Church of England Decision Day on Women Bishops

Rowan Williams

UPDATE: Church of England Votes Not to Introduce Female Bishops – My Thoughts Below

The vote fo

r women Bishops in the Church of England has to pass now!

Debate on the issue began this morning with the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, current Bishop of Durham, saying it is “time to finish the job” started with appointing women priests. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, whose tenure ends at the end of the year, is also strongly in favor of the legislation, saying failure to pass would be a “disaster” for the Church and would be “publicly embarrassing, internally draining and could throw the church into a period of intense internal conflict.” Further, if the measure does not pass it could not come back before the synod again for another five years.

I not only believe women should become bishops but I think I can make a biblical case for it. Conservatives are saying, if you read 1 & 2 Timothy you’ll get a clear admonition that women should not be leaders in the Church, that they should remain silent in the Church.

That’s the one side.

May I point out, on this issue you can make a solid biblical case on the other side. If women are supposed to be silent please explain to me why in the book of Acts, “daughters of Philip” become evangelists, become preachers, become prophets? It’s there very clearly. Also, in the book of Romans you find reference to Junia, deemed a fellow apostle by Paul. So the arguments can be made on both sides.

I go with the side that women should be bishops. The reason why this is so important is it not only affects the United Kingdom, it also affects Africa. The African Bishops have been very conservative on this issue. I think the new Archbishop of Canterbury is a good compromise because on the one hand he is opposed to gay marriage, which would please those in the southern hemisphere, but on the other hand he is for the ordination of women bishops which would in fact please those up north. Give each side half of what they want.

My hope is that today will be a historic day for the Church of England and for the Church as a whole across the world!



Church of England votes NOT to introduce female bishops

I am very disappointed by the Church of England’s vote not to introduce female bishops. I find it strangely inconsistent that the Church is willing to ordain women to become priests but not to become bishops.

Within the Church of England, today’s vote will probably serve to keep traditional, elderly people in the church. The laity have spoken and the laity are largely comprised of people over the age of 55. On the opposite side, the problem is that young people will not come into the Church in the numbers they have hoped for because young people are more sensitive to the concerns of women.

In short, today’s vote satisfies the establishment but will stiffen growth in the Anglican community. The church in the southern hemisphere will probably be satisfied with this decision but the Anglicans in the northern hemisphere will be greatly discouraged, especially those in the Episcopal Church in the United States.


In favor of female bishops



Bishops: 44
Clergy: 148
Laity: 132


Bishops: 3
Clergy: 45
Laity: 74


Bishops: 2
Clergy: 0
Laity: 0

Source: The Guardian

The legislation needed a two-third majority in all three houses of the General Synod to pass.

It was carried in house of bishops and clergy and lost in house of laity.

Tony Campolo is the Founder and President of EAPE and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credit: Mark William Penny /

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Tony Campolo

Tony CampoloTony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.View all posts by Tony Campolo →

  • 22044

    It might be the right decision to allow women to be bishops in the Church of England…but the reasons presented do not build a compelling case for that outcome.
    What the church, its men, & its women often get wrong…is that becoming ordained, or approved, to take an esteemed role in the church – is not about having equal power, equal access, or how the world often grants appointments, but who has a divine calling to serve God in that way, and whose lives have been tested to confirm that that calling is real.
    Additionally, the point about compromising to not allow “gay marriage” to be blessed by the church ends up wanting as well. If a church decides to bless homosexual unions by any definition, it has lost its unique witness for Christ.

    • Drew

      If you have been listening to the debate, it is extremely disappointing. The debate is not about the Bible, but rather, about how the world views the Church. Those who want women Bishops are arguing almost exclusively that it is the responsibility of the Church to give the world what the world wants.

      • 22044

        Interesting. Is there a link that shows a particular discussion or are you referring to the overall debate?
        I also understand that the gospel is really bearing fruit in Africa. It may be well for us to listen to our brothers & sisters there.
        I guess I should also be happy that we got a thumbs down, but don’t get a response as to why.

