Women bishops – it is about religion, stupid

Does anybody else feel uneasy that the case for women bishops is championed by commentators with a wholly secular agenda and that an essential element of the argument has been deliberately left out? Too hard for our little heads to take in or too silly for words, being about religion? Nothing wrong with the secularists’ case of course. Only there’s no reason why their voices should prevail, as distinct from the great majority of church members in favour of women bishops who should of course have won. How much better to win an argument – any argument – on its own terms. The media are partly to blame of course for  representing the arguments  so much in secular terms.  So it was refreshing just for change to make the case for women bishops eventually quite differently.

If ever you wanted to read a break-out form the simplistic distinctions of Catholic v Protestant that prevail in our land, read this account in Cranmer the blog on religion that would give Jonathan Swift a run for his money –  or his Woods’ halfpence.

Anglicans are not freelance, theological pundits, but a valid part of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church….

The Church of England was never designed to be Protestant, though it has elements of that movement within it. And it was certainly not Roman Catholic, though it drew on the strengths of that denomination to manifest the Church in a visible society. Its struggle has ever been how to permit freedom of the Spirit within ancient structures: how to put new wine into old wineskins.

This is why the Archbishop of York is right when he says there will be women bishops, because Anglicanism is a communion, and in that koinonia is toleration of mutual exclusives. At the core of Anglican identity is the belief that there is more than one church that is catholic; that there are non-Roman churches that are catholic; and that the Church of England is an expression of unity, catholicity and apostolicity….
Catholicity is an aspiration, and women bishops are simply a continuation of the reformist movement which began in the 16th century. The Church of England departed not from the catholic Church, but from the errors of Rome. It was Whitgift who observed that the Church of England was ‘reformed’ not ‘transformed’ because ‘we retain whatsoever we find to be good, refuse or reform that which is evil’. Over succeeding centuries, Anglicanism has offered catholicism without Roman centralisation and authoritarianism. It has been, in England, the Catholic Church in this land, set free from subjection to the foreign King of Rome.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London