The appointment of the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally as Bishop of London seems to have come as something of shock to those who said a woman would never be appointed to the See of London. Reading various comments, it does seem to have been those in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood, and episcopate, who are most shocked. We should not be shocked: the legislation put in place by the General Synod removed any stained-glass ceiling, and put in place provision for those of us who cannot, in conscience, accept such ministry. It remains to be seen precisely how the London Plan will be worked out, and whether any assurances will be given to those priests and people who, whilst looking to The Society, continue to minister and worship in parishes where no resolution has been passed. This is very much a crunch moment for our movement. The mantra of The Society has always been that we reject the concept that ‘any man will do’ when it comes to a bishop. We wish to have bishops to whom we can look for sound teaching and sacramental assurance. This is why affiliation to The Society is only open to parishes that are under the oversight of bishops of The Society. If you cannot accept the sacramental ministry of women priests and women bishops how can you receive oversight from a male bishop who both ordains women and supports the ordination of women to the episcopate? To follow this ‘any man will do’ logic is disrespectful, both to Bishop Sarah, and other women bishops, and those who support their ministry. For our part, The Society must wait to see how the Society people, priests and parishes are treated under the new regime, and how the Five Guiding Principles are upheld and enacted. It is our prayer that they will be fully upheld, and that ministry in our parishes will be allowed to flourish.
It is said that at no other time in history has Christianity been so persecuted. Around the world many Christians face persecution for worshipping together, and in some cases for simply reading the Bible or speaking of God. People risk their lives each day to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. We must always be aware of just how lucky we are to be able to worship and express our religious views in freedom. This also means we must be mindful of when that freedom is eroded or comes under threat. It can be easy to put to one side the plight of our brother and sister Christians in other countries where they are persecuted but we must not do so. It is important firstly to pray for them and then we must find ways of supporting them. We might do this through the work of charities such as Aid to the Church in Need or HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust); who seek to help Christians practically and spiritually. Part of their current work is seeking to help Christians return to their homes after the retreat of Daesh (ISIS). Support for the work of HART helps Baroness Caroline Cox keep the plight of the suffering Church in the public view and particularly in parliament where she is able to raise questions of the government about what they are doing to support persecuted minorities around the world.
In our national life there is much to which we can look forward, not least a Royal Wedding. These times of public rejoicing and celebration are important for the life of the Church. We are called to be alongside people in times of both joy and sorrow. The Royal Wedding will offer an opportunity for us to engage with people as they celebrate this event in the life of the nation and also to allow them to think about and celebrate the sacrament of marriage. In the life of Her Majesty the Queen we see a Christian who is seeking to live out the vocation God has called her to. She is an example to us all of the way in which God calls each Christian into His service and that may take us in directions we can not imagine. Elsewhere in this edition you can read about Forward in Faith’s and The Society’s commitment to mission and growth. For this to happen we must each of us take a part. This means seeking to listen to what God is calling each one of us to do – how does He want us to live out our vocation as Christians? This is part of journey, a pilgrimage if you like, that each Christian is called to go on. We know from personal experience and encounter how the Christian faith transforms and enriches lives, our task is to share this with others and to call them into that relationship with God.