said before, we are being asked to square a circle and no outcome is guaranteed to succeed. In fact, every option before us might either work or not.
What is clear to me, however, is that if women are to be admitted to the episcopate, they must be fully bishops on the same basis as male bishops. A bishop is a bishop is a bishop. How to get there is the problem. At least, how to get there while providing opponents with security within the church.
The arguments have been well rehearsed, so I am not going to go into them again here. However, the bishops are wrestling with this with integrity and great seriousness. In the end, we will have to come to a conclusion and then put it to the General Synod in November and see what happens. At least we will have a decision. In the meantime, let no one cast aspersions on the seriousness with which the bishops are trying to address these issues for the sake of the church… which is there for the sake not of the church, but of the world.
This business can easily tend to dominate one's mental horizons. It is vital, therefore, to keep this stuff in perspective. Tomorrow is 9/11 – 11th September in English terms. The world is fraught with conflicts and tensions – and not all revolving around religion. The Church is called to model reconciliation to the wider world – evidence of who and how God is – and our debates need to recognise this. Bishops of any type will get us nowhere if the world we are called to serve is left to go to hell in a handcart because of our internal conflicts.
It seems to me that we have a rubicon to cross. Once crossed, the world might look a little different. We'll have to see whether it is crossable this time.
(And if recent silence seems suspicious or curious, it is simply because a burglary saw me without a computer, the replacement caused problems, then our IT system had serious 'issues'. Now I am away, I seem to be able to get back on track. More anon…)