The Church of Ireland has broken the mould by appointing its first woman bishop and sends a message to other strands of Anglicanism that such a move is possible within the spirit of the Christian faith.
Londonderry rector the Rev Pat Storey is the first woman
to attain bishop status on these islands.
The Church of Wales recently
approved the concept of female bishops; the Scottish Episcopal Church is
also in favour, but the Church of England has still to back what for
many traditionalists in Anglicanism remains, for them, theologically, a
step too far.
Whatever reservations some Christians may have about
this quite radical appointment, the new bishop comes across as a cleric
and a person of great warmth, intelligence and spiritual depth.
move from a small church on the historic walls of Londonderry to the
southern diocese of Meath and Kildare, with 17 parishes, will be a
daunting challenge for this affable Belfast-born woman.
by the male-dominated House of Bishops took even the Rev Storey by
surprise, but it indicates that the Church of Ireland hierarchy, on this
most contested issue within global Anglicanism, is not prepared to be
hidebound by tradition or same-sex succession.
The call to the
bishopric for Pat Storey, whose husband Earl is also a Church of Ireland
cleric, has been warmly welcomed by leaders of the other main churches
in Northern Ireland, including the Roman Catholic Church.
Methodist Church in Ireland currently has a female President, but, while
the Presbyterian Church has women ministers, the likelihood of
departure from male succession for the moderatorship remains a far
For fundamental Protestants and Roman Catholics,
strict interpretation of Biblical teaching precludes a woman as the
church’s earthly head.
Which requires Rev Storey’s upgrade to be seen
through the prism of one particular denomination.