I wake up this morning with a deep sense of sadness, much of it is for my friends in the Anglican Church, men and women who must be perplexed and bemused by the vote in Synod yesterday. Perplexed and confused not only because of the result but actually because there was a majority in favour of women becoming Bishops and very House voted for and yet a small group effectively blocked this momentous decision. So I am sad for them, but I am also sad about the message that this decision has sent throughout the country, it declares that the Church is irrelevant, and I say "the Church" rather than simply the Anglican Church because for the people in the street, the public who do not largely differentiate between on church and another The Church has declared that women are not fit for high office!
I am not being insulting to the public in this for the Church is seen as an institution, I can't count the number of times I've been called vicar and asked about my parish, I've even been mistaken for a Roman Catholic Priest, which left me more bemused than the one who greeted me so warmly!
So what is the message that has been sent?
- The Church is out of date, and therefore irrelevant in 21st Century society where equality is expected if not always practiced, and critics rightly berate those who are seen to be against equality.
- Following on from that the message is that women are unfit for leadership, as one tearful woman priest said yesterday apparently we're OK for arranging flowers and making tea, offering a shoulder to cry on, but this vote has insulted and undermined women priests, and I would add women in ministry everywhere.
- That the "Old Boys Club" still has power; and while this may not be true as a number of those against women Bishops were women it has effectively made it so.
- More worryingly for me it sends out all sorts of mixed messages about God, of course there have always been mixed messages about God, but I would like to ask whether this vote somehow portrays the undendered God as male? S/he is presented to us as male as Father throughout Scripture and yet there is much female imagery such as God nursing and nurturing Israel at her breast, we miss so much by wearing gendered blinkers.
- A barrier has been erected where there should be none, the glass ceiling ignores the trajectory of Scripture which is towards freedom and equality, within order yes, but who truly sees equality as disordered?
To quote St Paul with all of his misogynistic, though often misinterpreted, writings he says this:
"28 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. "." (Galatians 3)
I finish a "letter by Nicola Slee and with another picture, a picture of the expectant Mary amazed and awed at what God has done within her dear brother Church, are you listening?
Dear brother Church
I name you "brother, not "mother"
for your leaders are mostly men
and your ways are still too patriarchal.
I want to live passionately
I will not hide my anger or my energy
Will you face your own?
I want to act effectively
I will not deny nor dissemble my power.
Will you admit your own and be willing to share it?
I want to think dangerously
I will not set limits on what is possible to ask say or explaore
Will you open the gates of learning you have been guarding and let others in?
I want to pray deeply
I will not hold any part of my life from the divine gaze
Will you plunge with me into the depths?
I will work with you
but I will not work for you.
I will walk with you
but I will not lead you, nor will I follow in your path.
I will weep with you and laugh with you,
but I will not feel for you,
you must claim your own passion and pleasure and tears.
I will offer you the fullness of my being,
but I will not sacrifice myself on the altar of your impossible demands.
Dear brother Church,
I am standing here as a woman struggling to be who I am,
I am speaking,
are you listening?