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Twenty years on…

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 4 May 2014

This weekend we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Church of England.

I was ordained then, and recall feelings of elation tinged with fear – would protest halt the proceedings?

At the York meeting of General Synod in July women will yet again sit on the edge of their seats, waiting for elation or desolation to erupt after the vote for legislation to consecrate women as Bishops. Why so much tension? Why is change so slow?

I understand two reasons for our “mighty tortoise”- like identity. Firstly, it is hard to comprehend the scale of the revolution in understanding which has taken place in the West with regard to both sexuality and gender over the last 100 years. The Church, in its Bishops’ and Synod Statements, asks the question “Do the Scriptures and Church Traditions support this change?” while the surrounding society moves on, not seeking approval but asking “Who is liberated?” The Church appears to hesitate at the edge of the sea asking “Should I swim?” Meanwhile, most people have not merely swum the Channel, but are on the way back, changed in body, heart and mind! There is a thought gap requiring discussion about the experience of human liberation and the signals of God’s presence en-fleshed in human form.

But, secondly, I am neither surprised nor overly impatient about the gap. I too am “Church” and am slow to change where my identity is threatened by the fear of the unknown. What relief for me in the Gospel stories, where the Risen Jesus is not immediately experienced as comfortingly familiar. On this weekend of national celebration, three cheers for Cleopas. For Cleopas and friend console me in their reticence to see, while Jesus waits.

Revd Clare Herbert