Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Church of England rejects women bishops: what do you think?

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Last night, the General Synod of the Church of England voted, by a margin of just six votes, not to allow the introduction of women bishops.

Two of the three houses of the General Synod – the bishops and the clergy – had voted in favour of women bishops by the required two thirds majority, but in the third house, the laity, 132 votes in favour and 74 against meant that the vote fell six short of the required majority.

It's a highly controversial decision which has seen the Church condemned as being out of touch with 21st century society, but where should an atheist stand?

There are quite a few ways of looking at it. If you're the sort of atheist who is strongly opposed to religious institutions, perhaps you will be glad to see the established Church being exposed as a reactionary institution in this way.

Or, to take a different slant on that, if you're less interested in what religious institutions get up to, perhaps you find it hard to really care what happens within a Church whose relevancy to national life has been declining for several decades.

But then there's the equality argument. The government has suggested that it will not use equality legislation to force the Church to accept women bishops, but shouldn't all employers, particularly those in receipt of public funds, be forced to comply with equality law?

And what of the Church's position as the Established church? If it wants to continue as such, surely it has to comply with equality law?

Which brings us to a final thought – if the Church has decided to take this reactionary path, surely the time has come for a serious debate about a grand old idea: disestablishment.

Those are just a few quick thoughts on how an atheist might view this story. We're keen to hear what you have to say – please do let us know in the comments.
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