In an article on her blog titled “The Battered Bride of Christ”, The Rev Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, questioned why women should stay in an “abusive institution”.Her comments follow moves by bishops to alter proposals to allow the ordination of women bishops.The Church's House of Bishops met behind closed doors in York to finalise long – awaited legislation designed to clear the way for a vote at the General Synod in July enabling the ordination of women as bishops.But the bishops added an amendment that would allow traditionalist parishes that refused to accept the authority of a woman not only to opt out but also to have an alternative bishop chosen to be "consistent with the theological convictions".Following the move, Dr Threlfall-Holmes, acting principal of Ustinov College* at Durham University, wrote: "The question for women priests today is: do we stay with this abusive institution?“Do we stay, hoping it will get better? Do we stay, because we feel called by God to be in this marriage? Do we stay, thinking we can continue to try to change it from the inside? Or do we flee to the nearest refuge (let's ignore the fact for now that they rarely exist) — leaving home, family, community, and our dreams behind?"She later removed the post, which also compared the bishops to a man who gouged his wife's eyes out and then kept her in the house for 12 hours to stop her getting medical attention."
Well...... we all have a tendency to use intemperate language at times of stress and anxiety, so we shouldn't be too hypocritical in responding to her comments. But before we simply say yes, this was unhelpful but understandable, and try to move on as best we can, we should reflect on what this kind of outburst says about the future ecclesial structures under which we are meant to live, if we remain (in Newman's phrase - all too true for us) in "the city of confusion and the house of bondage."
If this is the language which can be used about the Church of England's House of Bishops, a body almost to a man committed to the episcopal ordination of women, what does it say about any chances for the survival of traditionalists, either catholic or evangelical after the first 'consecrations' take place?
The Code of Practice, so say those intent on promoting it, is based on the idea of mutual respect and trust. That was never really going to be a runner, but this latest peek behind the scenes has, as they say, rather blown it.
*Hilariously, the motto of 'Ustinov College' (formerly the Graduate Society of Durham University) appears to be "Diversitate Valemus?" [you really couldn't make this up - clear proof, if we needed it, that the Lord has a sense of humour]
Perhaps in view of the motto under which she plies her trade, Dr Threlfall Holmes should consider her position, even as she does her best on behalf of the sisterhood to eradicate any remaining shreds of theological diversity from the Church of England.