ThanksgivingToday, November 22nd, it's Thanksgiving in the US and St Cecilia's Day throughout the Church. So, as women and thanksgiving seems to be the order of the day, and this week more than most, it seems appropriate to combine these themes in a personal prayer for women priests, and priests-in-waiting who have had an impact on me. It's not a prayer of intercession that they might some day all aspire to be Bishops, rather it's that I need them to know how valued and loved they and their ministries are in what is most probably a pretty negative week for them. It must be hard not to take the General Synod's decision on the Women Bishops legislation personally. And, actually, if I were them, I'd take it personally too. So now is a good time to give thanks for them all, and for all women priests.
Lord I give thanks for all the women priests who've inspired and sustained me so far.
Rev Dianna Gwilliams for giving such sensible advice and care to us as a young family and giving me friendship, space, encouragement and, where necessary, prods to get on with my personal ministry.
Rev Karen Gardiner for showing me a great model of calling to ministry and just getting on with it.
Rev Sarah Hartley for first teaching me some of the ways of the anglo-Catholic and kicking my backside into gear about being serious about evangelism.
Rev Barbara Lydon who came out of retirement to officiate at my marriage.
Rev Jan Goodair for her thoughtful and practical help and advice.
Ven Janet Henderson for her online encouragement and wise example of thoughtful blogging.
Rev Ruth Hind for showing me a great example of how to love a rural community.
Rev Elizabeth Sewell for her infectious enthusiasm and good sense in tackling new challenges.
Rev Lindsay Southern for her integrity and commitment to the work of WATCH.
Rev Kate Bottley for being authentically herself online.
Not-yet-rev Bryony Taylor for her online friendship and invaluable insights into online ministry.
Thank you Lord.
Moving on towards AdventI'm sure others have lists just as long, or even longer than mine. I think it's important for all woman clergy to know that so many of us in the laity of the Church of England are wholeheartedly behind them, even if the House which is supposed to represent us has not listened to our consistently expressed support for your ministry, and that our reasoning is one of theology rather than mere liberal humanist pleasantness and wanting things to be 'fair'.
As we head towards Advent, it is all the more important to reflect that we await the coming of Jesus: God incarnate. The Incarnation is about God being among us. Its significance lies not in Jesus being a man, but in him being, like us, a human: the image of God. I believe that the events at Synod this week challenge us to theologically engage with the issue of the Incarnation across the Church of England. Once we address our own humanity in the light of the Incarnation of God, we can move beyond the language of equality and fairness (which the House of Commons will join the mainstream media in using on pretty much every contentious issues facing the Church of England) to our identity as images of God. This is a wide-ranging conversation we need to have and will encompass issues of gender, sexuality, genetics, disability and the very definition of what it means to be human. These are issues of theology, no matter how much they intersect with questions of science, legality, rights and sociology. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female - and we need to engage with how that list might be added to in our times. Then, recognising the significance of the Incarnation and how it applies to all humankind, we need to replace the word Christ with the word Humanity and work out what that means for our ministry and for what it means to 'be Church'. Then we will become a Church which more truly reflects the Incarnation, but also has a deeper understanding of the true, human-wide scope of salvation through Christ's death and resurrection and the scope of our mission and ministry.