I really can’t believe the news that the Church of England will not, after all, be appointing women bishops for at least five years. Ok, ok, I can sense you yawning already, but it is a serious issue and one which does affect all women, wherever in the world they may be.
The joy of the Church of England has always been its inclusiveness – it spreads all the way from High Church with bells, smells and more than a waft of the UK’s old religion, Catholicism, right over to tambourines and rousing fireside renditions of ‘Kumbya My Lord’.
Ok, yes, it’s been a bit silly about whether gay couples can get married in Church, but I’m sure it’ll get there in the end. It’s accepted divorcees like me, for instance. For a very long time, divorcees couldn’t get remarried in church (unless they were Henry VIII, of course) and I was a bit nervous about raising my somewhat chequered marital status with our vicar. In fact, I nearly didn’t bother to ask about a church wedding at all as I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be allowed in wearing a white frock. But the very kind Rev Canon Dr Alan Race immediately said that, in divorce and separation, one goes through enough sadness and pain, and as far as he is concerned, the Church plays its part in helping everyone to a happier future.
Though I struggle with religious feelings – rather like the way I struggle to find meaning in Rothko’s paintings – I really warmed to the sense of inclusion this gentle acceptance gave me. So I can only imagine the hurt and shock being felt by all the women priests, who have been working in and for the Church for twenty years, who have now been slapped in the face by the Synod’s decision. How very dare it say these women are not worthy of promotion?
The Church of England is supposed to be progressive, modern, forward thinking. It is meant to shine a light in the dark corners of the world, where women’s status is so much more precarious than in this country, in places where women have no role in their own religion, except to cover up and shut up.
Women are not usually madly ambitious for themselves, but crave security and fulfilment for their families. I don’t suppose any C of E women priests woke up this morning, thinking, ‘damn, there go my chances of gaining supreme power in the church.’ I expect it’s more a sense of deep disappointment that not only women priests, but all women, who form the backbone of congregations for all religions, have been so publicly slighted by this stupid, short-sighted action. Just don’t expect your church’s flower arrangements to be great on Sunday, that’s all I’m saying.