One likes to think in 2013 that we could tell our daughters they can be anything they want to be; may women have paved the way for them to become firefighters, mechanics, airline pilots; roles which were once traditionally male are open to us all. The Church lags behind all other walks of life on this; the Catholic church does not entertain the idea of women preaching at all and the Church of England is currently engaged in a heated debate about whether or not to allow women bishops. In 1992,the Church of England to some dissent agreed that women could become priests; the priest of my local church was against this and told me that though most people would say they would be happy with a woman preacher, they often requested a male priest to officiate at baptisms or funerals because “a man has more gravitas.”
Speaking to a Christian friend today, she explained why she was against the notion of women bishops. She believes in the absolute truth of the Bible and accepts that many Christians pick and choose the extracts they are going to follow. She says it is clear in the Bible that it is unacceptable for a women to preach to a man; she pointed out that Jesus only chose men has his disciples and also that much of the opposition to women in ministry is based on two passages:
“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (NIV, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35)
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (NIV, 1 Timothy 2:11-12)
Reading this, you could think feminism hadn’t happened Where laws prohibit sex discrimination in employment, exceptions are clearly made for religious organisations.
The irony is that the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and his predecessor Rowan Williams were bitterly disappointed last November when, in a vote on women bishops, the Synod failed to gain the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.It is perhaps an even greater irony that almost half the lay members who voted against female bishops were women. The debate continues and it seems to me that the Church will continue arranging ballots until it gets the result it wants. Much media coverage is given to this infighting and one has to look at the bigger picture, it is not simply a case of traditionalists versus modernisers but a question of the relevance or irrelevance of the Church of England to the lives of most people.Less than 3% of the population attends a church service every week. Yet they have 25 unelected bishops in the House of Lords. The Scouting Organisation also insist that their leaders MUST be monotheistic believers. They also control a disproportionate percentage of public education.Perhaps now is the time to remove the C of E from any position of authority without accountability.