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Who’s Queen? – & Is She Not Also A Bishop?: John Adams

John Adams is the editor of parenting website He has accepted an invitation from Lay Anglicana to leave the safety zone of parenting and write a guest post about the recent Synod vote about women bishops.

Like many, I watched with disbelief when Synod voted against women bishops the other day. I believe there’s compelling evidence in Romans that women held senior positions in the early Church. If women were considered good enough 2,000 years ago, why not now?

As I got thinking about the vote, something blindingly obvious struck me. Oddly it was something I haven’t seen mentioned by any commentators. My argument is thus; by the very nature of her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, is Queen Elizabeth II not a female bishop in all but name? Let me be brave and state that if you accept my argument, last week’s vote was completely redundant.

Stick with me here for a second. As Supreme Governor, Queen Elizabeth has the power to appoint bishops. Okay, okay, so she does it on the advice of the Prime Minister but the fact remains that the Church’s male bishops have all been appointed by a woman since 1952.

You can, of course, take this argument back much, much further. The first female leader of the Church of England was Henry VIII’s daughter Queen Mary I who took on the role in 1553 and she was followed by Henry’s other daughter Elizabeth I in 1559.

The power and influence of the monarch on the CofE may have ebbed and flowed over the years. The fact remains that women have held the most senior position on and off for almost 500 years.

I may be mistaken, but I don’t ever recall the Laity questioning the authority of the monarch. If the laity accepts the authority of both male and female monarchs, and the monarch appoints bishops, how can the Laity vote against female bishops? I shall leave you with that thought.

John Adams,

7 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

It would be worth seeking out among HM many titles, if the word Bishop occurs anywhere?

But, the principle could be that HM decides that she will act of her own accord and appoint a woman as a Bishop and direct the Church to consecrate her. I wonder what the consequences would be.

The Canons of the church and the book of common prayer provide for the selection and consecration of Bishops, they are probably silent on the issue?

God for HM 🙂

27 November 2012 21:32
Richard Haggis said...

She is not a consecrated bishop, but on her say-so, and Mr Cameron would be in the mood at the moment to advise it, a woman could accept nomination to any suffragan or diocesan post. This would by-pass the General Synod, and save a lot more time-wasting. Three bishops willing to ordain her would be required, but if the House of Bishops did not speak with forked tongue, this shouldn’t be hard, and otherwise, we can dredge Jenkins and Harries out of retirement to help. Then, job done. Problem solved. Thing of the past.

27 November 2012 21:51
Kate ardern said...

A really interesting and thought-provoking blog. Setting aside for a moment the theological evidence in favour of female ordination & elevation to the episcopate. What the so- called “traditionalists” conveniently forget is the historical reality of the Church of England which wouldn’t actually exist but for 2 very remarkable women – Anne Boleyn, a Protestant reformer by conviction, for who’s sake a King was prepared to defy Rome and her even remarkable daughter Elizabeth the First whose Supreme Governorship defined what we know to be Anglicanism today. Elizabeth was critical to shaping the distinctive form and nature of the Church of England and not a woman who had any truck with notions of male headship. So Mr Adams is quite correct in his assertion that female headship in the CoE through swearing allegiance to the Supreme Governor is actually a well established tradition indeed a founding principle of Anglicanism. And HMQ ,despite wishful thinking from some commentators, seems to have no personal objections at all to female priests- she has appointed a goodly number of female Queen’s Chaplains and of course the highly respected and eminent Canon Steward & Archdeacon of Westminster (a Royal Peculiar ) is the marvellous Jane Hedges who has taken has taken a prominent role in any number of state occasions. Whilst HMQ is far too wise to get dragged into a political row, I’m quite sure that she will be making her views known and indeed I very much doubt that the Gang of Six will proceed with any bold moves without consulting her.

Joyce Hackney said...

Very interesting points,Kate. The next three queens before Her Present Majesty were feisty too and wouldn’t have been terribly keen on being messed about any more than their predecessor. Mary II in her journals refers to ‘foolery’ regarding some ‘b’ops’ ideas of ceremonial. It has to be said though that not all bishops approved of *her* either,since she had all but deposed an anointed king. If any woman knew what it was like to be opposed by bishops,she did. Her sister Queen Anne was said to be very stubborn but supported what she called ‘The Church Party’.Queen Victoria actually got the CofE’s theology changed regarding childbirth.
I must say Richard’s suggestion is fascinating. Perhaps somebody on the staff at No.10 is reading this blog and will alert the PM accordingly.

28 November 2012 00:16
27 November 2012 22:21
Grandmère Mimi said...

Brilliant, Richard Haggis. Now who could get this ball rolling?

28 November 2012 00:22
Laurel Massé said...

I have been wondering about this myself. Thanks for writing this post, and thanks to Grandmère Mimi for the link.

28 November 2012 11:54
John said...

Of course our assumption here is that HM is in favour of women Bishops in the Church of England. She didn’t seem all that fond of that woman Prime Minister, what was her name again? LOL.

28 November 2012 17:04

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