On TV, after the news came out, various folk were being asked what they thought about the decision, and the sentiment was much the same — we're pleased because it brings the church more up to date. (Or as one person put it, "It's amazing! Next thing you know we'll land people on the moon!")
But is it the responsibility of the Church to reflect the values of the society round about it? Hardly! The NT ekklesia were often known for doing precisely the opposite. Not for the sake of being bloody minded, but for the sake of being true to the gospel.
Don't get me wrong. I support the idea of women bishops. My point is simply this:
for a Christian, the case for women bishops has to be made on grounds internal to the theo-logic of the Church.In this instance the matter was especially tricky because there is a universal historical Christian tradition of restricting the episcopate to men. And one cannot simply set that aside as if it counted for nothing! A tradition that old and that universal would need to be taken very seriously indeed. One would need to show that the theological underpinning for a male-only episcopate was shaky and that the theological case for including women was strong. One would need to show that a restriction of the episcopacy to men is not consistent with ancient and central Christian notions.
That is why I am not dismayed at how long it has taken the Church to make this decision. The pressure is on all the time to CHANGE NOW! CHANGE FAST! While such quick change is all but required in our Speedy Gonzales culture, it is also likely to land you in a mess. Wisdom, for the most part, does not rush.
I am very pleased about the decision — it was, in my view, the theologically right one. (I appreciate that many will disagree.) But we must never seek to primarily justify it on the basis that it makes us fit in better with society at large. Such a consideration is, at best, secondary. The gospel must always call the shots.