Jody Stowell urges General Synod to find its 'inner Pragmatist'
Yes2WomenBishops: To General Synod
by Jody Stowell
(published today on Church of England Newspaper Online and The Radical Disciple blog)
Next week, just over twenty years after the vote for the ordination of women to the priesthood, General Synod will vote on the legislation which will pave the way for women to enter the episcopate.
It is an auspicious moment and anyone reading the blogosphere will know that people on all sides of the debate will be thinking of voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Whilst I understand in particular why those who are pro women bishops, would struggle with the amendments that were made to the legislation that was overwhelmingly passed by the Dioceses, I became involved in the Yes2WomenBishops campaign because I do believe that this current legislation is sufficient for all people to flourish within the Church of England.
I, in common with many on General Synod, am an Idealist. And when you are an Idealist it is very easy to spend life disillusioned and despondent that the world is not ‘as it should be’. Idealists find it very hard to abandon their Ideal in order to work with what they see as a ‘means to an end’ mentality. Idealists are naturally very suspicious of ‘means to end’ mentality. I have friends who tell me that they are Pragmatists, they want to see something happen and are willing to do what they see as ‘working together with others’, in order to make it happen. Pragmatists become frustrated with what they see as ‘my way or the high way’ rigidity. Both of these are of course exaggerated, however I suspect that when it comes to the legislation on women bishops the biggest dispute is Idealist vs Pragmatist.
There are idealists on both sides of the argument. For those who are pro women bishops, there are those who cannot in conscience vote for anything other than a single measure legislation where there are no qualifications to women’s episcopacy. On the other side there are those who cannot ever, no matter what the legislation, vote for anything that would mean women bishops become a reality.
And there are pragmatists on both sides of the argument, who see that the Church of England has ‘spoken’ - we want women bishops – and given that, will wrestle with compromise to produce what they consider the ‘best possible plan’ depending on their position. For pragmatists who are pro women bishops, they have to decide how much they can compromise on what they see as the full humanity of women in order to see the reality of women bishops come to pass. For those who are anti women bishops, they have to decide what the legislation will have to say in order for them to feel they will be provided for (and would rather be involved in the conversation because they consider it is going to happen anyway, so they might as well have a voice).
The reality of the situation that is before synod this November, is that Idealists, such as myself, will have to discover where their inner Pragmatist ‘kicks in’, if at all, and Pragmatists will have to decide if their caveats have been met. This will be most costly for those Idealists who are pro women bishops, where they find that both a Pragmatic ‘yes’ or an Idealistic ‘no’ vote to the legislation will not bring them joy. They may get women bishops (but at what cost) or they may not get women bishops (the Ideal that is the ‘way the world should be’ as they see it)
As I said, I am an Idealist. However, I have found that this current legislation wakens my inner Pragmatist. It must be understood that the legislation is very much a compromise for those who want to see women and men working together equally in the church. However, the Appleby Amendment provides the pathway for provision for those unable to accept women bishops, in such a way that hopefully the orders and consecration of women will not be undermined. The consequences of legislation will, of course, only truly be known in the actuality, but I believe that this has the best potential for satisfying all our needs.
Sadly some of the information being given by those who do not wish to see women bishops, suggests that the ‘respect’ offered within the legislation is not robust enough to ensure provision is given.
Not only is this a deeply disturbing indictment on the way women are viewed – as seemingly entirely unable to behave with integrity – but is simply wrong. The ‘respect’ that is required is a term that holds gravitas legally. To use this word in the measure is not simply to offer a nodding acquaintance with the reality that a parish is requiring other provision, but to respect the letter of request that is proffered and respond in an appropriate manner.
Unfortunately I think that some will simply not be satisfied with anything other than a church where there are no women bishops.
I deeply hope that those who wish to see women and men working alongside each other as bishops, can vote yes for this legislation. There is provision, there will be space for women to flourish as bishops for the good of the church….find your inner Pragmatist and vote yes!