One of the interesting findings about the women priests in the Church of England was that they are more theologically liberal than their male counterparts. Women priests were more likely to be liberal in their views of Christian morality as well. This is based on a survey done by Forward in Faith some years ago.
My own experience was simple: women priests were no more silly or politically driven or immoral or lazy or poor preachers or pastors than the men. Of course there were silly, stupid, vain and proud women priests. Ditto the men. There were caring, intelligent, kind, funny and humble men priests. Ditto the women.
In fact, during the debate over this issue in the Church of England I was resolved to be open minded and fair. I listened to both sides of the debate, and the fact that I did is what led me to the Catholic Church.
What I discovered was this: both sides had some good arguments. They argued well from Scripture, tradition, sociology, psychology, history etc. Both sides had experts. They wheeled in their theologians, psychologists, Scripture scholars, linguistic experts, church historians etc. etc. Both sides were passionate that they were right. Both sides were confident that they were being led by the Holy Spirit. Both sides had prayerful, nice, Christian, concerned, intelligent people.
How then was one to decide? Was one to take a vote? We did and it really didn’t settle anything. when those who were in favor lost they did not say, “Well, the Holy Spirit has spoken through the General Synod’s vote. We were wrong. The question is settled.” No, they said, “We will have to campaign harder and bring it up again in five years’ time.” When the vote finally went in their favor did those opposed say, “Ah well, the Spirit has spoken, He is leading us into a wonderful innovation in the church’s ministry?” Alas, no. They said, “We want our own bishops. We want our opt out clauses. We shall stay in and fight this abominable innovation.”
For my part, I realized that there needed to be another authority–larger and more ancient than the Church of England General Synod to make the ruling. Then a few years later the Holy Father said very simply and clearly, “The Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests.”
At that point dear old dunderheaded George Carey, speaking of the Pope’s statement said, “Duhh. We would like to seek clarification on this.”
By that time it seemed very clear indeed. The Church of England had not simply voted in favor of women priests. She had also voted decided once and for all about what kind of an ecclesial body she really was. Any idea that she was a branch of the ancient, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church faded like the morning mist in July.