Original post at http://sacredise.com/blog/?p=1210
Like so many people in the blogosphere I am saddened by the Church of England’s vote to continue excluding women from the role of bishop in their church. It was a close vote indicating that an overwhelming majority of the church want women to be allowed to be bishops, but the system, which requires that there be a two thirds majority in three ‘houses’ (bishops, clergy and laity), dictated the result. Even though the bishops and clergy reached the necessary majority easily, the vote by the laity was just six short of the necessary two thirds majority, and so the exclusion of women was retained.
Apparently, among those who voted against the inclusion of women, one of the reasons was that the first apostles were all men. Well, apart from the obvious fact that we live in a very different world, and what was normative for the early church is not necessarily or always normative for us (take the issue of hair length, as an example), this is also just simply not true.
In Mark 3:14 Jesus calls the twelve and appoints them to be with him and to be "apostles" (NLT). The King James does not actually use the word "apostle" at all. This is because the word simply means to be sent forth, or sent out. So apostle is less a title than a description of what they were called to do – to be sent to preach. If we go now to John’s Gospel (20:17) we read of Mary’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus. Here Jesus tells here to "…go find My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God’" This sounds an awful lot like Mary was sent forth to preach to the other disciples. Surely this makes her as much an apostle as any of the men to whom she was sent?
I could go on with other stories of women who were "sent" in the New Testament. So, in any church, if we decide we don’t want women as bishops or pastors or leaders, that is a choice we are free to make. But, let’s not pretend that we can support our bigotry and patriarchy by using Jesus and his disciples as a model. To do so is not just incorrect. It is a violation of everything Jesus stood for, in my opinion.