Yes, I am entering the discussion on women bishops, and I bet this will be far from the first blog you will read about it but I hope that you get something new out of it.
For a long time I haven’t been all that interested in the way the Church of England governs and works. Back home, my father is a Catholic and I went with my mother to a Baptist church so I guess I thought it didn’t affect me. I heard the Archbishop of Canterbury get quoted every so often and understood there was a certain importance the C of E had in this country as the national church. But I guess I thought that essentially they were a more liberal and slightly more in touch version of the Catholic church (except they didn’t believe in transubstantiation). I do want to point out this is mainly because of my lack of interest in finding anything out, rather than that being the image all C of E churches give.
This started to change when I went to my college Christian Union friend’s baptism at her (C of E) church and realised that it was a lot more engaging and relaxed in structure than I expected. I also found out that that church did a “café church” service about once a month and went along and really enjoyed it. The perception was broken. I also understood that Holy Trinity Brompton (the birthplace of the Alpha Course and various other initiatives) was an Anglican church and was really on the edge of engaging with people and making the gospel relevant to them. I began realising that quite a few churches that I’d heard of as being centres of Christian youth and sometimes famously charismatic churches were in fact Anglican. When I was at New Wine this year I discovered that was a C of E movement and that Soul Survivor was born out of that. I think that was when my perceptions were completely smashed. Well, almost. The image I had of the Anglican church does exist, it’s just on the other end of the spectrum from churches like HTB and actually I was happy to know that i wasn’t completely wrong. You see, I think the Church of England’s best unique aspect is that it ranges from traditional and conservative to modern, liberal and charismatic. If you are at church to meet with God and you engage with Him through it, the style really doesn’t matter so I appreciate this variety and love it. Since coming to university I have started attending a New Wine Anglican church because it was where it felt God was leading me and because it felt like the congregation was all there to meet with Him. That’s a church I want to be at.
Anyway the point I’m getting at that’s relevant is that a church with so much variety, and yet a rigid top-down leadership system, has a huge problem when it wants to agree on changing something. This is different from, for example, the Baptist church (at least how it is in the UK) where each church pretty much governs itself while being associated with the Baptist Union and its doctrine. So when you have to decide whether to allow women bishops I can see where the difficulty is in getting everyone united.
Although I feel it should have no bearing on the issue (having been at a C of E church for less than two months) I will explain my position. I believe that women should be allowed to preach in church and serve in leadership. I believe that is the correct interpretation of what is in the Bible (or rather I agree with much cleverer and wiser people who hold to that interpretation). I also believe that although there can only be one true interpretation there is more than one valid one that could be true. Let me be clear, this can’t be anything that you can twist scripture into, but I won’t arrogantly say that the interpretation that I believe fits best with what I know about God and the Bible is definitely true. Other well-reasoned arguments from scripture could also be correct. I think that this is one of the matters that this issue applies to.
I am passionate about Christian unity. I don’t mean belief in the exact same details of doctrine or a single church. I mean different Christians working together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and showing His love to as many people as possible. Each of these groups may have different valid views on various issues and many parts of doctrine but are united in their love for Jesus. This is why one of the Church of England’s greatest strengths (a single church with great variety) becomes a weakness. Because of their wide spectrum, views will differ and changing the “official” goalposts can alienate some groups; both ways. Clearly a larger group wanted this change to go through and the fact that it failed by only 6 votes in the House of Laity (unordained members of the church) highlights this.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping it was going to be a yes. Part of this is that after allowing women priests quite a while ago, it makes very little sense not to allow women bishops; it’s inconsistent. If you believe women cannot preach or hold positions of leadership in church then either can certainly not be allowed. Meanwhile if you believe that they can it doesn’t make sense to only allow one level of leadership to women. I don’t see an interpretation that can allow this “in between” position. I also think that the C of E needs to continue to show it is moving with the times – not copying the world view, but re-examining issues without older cultural ideas clouding judgement as they may have done in the past.
But the overriding message I have heard from the traditional camp that support the no verdict is not “we’re right and you’re wrong and we don’t want it to change”, rather that they weren’t happy with the form the measure was in because they didn’t want to alienate part of the church. They were (and still are) looking to come to a compromise where women bishops will be allowed, but those churchgoers with whom this didn’t fit with their biblically-based ideas, would have provision. It sounds complicated but they are looking to hold the fantastic unity of the church together, not damage it or the image of the church to the outside world. I realise this isn’t the view of everyone on this side of the fence but it is certainly what has actually been coming through. I think this motivation is most certainly noble and think that those who were looking for a yes may not fully understand this. Despite this I do share in their disappointment when the vote was so close.
