Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Women Bishops - Voting today Part 1

Well, push has come to shove. The vote on women bishops is today.

No-one seems to be pretending they know which way it will go. Everyone thinks it's too close to call.

For what it's worth (nothing), I suspect the Measure will pass, if only because the waverers will have been influenced by the warnings of doom if it doesn't.

For what it's worth (less than nothing(?!)), if I was there and voting, I'd vote no. The clear view of the majority within the Church is that women should be bishops. That ought to be respected. But note that it is not, as some reports have it "an overwhelming majority." By definition if it were an overwhelming majority the minority would be overwhelmed - the vote would not be on a knife-edge. But pedantry aside, a recent set of surveys suggest that opposition runs at about 12-16%, but if you add in those undecided or thinking it's right to wait then you get higher figures: about 25-30%. Obviously we should be careful with statistics and surveys, but I wouldn't call that "overwhelming."

And for the minority opposed, is the provision in the Measure sufficient? Well, I happen to think it's stronger than most opponents allow, but I'm clearly in a minority on that one. And given that the point of having  a compromise at all is to help those opposed to stay in the Church, it has a crumbs from the table feel to it. At least the original Clause 5(1)c received a cautious welcome from opponents. Personally, I think a better compromise can be found. Lots of people, urging a yes vote, disagree. They may well be right. It certainly seems that the adversarial style of the debate surrounding the factions in Synod works against compromise.

Perhaps if the vote is "no," rather than looking to bring in a new measure at some point soon, we should be having  a debate about how Synod works - or, in this case perhaps, doesn't work.

But he thing which finally decided me that a "no" vote would be my choice, that the Measure is not fit for purpose, is reading this morning of one part of the Q&A session at Synod yesterday. There will be a Code of Practice governing how parishes which want to opt out of ordained women's ministry are to be treated. If a parish doesn't think the Code has been followed properly it has the right to take it to judicial review. Now, I can't really get behind the idea that a secular court should decide these things (1 Corinthians 6.1-7), but what really troubles me is that the Church might pay the legal costs of a bishop, but would definitely not pay the costs of a parish.

This is a huge imbalance of power. What parish could afford to go to judicial review? Almost certainly none. Is the Code therefore enforceable in practice rather than just in theory? Almost certainly not. And this huge imbalance of power is just the sort of thing feminists work against. This is surely a liberation issue. This is surely about opposing kyriarchy. Personally, I think we need something better. I think feminists should vote "no" - not because they oppose women as bishops or don't want to fight patriarchy, but because, far more fundamentally they oppose kyriarchy in all its forms. The Measure is not fit for purpose.

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