I should start by saying I have no interest in debating the finer points of Biblical exegesis/Biblical hermeneutics* because frankly we’d be here all day and end up going round and round in circles to nobodies benefit.
The issue of the Ordination of Women Bishops (OWB) has created a massive stir since the “no” vote came in on Tuesday. The fallout seems to be pretty comprehensive in condemning the Church. The usual outdated, outmoded and sexist accusations have been aired. The problem is, the professionals (as it were), voted in favour of OWB, it was just the people in what’s known as the House of Laity that scuppered it.
The House of Laity comprises member of the lay community, that is Church communicants who are not ordained. The other two parts of the General Synod are fairly self explainatory; the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy. They both endorsed OWB.
So whilst there wont be women bishops any time soon, I think it is important to emphasise that reasons for this now do not have any root in sexism. It’s either theological reasons or dogmatism now have stopped women being ordained. The vocal “no” campaigners aren’t a bunch of old men set in their ways; they’re often young evangelicals with a very fervent religious belief and that picks a particular couple of verses in Paul’s letter to Timothy that says
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
Like I said earlier, I have no wish to get into either exegetical or hermeneutic debate but basically one side take this (and other phrases) literally, the other side says you have to look at the historical context, because Paul also says things like, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything”, but we don’t tend to take that as an advocacy of slave trading and in fact most of the men behind the movement for the abolition of slavery were great Christian reformers.
I think it’s a real shame that the whole internal debate the Church is having on Biblical interpretation is being pretty much ignored and pigeon-holed as a simple old fashioned sexism issue.
And plenty of the laity who aren’t in favour of OWB are actually women.
*very simply put, the contextual significance of text has to be understood for us to interpret the text properly. For example, Leviticus 19:19 (NIV version) says, Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material but nobody has been stoned to death for wearing poly-cotton blend shirts to my knowledge.