Today is a make or break day for the Church of England.In the debate and vote on Women Bishops, the Church of England faces a clear choice. It can either stick with those who want to hold the Church back – or move forward to embrace the work which the Holy Spirit has been doing – often in wider society more than in the church, because we have been so slow to hear.
To hold back from welcoming women as Bishops would be catastrophic.It would be catastrophic for our credibility in the country in which we minister - which can’t see what the problem could possibly be.
It would be catastrophic for the relationship between the established Church and State which is already being strained to breaking point by the refusal of the Church to accept the equality of all human beings, each of us made in the image of God.It would be catastrophic for the image of God we project to the world – a no vote today would present a God who is out of date, out of touch, and fatally flawed – who considers those who would exclude women to have greater importance than the women He is calling.
There are those of course, who have threatened to leave the Church of England if the vote is ‘yes’. They have made this threat very public to ensure maximum leverage in General Synod.Much less visible are people like a valued female priest I know well, who has quietly confided that if the vote is ‘no’ she will resign her ministry. She has not announced this with a fanfare of trumpets, but with a quiet resignation that a church which votes ‘no’ is not the church she felt the call to minister in. I wonder how many other women and men feel the same.
So today is a make or break day for the Church. My prayer is that we make our way into the future with generosity for those who are unable to recognise the work of Spirit in opening up Episcopal ministry to all – but not by allowing them to hold the Church to ransom.Today is the day – and to quote Hebrews 4:7
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”