"Women bishops would humanise the priesthood" said the then Archbishop of Canterbury in 2011. Dr Rowan Williams warned the Church hierarchy to prepare for the “culture change” that would come with the “full inclusion” of women. Not the full inclusion the Archbishop would have expected. Instead it is inclusion to the exclusion of anyone with views not in accord with Women and the Church (WATCH) and their fellow travellers as highlighted by the "Sheffield controversy".
At the time Ann Widdecombe was closer to the truth when she said, "Christianity in Britain today is under severe persecution. And it will get much worse. I do not resent this persecution. I welcome it. For it will weed out the pseudo-Christians, the wimpish bishops and the caved-in Synod. By persecution we discover who our true friends actually are." In 2017 that has come to pass.
Feminists have mercilessly used the Church for their own political ends. On the face of it WATCH ran a legitimate campaign, as they saw it, for the ordination of women. But, as with the world wide web, there is a dark side. A deception which has been gnawing away at the soft underbelly of Anglicanism. Say anything, do anything to gain the advantage. Thus the five guiding principles were agreed allowing women to become bishops in the Church of England. Perhaps they were crossing their fingers behind their backs as they voted but either way, they have reneged on the agreement rendering the whole procedure untenable.
Critics of WATCH were accused of misogyny from the earliest days when Canon Lucy Winkett said in a keynote speech, "Never mind Gordon Ramsay, we have in modern society a new F-word: Feminism." Extracts from her speech can be read here, eg,
Now women are on the inside, are exercising authority in
state and church, although the power is not yet equally
shared and the pay is certainly not equal. We are in a
new situation; I am not here to make a case for women
to be bishops – that case is obvious...
From the historical perspective of exclusion, women are
able to speak with authority from long centuries of marginalisation,
to bring these perspectives into the decision
making structures of society and church.
In the West, we live in a half changed world. There are
now very few areas of public life not open to women –
except those protected by organised religion."
In their campaign WATCH have used Christian values as a weapon to secure an advantage over their target audience, secularists and Anglicans who have been brought up on 'love thy neighbour', 'turn the other cheek', etc. Many have been bullied into submission for fear of being branded un-Christian while the majority outside the Church either do not care or have become so secularised they no longer understand the issues. When Bishop Philip North withdrew from his appointment as Bishop of Sheffield a BBC News reader said it was because 'his congregation' had complained.
Similar tactics, including false accusations, are being used by LGBT campaigners to bully the Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales into appointing the Dean of St Albans to Llandaff. In an undignified campaign Members of Parliament have become involved. They have been led to believe that Dr John has suffered discrimination because he is in a civil partnership.
The MPs wrote "We understand that Dr John, a fluent Welsh speaker, was born in Tonyrefail in 1953. He grew up there and went to Hertford College, Oxford where studied both Classics and Modern Languages and was awarded a First. He was ordained to a title at Holy Nativity, Penarth. From Penarth he went back to Oxford to study for a DPhil and became Dean of Divinity to Magdalen College."
Many Welsh Anglicans have been asking themselves why, as a fluent Welsh speaker, Dr John was not appointed to St Davids in what looks more than ever like the politically motivated appointment of the first woman bishop in Wales. A gay priest and friend of Dr John’s for 40 years said "There’s homophobia everywhere but that’s no reason to stop a gay person from becoming a Bishop."
It is not homophobia and not because Dr John is gay and living in a civil partnership. The reasons why Dr John was rejected are open to speculation but for Church members who have been alerted to the controversy it is because he has campaigned for same sex marriage in Church which was rejected by the Governing Body. Moreover, he has used an unorthodox interpretation of the Bible account of the healing of the centurion’s servant in Luke 7 to justify his stance.
Looking to feminism, to gay rights or any other secular cause to swell congregations is not what the Church is about. That has failed. Decline continues. False claims by campaigners are leading astray a politically correct audience for selfish, political ends. That is not the Way of the Cross.