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Women Bishops debate: We must be those who live a better way

Photo: Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates

Tuesday 20th November 2012

Bishop Justin’s Speech to the General Synod during the debate on November 20th about Women Bishops.

Thank you for yesterday's warm welcome. Despite looking embarrassed and confused, I did genuinely appreciate it very much.

The Bishop of Salisbury reminded us that the ministry of women in the last 20 years has contributed enormously to the Church of England, and today we include thankfulness for what has happened. For all our struggles, and with many set--‐backs, the Church has gained from its decision of 1992. For most of those coming to faith it is the normal order of things. The ministry of women priests has been powerful in all areas of the church except as part of the episcopacy. The Bishop of Liverpool very powerfully set out the case in favour of what is before us today. It is time to finish the job and vote for this Measure.

But also the Church of England needs to show how to develop the mission of the church in a way that demonstrates that we can manage diversity of view without division; diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity. This is far more than showing that what unites us is greater than what divides us, true as that is. The church is above all those who are drawn into being a new people by the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit. We are reconciled to God and to one another not by our choice but by His. That is at the heart of our testimony to the gospel. For this testimony to be convincing we must demonstrate it in lived reality, which is something that we have to express in institutional life, in Measures and rules and codes of conduct and in forms of dispute resolution, which need not involve the courts, perfectly possible in both law and experience today. All these are necessary and this approach that we have before us today is I believe, after much discussion with many people, as good as we can get, but as the Bishop of Hereford just said, our will and intention are far more important than the rules.

For all these reasons, as well as because of what I have experienced in my own life, being converted into churches that today in good conscience cannot accept this move, I am personally deeply committed, and believe that fellow bishops are also, to ensuring, as far as I am able, that what we promise today and later in the Code of Conduct is carried out faithfully in Spirit as well as in letter. Expressing in attitude and by our actions that we more than respect, but also love one another, is a foundation stone for our mission in this country and the world more widely. We cannot get trapped into believing that this is a zero sum decision, where one person's gain must be another's loss: that is not a theology of grace.

As we talk, at this very moment, in places from Israel and Gaza to Goma in the Congo, there is killing and suffering because difference cannot be dealt with. We are those, we Christians, are those who carry peace and grace as a treasure for the world. We must be those who live a better way, who carry that treasure visibly and distribute it lavishly. I urge the General Synod to vote for this motion.

© Justin Welby 2012

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