        • Drew

          It’s live-streaming online.

          It’s not even about theological differences anymore, because theology is rarely mentioned. It’s sad.

    • Drew

      One speaker just said “what will the media think and what opinions will they write if this passes?”

      • Drew

        Another on twitter after the vote failed, “The Church Of England has surely consigned itself extinction by showing it’s lack of relevance to the modern world.” Yup, if the Church goes against the world, it is irrelevant…. so thinks the secularists.

        • Drew

          Reverend Martyn Cripps in Northwich – “Ashamed and disheartened and
          thankful retirement is around the corner. Let us hope Parliament will
          force its will on the church and we deserve what will be the outcome!”

          Yes, let’s have Government impose itself on the Church! Great idea… or not.

          • 22044

            Bad idea, for sure!
            A few months ago I read a comment from a Briton who said “Don’t confuse the Church of England with the church in England.”
            Seems apropos.

        • Church Moose

          As a British Christian, who also holds a Complimentarian position, I have also been saddened by the lack of Theological debate involved in this and can say I was relieved by the result today.

          Theological differences and views may have been discussed before it came to todays debate, but as someone who isn’t CofE, I haven’t been part of it, however I did come across this letter to the Independant newspaper:

          In response to your views on the Tweets, I follow many people who are for Women Bishops, and the responses have for the most part been gracious, but again lacking theological content (as hard as that might be in a 140 character message).

          Sadly, I think the CofE lost this battle many years ago when they failed to uphold the sanctity of Scripture. There is the full gamut of view of Scripture amongst CofE members I know, from ‘A useful, but uninspired book’ to the fully inspired, sufficient and perfect word of God.

          • 22044

            Church Moose, thanks for the “local report”.

          • Drew

            I appreciate your contribution.

            I heard multiple speeches that asked how the media would cover this story, as if our responsibility as Christians is to “win the news cycle.” Unbelievable. Unfortunately, this is where a postmodern worldview versus a Christian worldview is going to take us.

      • Jonathan

        It’s interesting it lost in the laity.

  • Drew

    Tony, you are correct. If we worship postmodernism – if that is our worldview, our belief system – then yes, there are multiple sides to every issue and they are all valid. Unfortunately, that is not what we are to do as Christians. Europe is in a much steeper decline morally and religiously than the United States, so I have no doubt as to what will happen, and the U.S. is not much further behind. God save us.

    • Jonathan

      Hypothetically let’s say we were in an all Christian statistical democracy where majority ruled. And we were all believing Christians. There would multiple sides to every issue and they would all be valid. Is that postmodern, or did God call us to think and be creative? Legalism did not serve the people of God, it only caused them to lose sight of their calling.

      Loving above conflict is more important than the conflict itself.

      • Drew

        You can defend postmodernism; I’ll defend Christianity.

        • Jonathan

          I’m not defending postmodernism. I’m challenging your interpretation of Christianity.

          • Drew

            I hope you realize the irony of your first statement.

            In any case, I’m all for critical thinking. If you appeal to the Bible, and on the basis of the Bible you can disprove my position, I will ponder it. However, if you appeal to postmodernism, that we can’t be sure what the Bible *really* says on this issue so we should just go along with what is popular, convenient, and desired by the world and the media, then I’m not going to be persuaded.

          • Jonathan

            OK, what do you think the Bible says on this issue?

          • Jonathan

            Ok, without trying to be insulted further by your patronization obsevations. What do you think the Bible says on this issue?

          • Drew

            Again, you couch your question in postmodernist rhetoric. I’m pretty sure you know what the Bible says and where I will go to on this.

            However, I will say that even if you disagree, you still have a duty to do so based on Scripture, not based on postmodernism, secularism, atheism, what the world demands or prefers, what the media will give favorable coverage of, whether or not this will boost or decline Church attendance, ect. As I have alluded, I think the most disappointing aspect in all of this is the fact that Sola Scriptura is being destroyed.

