That's the question asked by journalist Riazat Butt for the British newspaper, The Telegraph, in a recent article entitled, "Women bishops will have to accept discrimination to exist."
Here's the back story for those of you who aren't either feminists or Anglophiles.
The Church of England authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood in 1992 and began ordaining them in 1994. In the 20 years since the decision was made, the debate about women in the episcopacy has been raging.
In 2008, draft legislation which would allow women in the episcopacy was finally proposed to General Synod which has been the subject of many angry debates, failed deals, fudges and great turmoil and angst.
In July of this year, a resolution - intended to reassure opponents of the ordination of women - was passed unanimously by the House of Bishops but it failed to achieve consensus among clergy and laity and was defeated.
In September of this year, the resolution was further tinkered with and clause 5 (1) (c) was proposed to the House of Bishops by Synod member, the Rev'd Janet Appleby. Depending on who's talking, the clause is either a brilliantly nuanced compromise which will allow women - finally! - to be "appointed" to the episcopacy - OR - another bad batch of Anglican fudge.
Section 5 of the the draft measure on women bishops states that the House of Bishops must draw up a code of practice on implementing the measure.
In May, the House of Bishops inserted a new clause 5 (1) (c):
It says male bishops or priests looking after objecting parishes should exercise their ministry consistently with "the theological convictions as to the consecration and ordination of women" of the parishes.
The redraft agreed on 12 September says male bishops and priests should be selected "in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3."
I'm sure the bishops were quite relieved that a woman who is a priest proposed it, hoping to put an end to the matter and getting back to doing.....well, whatever it is CofE bishops do. I'm quite sure they want this issue off their plate before Justin Welby, bishop of Durham and the new Archbishop of Canterbury, takes over for the beleaguered Rowan Williams.
If the Appleby Amendment passes, they'll soon enough be onto the next contentious issue: The blessing of LGBT covenants and marraige and ordination of LGBT people - which, I think, will make the 20 year battle for the full inclusion of women in the church seem like a day eating oysters at the beach at Whitstable.
Sally Barnes, from the campaign group Women and the Church (WATCH), says that, at the July Synod, people were “so angry”, when stronger legal safeguards were suggested for traditionalists, that it took the bishops and archbishops by surprise. “They couldn't see what they had done and we had to spell it out.”
Some laity are thrilled because it also means that, for the first time in recent memory, the laity have had enormous influence on the decision-making of the institutional (male, clerical dominated) church hierarchy. The hierarchical paradigm, they say - at least on this issue - has been inverted.
Not so fast, say the "traditionalists". Forward in Faith, a group that wants greater accommodation for traditionalists than is currently being offered, has dismissed the Appleby Amendment. Members of the Catholic Group in Synod, Reform and the Church of England Evangelical Council have already said they will vote against the legislation.
|Justin Welby, new ABC|
“The House of Bishops needs to have women in it. Some people have had enough - it's not a ringing endorsement- but we've had 20 years debate and it's essential. A two-thirds majority is needed – the bar is very high – and I am resigned to whatever happens. People are very weary. We want women bishops very much and it's not credible or tenable that there aren't any. If it [the legislation] falls then we will have to keep on until there are women bishops.”It's important to note that the ordination of women has been a controversial issue throughout the Anglican Communion for a long, long time. It's the one place where Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics find common cause.
Time does march on - even in England where it always seems to be 1950. By 2012, 28 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion ordain women as priests and 17 have removed all barriers to women becoming bishops.
So, back to the question: Is a little discrimination a lesser evil than no women bishops in the Church of England?
It sounds to me that folks are leaning toward answering that question in the affirmative.
Is that a good thing?
You ask that as if you believed that having women in the House of Bishops will completely eradicate sexism in the church.
You know, like the fact that Barbara Clementine Harris was the first woman to be bishop in the Anglican Communion, and Katharine Jefferts Schori is the first woman to be Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church, means that there's not even "a little bit of discrimination" in the church.
Or, like the fact that Barack Obama is the President of the United States means that there's not even "a little bit of discrimination" in terms of racism in this country any more.
Even if General Synod rejects the Appleby Amendment in favor of full, unequivocal, flat out inclusion of women in all orders of ordination, discrimination will continue to persist - in the church and in the world.
Which means that discussions in the House of Bishops about - and votes on - issues of reproductive justice, human sexuality, ordination and marriage equality will take on a very different tone and texture.
Not immediately, of course, but over time, there's bound to be an impact. It's completely unavoidable.
Do you really think the laity would have had an impact on the last Synod vote if there hadn't been women ordained to the priesthood in the Church of England for the last 20 years?
Is a little discrimination a lesser evil than no women bishops in the Church of England?
Is sexism a greater evil than misogyny?
A little bit of discrimination?
Women have been dealing with discrimination since the beginning of time. With one hand tied behind our backs. Six times before breakfast.
Imagine what we'll be able to do in the Church of England with both hands free.
And, after breakfast.