Friday, 14 May 2010

Troubled waters

An article in the Church Times outlines the type of provision that might be put in place under the Code of Practice, the option chosen by the Revision Committee into legislation around the issue of women Bishops. The fine details will be debated in Synod in July.
This is welcome news for those involved in the campaign for women's ministry and for those who agree with them. It is, of course, bitter news for many opposed to the ministry of women, who do not feel there are sufficient safeguards in place. Both those from the Anglo Catholic and evangelical wings of the church have made their feelings known. Reform have threatened to withold money and dissuade ordinands - see Church Mouse here - while Anglo Catholics seem mightily upset that they are free to go to Rome and that many are wishing them well, although, to be fair, jumping ship in this way is hardly a trouble free option.
The Church of England seems to have given the green light to the ministry and the fuller inclusion of women, over fifteen long years after the first women were ordained. I hope that traditionalists will be able to understand the compelling reasons the Committee had for the decisions they reached and to be able to accept the provision within the Code of Practice, established for the benefit of those whose conscience is at odds with the majority.


  1. Emm, interesting.

    I don’t know if you caught an archive interview on Radio 4 a few months ago? It was an interview between some BBC reporter (I think??) and Barbara Castle, just after she had introduced breatherlising and alcohol limits for driving, sometime in the late 60s. What astounded me, was that Barbara Castle was asked [I’m paraphrasing here] ‘You’re a woman and yet you think you can tell men how to drive and how much it is safe for them to drink?’ Things have certainly moved on!

    I have a ball-park theory that the CofE loosely follows the trends of the middle-classes, though with about a ten year time lag. Here I don’t mean the liberal middle-class, but your bog standard, middle of the road type (which may or may not contain liberals). Throughout the 70s and into the 80s there was a greater degree of autonomy and muted equality for women. Come the 90s we get women priests. However there is still a paucity of women in the top jobs in the professionals etc. in England and we see a reluctance in the natural progression of the decision to ordain women, that is female bishops. Obviously this is greatly simplified, but there is some correlation between social attitudes to gender and attitudes within the church.

    Personally I think what would do the CofE a great deal of good would be to lobby for disestablishment. Then it could break up into its various factions yet remain under a loose umbrella ‘commonwealth’ of Anglicanism. Anglo-Catholics could ponce around in vestments and the incense of misogyny to their hearts’ content (though with increasingly empty churches) and the Evangelicals can queer-bash, distraught that once disestablished, no one is listening. Hopefully this leaves your rank and file, mainstream Anglicans can just get on with doing what they do best. Some can have female bishops if they so wish, others can refrain. Given the most successful churches in the present day are the Evangelicals and esp. the Pentecostals where (particularly with the latter) the proportion of women in the pews is very high but the number of women in leadership is extremely low; it seems likely disestablishment wouldn’t do much to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles. However it would mean the ones who do become bishops will do so without the same degree of opposition.

  2. I heard that clip on Radio 4 a few weeks ago, it was something along the lines of "you don't drive and you're only a woman, so what gives you the right to an opinion." There was definitely the phrase "and you're only a woman" in there! I was pretty gobsmacked, but then I remember things like that being said in the 70s. I remember only girls doing domestic science and the boys doing woodwork, for example!

    Thank you for this comment. I was quite amused by the idea of the Anglo Catholics poncing around in vestments and the evangelicals queer bashing while distraught at being ignored - I think they call that "living counter culturally" by the way:) I also think the C of E should be disestablished - then John Richardson couldn't moan as we saw on that thread you were commenting on. [I think you said something there about a time share in Narnia ; your way with words is quite amusing!]

  3. P.S. I note we have similar tastes in books! Middlemarch is my favourite novel - beside Jane Austin and 'Remains of the Day' doubles as a fantastic (and oh so clever, when you think of its subject matter) book and film. The latter is my Friday-night-partner's-gone-to-bed-and-I'm-alone-with-the-remains-of-a-bottle-of-wine-and-then-perhaps-a-G&T-&-I'm-going-to-watch-a-good-film-on-DVD idea of a perfect end to the week!

  4. As I social worker, if clearing the house of a single man with dementia or the like, who was going into care, and you happened to come across a stash of either Evangelical or Catholic tracts (or Islamic, now I think of it), you knew there was a good change you’d find a suitcase or box in the wardrobe with a stash of porn - and this happened with alarming regularity. Outwardly devout women too had their share of ‘objects’ stashed at the back of the wardrobe! So I am always weary of people who become overly concerned with other people's morality; it usually means they have serious hang-ups about their own.

    Yes, you’ve remembered the Barbara Castle interview better than me. I stood rooted to the spot in the kitchen at the phrase ‘You’re only a woman...’; but that went on and even today is evident in some circles – not least in some churches.

    Well, back to de-greasing the cooker (I’m mildly compulsive-obsessive when it comes to house work and am at present taking a break while my steam cleaner ‘charges’ up again!! What a way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning).

    Have a good weekend.