St Clement and women bishops

Today the church remembers St Clement, Bishop of Rome, c.100AD. I am giving a short homily on him tonight at church and thought I would share it here as my research into the man threw up something very topical for us this week!

Homily for St Clement‘s day

St Clement of Rome - image from WikipediaToday the church remembers St Clement of Rome. Like many early saints, we don’t know all that much about him but we do know that he was one of the first bishops of Rome – consecrated by St Peter and was perhaps the second or third bishop of Rome, or Pope, if you will. In my research about Clement I discovered that he wrote a letter to the Corinthians (they seemed to get a lot of mail in the early days didn’t they?!) so I decided to read this letter he wrote to see if I could get more of a sense of the man.  He is writing this letter in response to some disputes in church leadership and I was astonished to find that he wrote the following:

‘And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the bishop’s office’.

– 1 Clem 44:1

So, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says: ‘there is nothing new under the sun!’ We’re talking about the very first years of Christianity and there was already debate and problems over bishops! Although for many of us what happened this week at synod has been very painful, I think we can take some solace from the fact that despite divisions and problems in the church as early as the first century, the church is still witnessing to Christ today and we are still here to celebrate the Eucharist and proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection until he comes.

One other thing I got from reading Clement’s letter – which is quite boring and long-winded if I’m honest! – is that he loves scripture. He quotes scripture liberally throughout the letter to make his points to the Corinthian church. This led me to think, if Clement were writing to churches in England, what verses of scripture would he give us?

I will leave us with some words of Jesus to meditate on in the light of what has happened in the Church of England this week:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

– John 13:34-35

One comment

  1. Bryony,
    The Bishop of Chelmsford came to our Deanery Synod on Wednesday (having been in London for the vote and then appearing to media as the CofE “face”) He did say several things:
    1. It was a sad time for everyone, not just those who want women bishops, but for all the different parties involved in the debates.
    2. He said that we should try to trust each other, not rely on legislation and legal outcomes, and that it is only through trust that this issue will move forward and be progressed.

    He also went round every female priest present, to apologise for the outcome of the debate, and to assure them of his personal support in their (valid and authorised) ministry.

    I may not have put it as he did, but that is the gist.


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