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Synod has voted to commit the measure enabling the consecration of women to dioceses.  Thank God!  I rejoice that a good decision for women and men in our church has been made, a decision which will enable us better to serve those who do not belong to us.  There is still a long way to go before we have a bishop who happens to be female, but this is the church saying that it recognises women and men as created and re-created in God’s image, called to serve in God’s church, and affirms the ministry of women clergy.

So, I truly believe, yesterday was a good day for the Church of England.  Not because of women’s rights, or an equality agenda, but because the church has recognised and affirmed fully the gifts and callings of women as well as men.  But, I feel a huge sense of compassion for those who take the contrary view, for those who feel that this decision will force them out of the church in which they too have been nurtured and called.  I hope it will not force many to leave, but I fear that no compromise could have satisfied everyone.  Our greatest strength is that we are a broad church, and it is also the cause of our greatest vulnerability.  This debate about women bishops is only superficially a debate about gender – it is really a debate about authority.  The ordination of women is the battleground on which our church’s identity crisis about our Reformation heritage has been fought out: what sort of church are we – catholic or protestant?  What are the marks and guarantees of catholicity?  Who decides?

We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  Today, and in the days ahead, we find ourselves in the uncomfortable place of having to do both.

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