November 21, 2012

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?

Dawn French as the Vicar of Dibley: not bishop material, apparently

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.

You Might Also Like

  • Addy November 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Funnily enough I was tempted to do a piece on this today. I am afraid the Church of England and the Synod in particular are stuck in the Dark Ages. It was all very well when you could jump on your horse and start swashbuckling around in the parts of the world where they needed some good old-fashioned Christianity drummed into them, but they are no good at keeping up with the 21st century and equal opportunities. Catholicism is no better either. In fact most religions seem to keep women under the thumb. No wonder the Church has problems with empty pews.

    • Dulwich Divorcee November 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      You’re so right! Though I think that, shockingly, it’s not the C of E bishops or priests themselves who are so against progress, it’s the laity …. which includes a lot of women! Incomprehensible in my view. The Church is now carrying out blatant discrimination against women and will continue to do so – a complete anomaly. And the unfortunate result will be, as you say, a lot of empty pews.

  • janerowena November 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    There are now a fair few lady Deans in the cathedrals. I believe the males are feeling more threatened than ever, in a ‘We will soon be extinct’ kind of way. I think if the women became a majority, there would inevitably be a major shake-up in the way church affairs are run. So the Old Boys Club closed ranks yet again. I had several years of observing church politics as a chorister’s mother at Winchester. It was amazing what I learnt from having to attend services 4 or more times a week just to get a glimpse of my son. At that level there is a lot of guarding one’s back going on, fear of being moved to somewhere less prestigious, and a brilliant young lady cleric there felt she had to give in her notice and move on because she was completely excluded. I would have bet that she would go far. So if ever we get a red-headed Archbishop of Canterbury – that’s her.

    • Dulwich Divorcee November 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      You’d think they’d be grateful that anyone is interested in a career in the church these days! Your Winchester experiences sound fascinating – a novel there I’m sure! Yes, I shall definitely look out for your redheaded friend – it will be a tragedy if she and many others abandon the C of E after this mess

  • neil abbott November 27, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I stumbled across your website whilst looking for something else in Dulwich. I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to replying to this sort of thing, a dinosaur, and a novice one at that! I’m also aware that I’m heading into dangerous territory being a bloke commenting on this sort of stuff. I’m a free church man myself (Baptist?? although a bit disenchanted) Anyway what i wanted to say was this. I thought the article was really good, and funny, and serious at the same time. But I just wanted to reply to one thing that you said about women being denied promotion. I think you’ve missed the point cos although promotion might appear to be the name of the game, real promotion in the church is downwards, as far as Jesus is concerned, anyway. He modelled true authority by doing the most menial of tasks, foot washing, which was about as low as you can get! Against that, we’ve all got a hard act to follow. Your Vicar sounds like a gracious guy! thanks for the blog!

    • Dulwich Divorcee November 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks for popping in and I take your point. Yes, the Vicar is a lovely chap 🙂

  • neil abbott November 27, 2012 at 10:03 am

    You can tell I’m a dinosaur cos just read my comments that have been posted and it’s entitled “Your comment is awaiting moderation” i didn’t say that! How come it appeared? Is my comment awaiting moderation or is it yours?! Yours, worried,

    • Dulwich Divorcee November 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Don’t worry, it all works out somehow in blogland 🙂