Tuesday, July 12, 2005

the slippery slope

The excellent Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglican provides links to actions by the Church of England's General Synod to approve the process leading in a few years to the ordination of women bishops. The CoE first allowed women priests 11 years ago.

Back in 2002, when our choir sang for a week at Winchester Cathedral, the ladies associated with the Cathedral had a tea for us on Sunday afternoon, our last day there. We were going the next week to Chichester Cathedral.

"Ah, Chichester," said one of the ladies to me as we sipped our very good cup of tea on a very hot day. "They still have only a men and boys choir. No girls. They have avoided going down that slippery slope."

The Anglican choral tradition for many cathedral and college choirs has emphasized men (lay clerks) and boy (choristers) choirs, with the boys singing the treble or soprano line of notes. A few years before, Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals had both started a separate choir of girl choristers. Along with Chichester, these cathedrals participate each summer in the Southern Cathedral Festival, and I heard that the first years this happened, Chichester was unsure whether it wanted to continue to participate.

In the news reports linked by Simon, the Bishop of Chichester spoke out against the ordination of women bishops.

Of course, times have changed. Virginia at VHK Singing often particpates in church choirs in England, her goal to sing at least once at each of the Cathedral Choirs. In Indianapolis, Christ Church Cathedral has a men and boys choir as the main choir, but has also added a girls choir (no women singers). Both St. Paul's and Trinity have mixed choirs with choristers. I am not sure about other choirs in our Diocese, but I've not heard of any other men and boys only choir.

And we have a female bishop.

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