The General Synod of the Church of England has voted against proposals to ordain women as bishops. There are two distinct issues at stake here. The obvious one is the question of whether women should be ordained. On this issue, many representatives in the laity voted against women becoming bishops, thus preventing a policy change. But a more sinister issue is coming to the fore in the angst of the aftermath. Not simply the question of whether women should be ordained, but rather: who decides whether women should be ordained.

On the first question, Doug Wilson has responded in his usual graphic and insightful way. He effectively dismantles an attempt of N.T.Wright to show that women's ordination is a matter of biblical obedience. But he can't see why it would be the Church of England that is digging in their heels on the issue since they have long accepted the ordination of women. He writes:

Now I can understand a vote against women bishops as a preliminary move to try to undo the ordination of women priests. And I can understand a vote for women bishops as the next logical step after having established the practice of ordaining women priests. What I don't get is the affirming the ordination of women priests and opposing them as bishops.The pig, once swallowed by the python, has to move on down the line. Read more...

But the second question may have broader implications. In the howls of outrage following the decision of the hierarchy of the Church of England, it is now being insisted that the church has no right to make such a decision. Christian Concern reports in its "Christian Weekly News" (23/11/2012) that some MP's, like Chris Bryant, are now threatening to promote parliamentary legislation to force the Church of England to have women bishops. Another MP, Frank Field, has said that he wants the Church stripped of its exemptions under the Equality Act. And Prime Minister David Cameron is on record as saying, "The Church should get with the program."

Even those who are in favour of ordaining women should be concerned at these developments. When the State think it can decide what the Church believes and practices, it is time to start calling out for a true separation of church and state.