          • Jonathan

            You say destroyed, I say looked at more carefully and closely.

          • Drew

            You just posted four paragraphs in two posts without mentioning the Bible at all. When I say “Sola Scriptura” is being destroyed, I mean it, and you are providing an example of what I mean.

          • Jonathan

            Maybe it’s because you don’t understand the heart of scripture. Stories change people. Stories are the best mechanism for witness. Jesus the original hope story.

          • Drew

            The heart of scripture is not that we can bastardize scripture to mean whatever we want it to mean.

          • Jonathan

            You do it, you just make scripture mean what you say it to mean and then claim “sola scriptura” and anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a heretic.

          • Drew

            “I know you are, but what am I?” Pee Wee Herman debate tactics are juvenile. Look, I am not a postmodernist, I believe in absolute truth. Not on every issue, because I am not God, but there are a fair amount of issues where the truth is plain, and only Satan is the author of division and the depravity of man is the division on the issue.

          • Drew

            “You just make Scripture mean what you say it to mean.” Actually, I’m claiming thousands of years of Church history, while you are claiming about forty years of liberal scholars (mostly atheists and secularists) reinterpreting and rewriting the Bible.

          • Questioning

            Not trying to be argumentative, but this dog won’t hunt. During these thousands of years of church history the Orthodox church, the Catholic church, the reformation, and over 20000 Protestant denominations were spawned, using the same “Sola Scripture.” There is no single interpretation of scripture accepted by all and never will be. Studying scripture is important, but knowledge puffs up, love builds up. All our scripture knowledge is useless outside of a relationship with the Father. I don’t worry to much about what these labels are doing, I just see people continuing to engage and understand the scriptures. If their motivations are what they should be, then their work will be blessed.

          • Drew

            My problem is not with a difference of opinion, but rather, the hermeneutic you have to have in order to come to this decision. It is a radically different hermeneutic than has been used in the past, and this hermeneutic, when consistently applied, leads to changing dozens of other doctrines as well. Women as clergy is just the first step, followed by women in higher leadership, followed by LGBT acceptance, followed by LGBT clergy, followed by LGBT leadership, followed by not really teaching the OT, followed by… well, you get the picture.

            I like your last sentence. “Their work will be blessed.” Look at all the Churches that have adopted this hermeneutic and see if they have been “blessed.” They are the fastest declining denominations in Christianity. They have not been blessed.

          • Questioning

            “My problem is not with a difference of opinion, but rather, the hermeneutic you have to have in order to come to this decision. It is a radically different hermeneutic than has been used in the past,”

            Sorta like during the Reformation huh? Trouble is, when we look at these issues from a position where we narrowly assume we have the theological high ground, i.e my theology is better than yours, we are quenching the spirit and what it might be saying to us. We have already agreed that there are differences of opinion. Honestly I’m not sure what dozens of doctrines you are talking about, but you cannot put much stock in statistics about decline in my opinion. Some denominations that are in decline are staunchly against the things listed above. Almost all denominations are in decline. Who knows…. this may be nothing more than some healthy pruning. Time will tell.

          • Drew

            Not sure if you are using the Reformation as a way to sound impressive or if you actually understand what happened. The Reformation, at least at the beginning, from an interpretative standpoint, was about Sola Scriptura. What you are seeing in liberal Christianity is a move away from Sola Scriptura.

            I do put stock in the decline of denominations. When you see all liberal denominations in steep decline, and most conservative denominations remaining stable or growing, I think it is a good sign. There are clear exceptions, of course, but I think the pattern in general is overwhelming evidence.

          • Questioning

            The things we now know about the Reformation have been learned and shaped by the 500 years of history since. In the middle of it actually happening, I doubt the religious establishments of the day saw it as anything less than heresy and a “move away from Sola Scripture. ” Some statistics:

            Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced the greatest growth percentage overall, gaining 4.37 percent according to the yearbook. Several historically black denominations continued a years-long practice of not submitting fresh figures.