For a simpler outlook I would point you to fellow student Joel’s blog who has emphasised the need for not squabbling over each other’s doctrine, especially when those not part of the C of E have been expressing their opinions on the matter and getting into arguments, a sentiment I second very strongly!
I feel like I should come to a conclusion at this point but I honestly haven’t personally come to one so I will just say that I hope I’ve raised some different ideas in your mind over this issue, please post your comments about it below!
EDIT: Check out Krish Kandiah’s blog for explanation of the different beliefs on women in leadership and how we can respect those with views different from our own.
I think that the overall feeling over here in the UK was that we’d like Obama to stick around in the White House for another four years. Many that for a while wanted change joined the Obama camp after Romney decided to insult us all over the Olympics. If we think about only Christians, though, the opinion is more divided. This is very interesting considering Obama is a Christian and Romney is a Mormon. But, of course, it isn’t that simple and it’s great that many people are looking further than how the two candidates would fill out a census.
But over in America some Evangelical pastors who in the past would’ve condemned aligning with a Mormon, endorse him over the Christian candidate (even if not explicitly). Some are even trying to convince their congregations that the end of the world will be brought about by Obama (HuffPost blog here) – of course we know that only the Father knows the day and all the predictions up until now have been incorrect (correct me if I missed the apocalypse). And so many of the listeners probably took them at their word, which saddens me. Politics is a delicate subject to bring to the pulpit – especially endorsing a specific party or candidate – and can be dangerous.
This is because I should not have even said “Christian candidate” above. It simply isn’t true. He is a candidate who is a Christian. His decisions and actions will be influenced by his faith but to expect it to mean that his governing will bring about a truly Christian country is foolish. In the same way Romney would not make America Mormon, although understandably his religious views make many Christians uncomfortable. It is extremely difficult to hold high office and not compromise any Christian principles and I agree with Kurt Willems on redletterchristians.org in this respect. Perhaps there are nations in this world where you could but the United States is not one of them. It is far too secularised and embroiled in wars (both the full-scale ones and the covert ones). Any incoming president couldn’t feasibly be a truly Christian president because he (or she!) would inherit one of the largest and arguably best, militaries in the world and probably within the first 24-48 hours would have to decide on something related to their actions or movements – and the option for them to do nothing wouldn’t be in the mix. I personally believe Obama’s military decisions have been a lot closer to Christian principles than George W. Bush’s (sorry, my youth means I don’t remember a time before him). He hasn’t dawdled on pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, going faster than some generals say is advisable, he was hesitant on military action in Libya and is still holding out on this in Syria. You can debate with me whether he’s doing enough by other methods, but I’m concentrating on military here. I’m also uncomfortable with the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the use of his death to bolster Obama’s campaign. He’s a lot closer, but has way further to go.
You can also point to the election campaigns for evidence of absence of Christian fervour. $2.5 billion has been spent this election between the two candidates. I mean, wow. Surely that’s at least near the amount we need to solve world poverty? (Before you jump on me for that, I know throwing lots of money at poverty won’t solve anything, nonetheless across all the hardworking organisations, money is vital and to be honest I’d rather not all $2.5bn was effective in trying than it going to personal attacks on presidential candidates.) This money went towards a heck of a lot of TV adverts and other forms of advertising that generally said how bad the other candidate was not what the advertiser was going to do. I think Obama came out of this slightly better but there’s not much in it.
Anyway, to the actual subject of this post; why I’m glad Obama did, in fact, win. Well, from what I’ve already said either candidate would only be a lesser of two evils – neither will truly instigate a Christian presidency. The argument for Romney (from a Christian standpoint) is that he is pro-life and anti-gay marriage. So he will ban abortions and gay marriage? Sounds like his intention, but the first point is how likely is it he will be able to? The second and I would say more important point is that banning abortion outright won’t solve problems and will simply lead to a huge rise in backstreet abortions. This is not what we want as Christians as it simply puts women in danger (and certainly doesn’t see a close to elimination of abortions overall). We need to see a bigger picture. Obama isn’t fighting abortion directly but his attempts to drastically change the welfare system may be really fighting the root causes of it which is what is needed to see a real change in the abortion rate (see my opinions on this issue specifically here). Meanwhile gay marriage is on a different scale (it is not a matter of life and death), it isn’t preferable for Christians but the US is a secular country (see First Amendment) and although I’d rather Obama didn’t endorse it, I don’t think he will be active in pushing it. Don’t forget there’s very little that can be done at federal level on this issue.
