When the Church Said Yes


By Nicola Hulks | Twitter: @nicolahwriter

A_Nicola-750Eighteen months ago, in the early days of my training for ordained ministry in the Church of England, I was here writing about one of the most ground-shaking episodes of my very new life as a Minister. After the Church of England’s Synod voted against having female Bishops I found myself in s state of shock and real questioning. Was I meant to be here? Was I going to be able to fulfill the call that I felt on my life in this organization?

It was in no small part this vote which spurred me on academically and for the next year I set about writing a thesis on the arguments for and against women in leadership. I dug up books from the depths of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, scoured pamphlets and newspapers to try to piece together the changing views in the church on this issue. I read a great deal of stuff I would rather not have but I got deep into the arguments. Who are we as men and women? What does the Bible really say? What is at the root of the arguments put forward, on both sides?

Most importantly, perhaps, I learned about the people that came before me. English women of the 19th century, like Josephine Butler, who were so passionate about their cause that they broke taboos and spent a life campaigning for rights for women at great personal cost. As I poured over reports of old debates from the Church of England’s Synod I saw the same names popping up again and again. Women who felt a profound sense of call that they never got to realise in their lifetime but who stood up time and again for the women who would come after them.

Now I am two years into my training. As I write, I am at a church in Barcelona. Just days ago I stood up for the first time to lead a service and give the sermon. As we sang our first song I looked out on the congregation and everything in my world felt suddenly, profoundly right. I realised a couple of nights later what it was that I was feeling. I loved my job. I was doing what I was meant to do, at last.

And it was hot on the heels of this experience that the vote came around again, on Monday 14th July, as to whether the Church of England would have female Bishops. I felt the same anticipation as the last time, but this time tinged with a little fear, not wanting to feel the crushing disappointment that I felt after the last vote.

As the announcement was made that the vote had passed with an overwhelming majority, I screamed with happiness. Not because my side had “won,” there is space for all different views in the settlement agreed, but because I knew that one day there would be a woman performing her duties as a Bishop feeling that sense of ‘rightness’ that I had felt just days before.

And now I am left with a feeling of gratitude for all the women who stood up for those who would come after them. They never tasted the benefits of what they fought for but we do. And I, for one, and so very thankful for it.


About Nicola:

 Nicola Hulks is a Church of England Ordinand based in Oxford, England. Outside of the day job she spends a truly remarkable amount of time watching American TV dramas and is currently addicted to Nashville. She writes about the trials and tribulations of church life over at https://nicolahulks.blogspot.com