            The 10 largest Christian bodies reported in the 2011 yearbook are:

            1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million, up 0.57 percent.

            2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million, down .42 percent.

            3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million, down 1 percent.

            4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 6 million, up 1.42 percent.

            5. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million, no membership updates reported.

            6. National Baptist Convention, USA: 5 million, no membership updates reported.

            7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 4.5 million, down 1.96 percent.

            8. National Baptist Convention of America, 3.5 million, no membership updates reported.

            9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million, up .52 percent.

            10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million, down 2.61 percent.

            This does not cover all denominations to be sure and there were some upticks, notably among Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          • 21st C. Episcopalian

            true. good pt.

          • Jonathan

            Jesus and the Bible are everything to me. I think those who claim “Sola Scriptura” follow that same pattern with everything. It’s just one more mechanism to prove yourself right. One more mechanism to present your either or argument. Because after if your NOT Sola Sciptura then your a heretic.

            If your not capitalist your communist, if you’re not a repuclican you’re a murderer, if your not conservative you’re a liberal, if you are tolerant you’re postmodern, if you’re not reformed you’re a liberal…. I’ve heard all these arguments from you in like 4 days.

          • Drew

            Sola Scriptura is Sola Scripture. Scripture alone. Not what the culture says, not what the media says, not what philosophers says, not what the world says, not what “voices” tell me, not what political parties tell me. Sola Scriptura.

            I take it you never even listened to the debate today. Try to find some audio and listen to the arguments. Write down all the times you heard theological debate and what God wants versus “this is what culture/media/philosophers/world/people groups” want.

          • Jonathan

            You just like to argue. I’m done.

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Tony Campolo!

  • Jonathan

    Excerpt from: Empathetic Listening, Connecting Like Jesus – Tony Compolo and Mary Albert Darling
    We can also seek to understand an opposing viewpoint by researching why theologians and other scholars think it a valid position. Even when we are good at knowing the reasons we think our position is valid, which sadly is not always the case, we can only identify weak or “straw” arguments for the other side. Being able to discuss solid pros and cons on either side can help us have more loving and reasonable conversations with others.
    We may see declaring intolerance as a virtue, but if the goal is to encourage people to love God and others in truly transforming, Kingdom-building ways, then intolerance is not the best path for winning people over. Think about it: How many people have ever really changed their minds by an intolerant attitude? Tony Compolo has said, “No one is ever converted to Jesus by losing an argument.”

  • SueH

    Sad that legalism outweighs calling – such arrogance to deny someone’s God-inspired vocation. :-/ Face it, women have been paying the price for original sin since Eve ate the fruit – but there’s no Biblical proof Adam wasn’t also culpable! Pity that old serpent didn’t find Adam first – I wonder if history might have been different!

    • Jonathan


    • Frank

      No one is denying anyone anything. Women can still serve and provide leadership just not as a Bishop. Nothing legalistic about it.

      • SueH

        So why don’t we scrap men calling themselves ‘Bishop’, then?

        • Frank

          I could care less if that happens. Its a man made construct anyways. They can do what they think is best.

      • otrotierra

        Rather than defending legalism, follow Jesus.

        • Frank

          Since there is no legalism here there is no need to defend it.

          • Jonathan

            Read your Bible. Follow Jesus. Read your Bible. Follow Jesus. Read the words, but follow the Word of God. Because when try and follow the words of God. When you just try and follow the Bible in general without understanding that the Bible points to Jesus, and calls us to follow Him in particular. This thing called Christianity gets ugly real fast. Never read the Bible without Jesus as your interpretive principle. Everything points to Jesus. Whenever Christians have tried to follow the Bible in general rather than Jesus. Whenever they have followed the words of God instead of the Word of God they have come up with things like witch burnings, because it’s in the Bible.
            Whenever Christians have followed the words of God instead of the Word of God they thought that War is the way of God. Whenever Christians have followed the words of God instead of the Word of God they enslaved Africans. Whenever Christians have followed the words of God instead of the Word of God they oppressed women and killed homosexuals. Whenever Christians have followed the words of God instead of the Word of God they thought an eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth was Gods way and they should practice it. Whenever Christians have followed the words of God instead of the Word of God their prayers were about the judgement, condemnation, death and the suffering of their enemies. Rather than praying for their forgiveness, mercy, and rather than trying to love them.