I mentioned welfare reforms already. Obama’s plans are the very (very very) small first step towards something like the NHS. He wants the poorest to have access to the very basic level of healthcare – not being turned away because they don’t have enough money. It means the rich pay slightly more into their insurance so that all can have the basic level. So what happens? Americans shout “Communist”. This astounds me; that helping poorer people get access to healthcare causes people to believe they’ve become the enemy is crazy. But then I have my suspicions that many didn’t like the idea of paying some more for the benefit of others. Either way, Obama is genuinely working for the good of the people. Danny Webster, parliamentary officer of the Evangelical Alliance (UK-based) talks about looking about looking at the bigger picture instead of a couple of “highly politicised” issues in a recording on Premier Christian Media here.
I also believe that Obama is a lot more thoughtful, considers the consequences of his actions across the board and is invested in changing the image of America being the intrusive military power it has been in the past (eg taking a backseat in Libya). In our current economic climate I think this is what we’re more in need of, while not forgetting the importance of consistency in it as well.
So all in all I would choose Obama, not explicitly for his faith (admittedly it plays a small part), but because looking at the wider picture, he will serve the American people best (I’m sure Americans will say I don’t have to right to say that – maybe they’re right, but it’s still what I believe), his social reforms being central in my opinion. Being a second term president he won’t need to worry about re-election anymore and maybe won’t be as worried about upsetting some people for the sake of everyone. I expect great things. But I don’t expect a perfect Christian presidency. He is still the lesser of two evils – but then this will be the situation in any election.
Meanwhile when Vicky Beeching, a Christian Social Media consultant (among other things) tweeted she was pleased that Obama was re-elected she was met with abuse. I can’t understand why, she was simply giving her opinion on the matter, for her to lose followers and fans makes no sense and makes me wonder what Romney supporters are like. Last night I saw Obama congratulating Romney and his volunteers on their campaign and he seemed truly genuine with a smile on his face. Romney seemed to be speaking through gritted teeth in his speech after hearing the result, congratulating the President. That isn’t all that surprising but are these attitudes reflected directly in their supporters? I feel Obama inspires hope, even now while Romney just inspires… I’m not even sure – and that’s not a good sign.
If you think this is all too complicated a much easier (and in many ways more biblical) answer is what my fellow Christian student Joel Le Poidevin posted earlier today – God is in control and that is all that matters. I like to delve deeper but ultimately this is certainly true.
Please feel free to disagree with me on anything I have said but please do it respectfully in the way I have tried to write this. God bless.
Yes, I’m sorry, but it has come up (again) and it is an issue I really care about. Abortion.
Maria Miller is the new women’s minister and weirdly, there’s no news. She’s been criticised for voting for lowering the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks in 2008 and then defending and reinforcing that view now. She makes it clear this is because of advances in medical science that means a premature baby born before 20 weeks can survive and that she is a “very modern feminist.” Pro-choice supporters are angry with David Cameron for appointing her to her position, just as they were for appointing Jeremy Hunt to Health minister as he is also in favour of reducing the limit – although he would like to halve it to 12 weeks.
As a side note, although these appointments clearly aren’t preferable for pro-choice supporters, it doesn’t make sense to me for them to be angry. Two-thirds of the public and three-quarters of women in the UK would support a reduction in the limit and Marie Stopes International in 2007 found that two-thirds of GPs want the limit lowered (stats from Christian Medical Journal‘s blog via God and Politics UK). So actually these appointments are exactly as they should be; representative of the public’s views.
I am a firm pro-life supporter. This may be down to my religious views in that I believe that all life is precious and should be protected. And certainly that is probably my motivation for my views but they’re not just blind religious following; they make moral sense. Why is the mother’s choice more important the baby’s life? Pro-choice supporters like to talk about situations where the mother’s life is in danger, rape and incest as the reason it should be allowed. Where the mother’s life is in danger we have a very different situation where abortion is justified that Catholics call the Doctrine of Double Effect. It is now the mother’s life we’re saving not the baby’s life we’re taking away. As for rape and incest I would still say abortion is not preferable but especially in the case of rape this is very fairly down to personal feeling. But I would say why should the baby be punished because the father has committed a terrible crime? But even if these were the reasons most abortions took place I would be much happier with the situation. While in actual fact these cases are the minority.
There are seven grounds for abortion, A, B, C, D, E, F and G. 98% of abortions are carried out on Ground C :
‘the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.’
And actually only about half a percent of these are because of the mother’s physical health; so the rest are for the mother’s mental health. The Abortion Review, published by BPAS, an organisation that provides abortion care admits that:
“the construction of the British abortion law still presents a problem for women and doctors. It is not the case that the majority of women seeking abortion are necessarily at risk of damaging their mental health if they continue their pregnancy. But it is significant that, because of the law, women and their doctors have to indicate that this is the case”
Now, of course, there will be many cases where the mental health would really be affected and even seriously but I would challenge, even then, is the baby’s life worth less than that? And what about the mothers who simply don’t have time for a child or for whom it would be inconvenient? How can we really, as a society, say that someone being a bit too careless with their sexual activity has the right to end a life?
