Tuesday, July 15, 2014

General Synod votes in favour of women bishops

Sacrifice and compromise in abundance yesterday (Monday 14th July 2014) at the General Synod. Delegates, who had opposed the introduction of women bishops at the fractious 2012 synod, said that for the sake of the church they would agree to female consecration.

The path to yesterday's historic vote has not been smooth. Female ministry has troubled the church since ordination was first raised in the 1960's. In 1992 the synod agreed, by juts one vote, to ordain female priests.

Since then there have been turbulent debates, culminating in the 2012 synod, when the church's House of Laity failed to achieve the two-thirds majority in favour of women bishops.

The dispute has left the church falling behind others in the Anglican Community, infuriated politicians and - allegedly- resulted in a drop of membership. With almost 2,000 of its 7000 stipendiary priest being female, there were also concerns within the church's leadership that there were insufficient male candidates of the calibre to become bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the approval carried "dangers and uncertainties" but pledged that after the "tortuous path we have taken" the church would ensure that those opposed to women bishops could still flourish within the Anglican Communion.

The long path to equality

1975 General Synod votes that there is "no fundamental objection" to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

1978 A motion to bring forward legislation to remove the barriers to the ordination of women to the priesthood and their consecration as bishops fails at the synod.

1985 The synod votes to allow women to become deacons

1987 First women deacons are ordained in the Church of England

1992 Synod votes to permit women to be ordained into the priesthood. Passed by one vote.

2005 Synod approves a motion to begin the process of removing the legal obstacles to women bishops.

2012 The legislation fails at the synod by only six votes in the House of Laity.

2013 New talks get underway to introduce simpler legislation. Mediators and conflict resolution experts are called in to help opposing groups in their synod to resolve their differences.

2014 Synod approves the introduction of female bishops.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Prepare to welcome our new Curate - Emily Gent

We look forward to welcoming our new Curate, Emily Gent, who will shortly be joining the clergy team at St Michael's. 

Emily will begin her ordained ministry after her ordination at St Albans Cathedral on June 29th. Emily is currently training at St Stephen's House, Oxford, and will be moving into Cowell House in June. We'll have the opportunity to welcome her in worship, on Sunday 6th July. 

We will pray for Emily over the coming weeks as she prepares for her ordination and will do everything we can to help her settle into her new life in Bishop's Stortford, and her new identity as a deacon. 

Look out for an article in which Emily will introduce herself to us in the next edition of this magazine of the Parish Magazine. 
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Monday, January 6, 2014

Revised Baptism Vows are "Dumbed Down".

The Church of England has - controversially - rewritten the Christening Ceremony by removing the section where parents have to promise to "repent sins" and "reject the devil".

The changes to the centuries-old tradition have been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who officiated at the Christening of Prince George - though I'm not sure if the new version of the service was used at that ceremony.

The new version is being tested in more than 1000 parishes (is St Michael's one of the pilots?).

In the original wording of the ceremony the vicar asks parents: "Do you reject the devil and rebellions against God?" to which the reply is: "I reject them". They are also asked to repent the sins that separate us from God and neighbour.

In the new ceremony, parents and godparents are asked to "reject evil and all its many forms, and all its empty promises".

Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, writing in the Mail on Sunday has dismissed the rewritten ceremony as "dumbed down", with the changes being the result of the church's anxiety to make everyone feel welcome and not to offend anyone.  A lay member of the general synod said the new version was "weak and woolly".

The changes follow calls from reformers who wanted the language in services to be easier to understand for those who go to church only for weddings funerals or baptisms.

I can understand how these changes will divide the strict traditionalists from the modernisers, and it is interesting to note that this is the third revision of the service since 1980, prior to which the service had not changed in 400 years.

My personal view (and to note this has not been discussed with the clergy at St Michael's) is that we do need to ensure the church remains relevant to a rapidly changing society, and if this means modifying centuries old liturgy then we should do so. Otherwise we might just as well revert to the original Latin. The only caveat I would add is that the changes should not undermine the spiritual and religious nature of the service or ceremony, i.e. become overtly secular. I don't think these changes do that, and I find it hard to argue against a form of change who's purpose is to make sure that people who attend a baptism service understand what is being said.

What do you think?

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