When I am older, will I wear purple?

It’s a big week in the Church of England. Tomorrow, General Synod (its decision making body) votes on a resolution as to whether women can become Bishops. The decision they make has the potential to affect the trajectory of my career as a priest in the church. No, I’m not saying that I have episcopal aspirations – but I would like the option to be open to me – I do not want my calling to have boundaries based upon my gender. [Having said that, a group of well-meaning friends have already begun a “Liz for lady Bish” campaign. Bless their enthusiasm…]

20 years ago, this same decision making body voted to ordain women as priests. I was an 11 year old pupil at an all-girls Church of England school in central London and had little idea that this decision would actually have a major impact upon my life. With my fellow pupils, we rejoiced that the Church had seen sense and that the female Deacon at the school’s church could now be priested. If a church can agree to ordain women, surely the same church can agree to allow them to exercise their ministry in full?

I’m not going to write about the theology of the issue. There is (obviously) a lot to be said about it, but personally, I believe that once the CofE agreed to priest women, ordaining them as Bishops had to be inevitable. I’m also not commenting on the wording of the resolution that’s going to go before Synod. No, it’s not perfect, but we can’t afford to wait any longer to make this step. Why? Because currently, nothing makes the Church look more archaic to secular society than its structural sexism.

Along with thousands of others, I am praying that God’s will is done at Synod – and I genuinely believe that God’s will is to enable all his people to fulfill the calling he places upon their lives. I think it’s highly unlikely that God only calls women to be Bishops when they live in North America, or Australia, or New Zealand – I could go on.

If you want to read some slightly more theological, intellectual or well-argued pieces on this issue, here is a selection:
On a lighter note, I spent Friday evening celebrating the birthday of a friend of mine who happens to work at the CofE’s headquarters. Some of her colleagues were bemoaning the fact that her birthday party fell on the Friday before the beginning of General Synod – they’d wanted to stay late and get lots of work done. Inevitably, conversation turned to women bishops and I was asked if I was planning on being there for the debate [I would love to, but my job – helping to lead a church – may prevent that from happening]. This led me to ponder whether there would be themed t-shirts for those that were lobbying for a Yes vote…

This became a source of hilarity. A suggestion from a dear friend was “Make Me a Bishop!”. A tweet on the subject was re-tweeted by the Yes Campaign’s unofficial account, yielding the reply “I am an Episcopal Girl”. [To fully appreciate that reference, check out this video.] When I got home, I asked Facebook and got some interesting responses:

A female curate friend didn’t care to post her suggestion of “Bish with boobs!” publicly, but I do rather like it. I don’t yet have a t-shirt (a female ordinand friend suggested a pin-badge would be more suitable to the cause than a striking t-shirt), but hopefully, after Tuesday, I will have the option of wearing a purple clerical shirt when I’m older and more experienced. Here’s praying…


  1. Only 8 familiar names on that signatory list for me, which is surprising given that I worked at a vicar factory for a couple of years… oh, until i remember which one!

    • I can guess which that was…
      There were quite a few of my Dad’s former ordinands on the list (whose names I had to go through every summer while temping at the college), plus family friends. I guess it helps when you’ve lived amongst clergy most of your life!

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