Mothers-to-be need counselling, advice and a listening ear, especially single mothers. And I would say someone like me (ignoring the fact I’m male) would not be appropriate to do this. They would need to be impartial, listen to the mother’s feelings and be able to present all the options. But I think that abortion should be a last resort and that at every point of the process the mother should be asked if it is definitely what they want.
So I would support a reduction of the limit. But actually the amount of abortions over 20 weeks is relatively small and although I would like them to stop, I would rather Ground C was simply better used and not for “social abortions”. To do this we would need to change the image of abortion and what it is. Because it is the killing of what most would at least call a potential human life, and what many would call a human life. How we can see it so, so differently from killing a newborn is something I simply can’t fathom. I have watched footage of an abortion (the perks of a Catholic school education) and I feel like saying that all women who will potentially have an abortion should do the same but I think I could be seen as insensitive, however the detail should still be known. This article recounts a description from a doctor who has carried out many abortions and has since become pro-life.
Full statistics for 2011, including ones I have mentioned can be found at https://www.wp.dh.gov.uk/transparency/files/2012/05/Commentary1.pdf
There’s something else I want to make clear. I will never tell a women who has had an abortion that she is evil or judge her or anything like that for having done so. I would be interested as to her reasoning and possibly challenge it but for a variety of reasons I cannot pretend to understand individual women’s situation or what she went through. I’m for loving discussions, not hateful condemnation. My example is Jesus Christ. He was perfect God; he had the right to condemn the sinners he met and yet he didn’t. He treated them with love and respect and simply discussed their issues with them. I fight for the principle, not against the individuals who have been through it. Fighting to stop it happening in the first place rather than condemning those who believed they were doing the right thing.
I know there’s a lot in here but if you have any questions on what I’ve said or think I’m way out of line or in fact agree please comment below. Over to you.
EDIT (7/12/12): There’s whole point I’ve realised I’ve missed here, something I touched on in the Presidential election – tackling the causes is much more important and effective than reducing the limit (let alone banning altogether). This will just push many women who feel they can’t bring a baby into the world to finding illegal means of terminating their pregnancy, putting the woman in danger too. If we can fight the causes; poverty, family instability, the lack of abstinence and use of contraception among young people and more; we have a real chance of reducing the abortion rate.
If you live in the UK, or France, you probably heard about the girl who went missing this week. Megan Stammers is actually from my end of the country down in the south-east, and failed to turn up to school last Friday morning. She was believed to have been abducted by her maths teacher, Mr. Jeremy Forrester and taken by ferry to France. See the BBC report here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19686056. Today, I am very happy to hear Megan has been found along with Forrester in France and that she is safe and being brought back to the UK and Forrester has been arrested.
Stammers and Forrester on the ferry to France
Before I say anymore I want to make it really clear that I am extremely happy to hear that she is on her way home safe and think that the media coverage and the spread of information through twitter was brilliant and probably had an impact on eventually finding her.
What I want to point out is that surely she isn’t the only girl to have gone missing or been in danger in the last say 3 months or so and yet this is the most coverage I’ve seen in that time over a single person. Megan’s case also wasn’t as serious as others are. She left, apparently voluntarily with her teacher and from what I hear there’s not any suggestion of abuse. Again, let me be clear, this shouldn’t happen and contact needed to be made with the family but Megan was relatively safe. Her life and, it seems, wellbeing wasn’t at serious risk. Meanwhile girls are in trouble in this country, especially in our cities. This article compares Megan’s case to one such girl, “Suzie”. www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-do-we-care-about-megan-stammers-from-eastbourne-but-not-suzie-from-rochdale-8190274.html
Wouldn’t it amazing if twitter could come alive for girls like Suzie as it did for Megan? Raising awareness for such problems across the country could really mobilise the public and the police to more actively combat what is happening around us. Then there’s the slave trade and human trafficking that still exists in our world. Young men and women being abducted and sold to others in a different country from anything varying from domestic service to sexual slavery.
My question here is more certainly not “Why did the country, the media and twitter mobilise itself for Megan Stammers?” but “Why doesn’t the country, the media and Twitter mobilise itself for other girls and young people like it did for Megan?”
What do we think?
Is it down to the family to kickstart a campaign?
Should we make it more normal to campaign to help people like this? Or would that devalue the publicity?
- ‘Pure elation, pure relief’ – stepfather’s delight at Megan Stammers being found safe and well in France (independent.co.uk)