            Just following the Bible, is actually not what the Bible calls us to do. The Bible points to Jesus. We’re to follow Jesus and that’s what the Bible tells us. Jesus tells us in John 5:39 and 40, “You search the scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. The Bible records the teaching of Jesus that tells us that the whole thing is pointing to Him. Don’t just study those words, follow the Word. This changes how we use our own Bibles it leads us to a different place… the place of Christ.

            Thus the: Redletter Christians; Because if you want to know who Christ was what better place then to read His words.

          • Jonathan

            Sola Scriptura through the lens of Jesus. Never read the Bible without Jesus as your interpretive principle.

          • ragamuffin

            uh..yeah…that’s worked out real well. we have more division and denominations than we can count. we lack authority or the ability to submit to one which is necessary for the church to achieve the ‘oneness’ our Lord prayed for. sad.

        • Drew

          Sola Scriptura.

          • otrotierra

            I’m aware of the Latin expression advanced by well-intentioned 16th century Protestants. Very interesting history, but not the point of origin.

          • Drew

            Frank and I are saying “sola scriptura,” and your response is “that’s legalistic.” My counterpoint is whether or not you like Scripture is a moot point. Scripture is Scripture.

          • Jonathan

            Sola Scriptura is what you fall back on when you’re no longer willing to work on relationship.

          • otrotierra

            And we don’t worship scripture, Drew, because it’s idolatry. Jesus is literally The Word. “Sola scriptura” is not.

          • Drew

            How do we know who Jesus is? Scripture.

          • ragamuffin

            this argument can’t stand on its own. ironically, there isn’t a single scripture that says ‘scripture alone’. i don’t want to go there but i find it ironic that you believe sacred scripture to be authoritative but dismiss the very authority or vessel that God used to canonize scripture, namely the Catholic Church. As St. Augustine once wrote, ‘How could I believe a single word of the gospel if I first do not believe in the authority of the Church who gave the gospel to me?’ Something to think about.

          • Jimmy Spencer Jr

            Stop worshipping your incredibly narrow view of “The Bible” Drew. You only care about getting people to read and live out what you think the Bible says. Truly disturbing.

          • Drew

            Depends on your perspective. You think I’m being too narrow, and I think most are being too tolerant, like the Church in Thyatira, that Jesus admonished. I think what Jesus says should disrupt us, not what I say, Jimmy, but I know from putting the Bible in quotes what you think of it.

  • Jonathan

    The issue of Women in leadership: Just try to put a perspective from the word of God. Leadership is something the Church and the Lord “calls” people to. At a conference on the issue they asked Faith Forster, Ichthus Church, UK, “So when were you “called” into leadership? She replied, “I never was called into leadership by the Lord directly.” And they asked, “What do you mean?” She said, “I was called into ministry. I believe God called me to ministry, and to minister means to serve. And I was called to serve the Lord. And anything else that I have done has been put on me by others. That I have been put into that place.” That’s what she wanted to say at the conference it was a conference of a large group of women from all over Europe. Is that we are called to serve the Lord. And we must never ever forget that that is our “calling.” We are not called to rule over people. Nobody is. No Christian leader is called to rule over the people. We are called to serve people. We ARE “called” to rule over the evil one. And that must always be our primary objective. I think we’re too busy fighting people and not enough standing against the evil one.

    We are called not to rule over people, not to Lord it over others. But to stand against the power of the evil one. And that’s what we the Church has been called down to through the ages, and that’s what women have been called down to through the ages.

