The first ordination of female vicars in the Church of England, 20 years ago this month by the Bishop of Bristol, was arguably the most-hyped of these recent New Jerusalems. It came after a long, and bitter via dolorosa that caused a small but high-profile group of dissenters (Ann Widdecombe, John Gummer, Charles Moore) to decamp to Roman Catholicism. But the first pioneers of women’s ordination were in no doubt that their Church was finally marching on the high road. “We are a people reformed, remade and renewed,” proclaimed Katharine Rumens, ordained a priest in April 1994. “I look to the future with great excitement.”
But yet again, this great reform hasn’t quite lived up to its billing. Many of the problems of disunity remain, notably over what is essentially the same issue: women bishops. So how to save the Church of England from a slow drift into oblivion?
Having had a ringside seat at the events of the past two decades, and more broadly as a fellow traveller (albeit at one pew removed as a Catholic), who sees so much that is good and needed about our national church as its goes about its daily, non-headline-making parish life, here are a few suggestions ”“ more 10 conversation-starters than 10 commandments ”“ assembled with the help of Anglican friends.