The decision to appoint another diocesan bishop to Chichester who will not ordain women will cause widespread disappointment throughout the diocese and across the rest of the Church of England. After a full consultation, many in the Diocese were hoping to work with a new bishop who follows normal practice in the Church of England in accepting ordained women on the same terms as men.
The message this gives to the wider Church of England is that it still acceptable for women to be seen as a problem that some people feel they need to be protected from rather than a gift to the Church. We wonder how the ordained women of Chichester will feel supported with a bishop who does not recognise their orders? We wonder how the lay women and men of Chichester will feel seeing their female priests compromised in this way?
At a time when 42 out of 44 Dioceses have voted for women to be made bishops and large numbers in the Church are looking to the day when women will become bishops this decision seeks to preserve a past that has long gone.
Even in Chichester the Diocesan Synod voted (informally) “in favour of ordaining women to the episcopate in the Church of England”, but the three Bishops did not support the motion. Total clergy + laity figures were 86 for, 61 against including 3 Bishops.
In a diocese where the courageous Bishop George Bell and the saintly Richard of Chichester served the Church with such distinction and foresight this is a missed opportunity
Nevertheless, it is hoped that the new bishop of Chichester will help to explore opportunities to move women’s ministry forward for lay and ordained alike and to make full use of the gifts and experience they offer.