Stephen Cottrell - Women Bishops: Enough Waiting
The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, joins the Archbishop of Canterbury in his campaign (http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2654/) to support the current legislation for women bishops. Bishop Stephen quotes from Galations 'there is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female' and urges us to remember that we are all 'one person in Jesus Christ'. Bishop Stephen explains why he believes that the Measure as it stands is what the Church of England needs in order to allow 'men and women [to] serve equally as bishops, priests and deacons within the Church of Jesus Christ' : '... I hope that we in the Church of England will say yes to women bishops at our General Synod in November. I even dare to hope that those who disagree may choose to abstain. For those who aren't sure, they will actually see that if we don't pass this I think that would look terrible in the eyes of the world, would hold back our mission and would also plunge us into years more debate on this issue. But, most of all, I'm going to be voting yes because I believe this is of the Gospel, it is the Holy Spirit leading us into the truth of that text whereby in Christ we are one humanity.' A full transcript follows: If the Bible were a range of mountains I wonder what the mountain peak would be. I guess we probably have a different answer to this question every time we open the Bible. But certainly for me, one of the climatic passages -- the one through which we then interpret many others -- is this: Galations 3.28 'There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, for you are all one person in Jesus Christ'. Now that great text -- it has taken us in the Church a long while to work out what it means. The first bit 'in Christ there is no Jew or Greek' only took us about 20 years or so to work out what it meant, and you can read about the debates and struggles the Church had over that text in the Bible itself. In the Acts of the Apostles and in some of Paul's letters you can see the Church grappling: 'do you have to become a Jew before you can become a Christian - how does that work?' Well, we resolved it, though there were big disagreements. The next one, 'there is no slave or free' -- it took us 1,800 years to work that one out, but we did. Eventually we came to understand that in Christ there cannot be slavery, there cannot be slaves, we are all set free. And it falls to our generation to be those working out the full implications of 'so what does it mean to say "there is no male or female"?' We all agree it can make no difference to our baptism. We've sort of agreed and found a way of living together by saying it shouldn't make any difference to someone being a priest. And now we say, should it affect being a bishop as well? I believe this is one of those bits of scripture through which we interpret a lot of other bits. And I believe that that full humanity, which is ours in Jesus Christ, will be better revealed - much better for the world, much better for us - when men and women serve equally as bishops, priests and deacons within the Church of Jesus Christ. I know that there are some people who conscientiously disagree with this, and I respect them and I want them to be part of the Church along with everyone else. But I believe the Measure, as we have it, gives people that provision. This Measure is a compromise. It's not saying 'we'll have women bishops and that's the end of it', but nor is it saying that we're going to have some sort of parallel jurisdiction. It's saying that if those who conscientiously disagree with this send a letter of request to their diocesan bishop, they will have a male bishop, and the grounds upon which they've made that request will be properly respected. So I hope that we in the Church of England will say yes to women bishops at our General Synod in November. I even dare to hope that those who disagree may choose to abstain. That those who aren't sure will see that if we don't pass this it would look terrible in the eyes of the world, would hold back our mission, and would also plunge us into years more debate on this issue. But, most of all, I'm going to be voting yes because I believe this is of the Gospel. It is the Holy Spirit leading us into the truth of that text whereby in Christ we are one humanity.