Sarah Coakley on women bishops

Sarah Coakley writes from a theological perspective on the current state of affairs in the Anglican church involving women priests (allowed) and women bishops (still not allowed due to the squeakingly narrow defeat of a recent vote). She pulls no punches as she asks
Has the Church of England finally lost its reason? Women bishops and the collapse of Anglican theology.

The most dangerous element in this long-running saga has been insidiously hidden under an almost farcical set of pragmatic and political attempts at compromise, attempts to “protect” conservatives from the visceral dread of female authority. In short, the real issues are theological, and it is the Church’s current theological amnesia and confusion which is preventing it from thinking straight, let alone extending its honourable and distinctive traditions of ecclesiology to meet this new challenge.


She later goes on to say,

[T]he preceding twenty year hiatus in our church’s life, during which time women have been able to be ordained to the priesthood but barred from the episcopate, represents as I see it a lapsing into theological incoherence more powerful and damaging than any I can think of in Anglican history. But as it is left to our Roman Catholic and Orthodox interlocutors to remind us, there is no such thing, in a theo-logic of any veracity, of a legitimately-ordained priest who is inherently banned from the episcopate by gender. . . . So what we have created in the past twenty years is a theological anomaly which has insidiously been made to seem normal: a whole cadre of priests – a third of our priesthood now – who are supposedly intrinsically disabled from exercising the charisms of spiritual unity and authority historically associated with the episcopate. It is here that the main theological scandal still lies: the implicit creation and normalization of second-class priesthood. The terrible danger is that this may now be extended into second-class episcopacy.

Do click through and read the whole thing. She writes clearly about the historical development and current understanding of the bishop as the locus of unity, the status of reason as a source of Anglican theology, and (in an excellent turn of phrase) the dangers of the “secular bureaucratization of the episcopate.”

(That last item also thoroughly plagues the Roman Catholic church, I believe, although I read it a little differently than she does. But that would be another post entirely. 🙂 )

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3 Responses to Sarah Coakley on women bishops

  1. Pingback: Quip of the Day: Why I Don’t Believe Men Should Be Ordained As Bishops |

  2. katmarie13 says:

    Thanks for sharing her post. I think it’s the meatiest, gutsiest response I’ve seen yet on this subject, and I rather like it. Also, if nothing else she gets props for actually saying out loud “visceral dread of female authority”. Wow!

    • Yes, it’s good to hear someone come out and say that right out loud!
      I also like that she centers the theological issues, including some critique of the theological basis for the current situation in the Church of England. I often hear criticism from the conservative side that the Anglican church has abandoned theology and/or the gospel in favor of so-called “political correctness”, and I usually hear this critique simply dismissed rather than rebutted. I think she does a good job of pointing out that “hello, reason is one of the sources of Anglican theology, remember??”

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