    • Frank

      Many of us are fighting the evil one and his most effective weapon is the “progressive” “church”.

  • Jonathan

    Now because of the feminist movement. People think that because of the feminist movement that that is why we believe women should be in leadership. That we are catering to the feminist movement and to society. It is not because what is happening in society the Church did not learn feminism from the “world,” the world learned feminism from the Church. And that is totally true. When the feminist movement grew up towards the end of the 19th century: They saw Methodist women preaching. They had seen Quaker women leading churches, preaching and pastoring. They had seen the Salvation Army with sometimes girls at 16 or 17 years old who were the leaders of the Army Corps, and they would go out to some really really difficult areas, and they would stand in the name of Jesus and proclaim the truth.

    All that was happening in a time in society when women in the general culture had “no rights” whatsoever. They had no rights in the middle of the 19th century when the Salvation Army were operating. Women had no rights over their person, they could be killed beaten up whatever. All their property, all of it belonged to their father or their husband when they were married. Women had absolutely no rights at all, and it was in the face of that that the radical movements in which we belonged. The radical movements that stream down through the Church ages. Radical movements stood out against the culture, and said, “We believe that women are honored, leaders, and workers in God’s Kingdom.” And therefore they allowed women to take a lead when God had called them. And equipped them to do so. And they were the people who influenced our culture.

  • Cherie

    Man-made theology aside, why is it always women asking men for permission – but never the other way around?

    • Frank

      Ask any husband who he needs to get permission from to do almost anything. :)

  • Mrs |Woo

    There’s something about RLC that I like – the occasional insightful blogs that challenge my discipleship – and so I like to come and see what is posted. I know that I don’t have to read the comments and maybe I should just pass on that section. Almost exclusively strident, aggressive, male (are women too busy or just have a better focus on where to put their energies?) commenters, arguing about their treasures (where your treasure is there your heart will be also). I recommend the following sermon from the beatitudes of Jesus:

  • 21st C. Episcopalian

    True relativism says that whatever is true and right for someone else should be fine and good for all. Why judge another denomination or state church in another country? Isn’t their vote the representation of truth for them? At this point in time?

    I get tired of the deep hypocrisy baked into the fabric of American relativists. If you truly believe what you say (to support your relativistic anti-scriptural beliefs), then offer the same latitude to everyone else. Boo hiss.

    • otrotierra

      People change. Joseph Smith and Planet Kolob are now Franklin Graham’s legacy. Who would have guessed that Franklin Graham would be the new voice of relativism?

      • 21st C. Episcopalian

        Franklin Graham a bad example: Graham is someone who “sold out” for political expediency likely based on personal financial interests. He’s not being relativistic, he’s being (potentially) greedy and power-hungry. Am I wrong here?

        And it’s true that people change, cultures change, and that time marches on. But the timelessness of God’s inspired Word, holy scripture, stays the same. Sure it applies to new and changing cultures in different ways, but the core text and context, the historicity, authority, and reliability, remain rock solid. The Bible isn’t to be changed by changing culture. The Bible is to be applied to the changing culture to bring it back to the truth of God.

        My point above (my post two days ago) is that American relativists are hypocrites. They are unwilling to let other cultures enjoy the same latitudinal freedom they demand themselves. But I’m sure you caught that gist.

  • Paul Fleck

    Tony- Don’t forget that in addition the titular head of the C of E is none other than the Queen: a woman.

  • Drew

    Rowan Williams – “”Whatever the motivation for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society,” he continued. “We have as a result of yesterday undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society.”

    To paraphrase Rowan Williams, “Let’s set aside theology, since postmodernism believes any and all theological principles or hermeneutics are equally valid. We really can’t settle a discussion on Scripture using Scripture. Therefore, let’s forget about Scripture for a moment. The world does not understand the Bible and Christianity, and the world is running contrary to the Bible and Christianity. We are losing credibility. Therefore, let’s conform to the world, so we have credibility.”


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