A win for women in the Church of England

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A win for women in the Church of England

by Joe Ware


JohnPeasePhotography under a Creative Commons Licence

The Church of England’s General Synod is a strange place. It is the Parliament of the main Church and it looks like a Conservative Party conference, but more left-wing. The people look like they are from ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ (a television programme in the UK); there are monks, people knitting and vicars sleeping because of the hot July weather (and bishops tweeting from their iPads now too).

The Synod makes the decisions in the Church, so people in the Synod read a lot of legal information. They make decisions about many things: clothes for the vicars and how to spend the money of the Archbishops’ Council. Many of the discussions are very difficult to understand, like lawyers in a book by Dickens. But they also talk about the 'common good' and want political parties to see how important churches are in keeping society good.

There was a lot of media at this year’s Synod. The world was waiting to see if the Church of England would finally allow women to become bishops (the top job in the church). When they walked in for the important vote on Monday, the Synod members had to walk past many TV news reporters with microphones asking for quick interviews.

They voted no in 2012. This was a surprise and many people were embarrassed by it. So the Church wanted to vote again. Before Monday (14th July 2014), Britain was one of the only countries in the world with a part of Parliament (the Bishops in the House of Lords) where women were not allowed.

More people in the world are now talking about the rights of girls and women. For example, the terrible rape and murder of girls in India, and the Islamist group Boko Haram who use violence to stop female education.

The Church usually helps people who have little support. But not allowing women in the top jobs made this more difficult. Many people in the Church have been fighting for a long time for change. In February, Synod discussed gender-based violence. Like all the big social justice movements in history, some religious groups lead the way and some find it very difficult to change. The Christian MP William Wilberforce helped stop the practice of sending slaves across the Atlantic; Baptist minister Martin Luther King led the fight for civil rights in the US; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped end apartheid in South Africa.

They had a long, sometimes emotional, debate. Some people gave up their personal religious views so that they could agree. And the Church of England finally agreed and opened the top jobs to women. The first women bishops will be able to understand how minority groups with no power feel. So they might be better at including other voiceless groups in the Church.

Maybe it took too long. Maybe some people think the Church is old-fashioned. But the equality between women and men has improved.

Joe Ware is the Church & Campaigns Journalist at Christian Aid.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL':http://newint.org/blog/2014/07/16/women-bishops-church-of-england/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).