Bishop James' address to Synod on Women Bishops

"I now believe it is right for women to take their place in the House of Bishops". The Bishop of Liverpool's address to Synod

The Bishop of Liverpool has spoken in the debate on women Bishops in General Synod's debate. A transcript of his speech is below.

"Is the future of the Church of England at stake? If so, it’s the future of England that’s also at stake. With a third of all clergy being women the parish network, so vital to our national mission, would now collapse without their ministry.

In thousands of parishes the mission of God, already depends on the leadership of women.

Yet I understand why those who take seriously the authority of scripture believe that a woman should not exercise such leadership – or headship – why she should not be a priest, a team rector, or a bishop, why she should not even be a member of the General Synod exercising authority over the church.

I understand for I held a similar theological position on 1 Corinthians.

In chapter 11 Paul writes, “I want you to understand that …. the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ”.

Yet I’ve come to see that to believe “God is the head of Christ” cannot mean that Christ is subordinate to God or that Christ has less authority than God. Otherwise we would be denying the full divinity of Jesus. Therefore, headship in this verse cannot mean that a woman is subordinate to man or has less authority than a man.

This different understanding of headship helped me when I was ordained and swore the oath of allegiance to the Crown. With that oath all priests/presbyters in the Church of England are acknowledging the authority of a female minister, namely the Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. When she gives Royal Assent to promulge our Canons we recognise her authority over us.

The Book of Common Prayer shows us that the ministry of a bishop is to feed the body of Christ. And the Scriptures tell us that it was a woman who physically first fed the body of Christ. If a woman can feed the body of Christ in the flesh surely she can feed the body of Christ in the Spirit.

For centuries women have been doing this on the mission field. I was so aware of this when I was on the staff of the Scripture Union. Indeed without the leadership of women the worldwide church would be smaller; and in Liverpool, under the leadership of women clergy, men and women are taking the Gospel into our toughest urban areas.

The truth is that without women in leadership we are no longer able to serve the people and parishes of England.

Women serve as leaders in Scripture, on the mission field, as Supreme Governor and in this General Synod. As a bishop, who throughout his ministry has sought to honour the position of Traditional Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals I now believe it is right for women to take their place in the House of Bishops sitting before you now."