Women Bishops and the Anglican Church

While we were in Turkey, the Church of England finally joined the modern age and announced it would allow women to become bishops — something the Episcopal Church of USA has been doing for some time. The Most Rev Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, had this to say about the C of E’s footdragging on the issue of women bishops, stating that it was due to “personal antipathy,” and “a misunderstanding of leadership in the early church. The early church had women in leadership roles.” She also predicted that within the next 50 years there will be a female Archbishop of Canterbury — wouldn’t that be cool, especially if she were like the Vicar of Dibley! [well, maybe not a “babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom,” but hopefully someone with a sense of humor who would shake things up and bring the church in line with the gender politics of the 21st century]

Our weekly church bulletin at Trinity Episcopal in Collinsville has an article from Episcopal Life weekly regarding women bishops, part of a series on the Lambeth Conference that started this past week. It’s only been a decade since the LC first included women bishops, and of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury has excluded Rt. Reverend Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire from this year’s conference. Still, gender disparities are very evident — women still only make up a tiny percentage of bishops in the Anglican church, and the plenary sessions are dominated by men — all this despite the fact that 70% of Anglicans worldwide are female. The annual meeting of Anglican women at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women suggests that women’s concerns diverge markedly from that of male bishops. Major issues include maternal and child health, violence against women, equity in education and employment — in short lots of issues consistent with feminism (although our the blurb does not use that word — would offend those guys in our congregation who like to pick on Hillary).

Being a women’s historian, I can’t help but note that all of this sounds mighty familiar — Jane Addams and other Progressive Era reformers were inspired by the social gospel movement, which applied Christian principles to the social problems of the era. [for more on this, see Gender and the Social Gospel].

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