A lifetime as a woman

A bit obvious you might think – A lifetime as a woman – of course that is what it is. I am not going to get into a discussion of transgender issues, don’t know enough about it. But I do know about being a woman and what it means –  from being born during WWII, growing up in the 50s, being married in the 60s, being a mother of four, becoming a mature student in the 80s, a Minister in the Church of Scotland in the 90s, and a retiree in the 21st century. That qualifies me to speak about certain things. So though this rant comes with a slight apology to my Church of England friends, I cannot stay silent any longer.

In the CofS women have had equal rights in terms of ordination to the Eldership and the Ministry since 1968. However, I recognise that in practice this is not always the case. For example there are still parts of Scotland where women are not accepted, despite Church Law. Those of us in ministry were well aware that there were parts of Scotland where being appointed to a parish were not possible because of local prejudice. Here is where my willingness to accept another’s point of view could spoil my argument, for I can see that some people support a narrow point of view which truly believes that scripture is against equality for women, at least in terms of ordination. And this despite the fact that for many years it has been a question asked about at Selection Procedures. The idea being to make sure that new ministers accepted the legal position of the CofS.

This being the position, I have watched and listened to the debates on the place of women in the Church of England over the years. I always thought it was a mistake that the women themselves accepted a secondclass priesthood right from the start of their ordination. It was written into the canons that people were perfectly entitled to stay clear of any bishop who dared to ordain women. As I understand it, Flying Bishops could be brought in from other dioceses, these being bishops who had not soiled their hands by ordaining women.

Today, in the General Synod of the Church of England, the matter of whether women can be admitted to the episcopacy is to be further debated. As I said, I had never thought it to be any of my business. But I am so, so angry that my sisters are being denied equality and the opportunity to serve God and the church. It matters to me because we live in the United Kingdom, and the CofE is an established church in England, the major part of the UK in terms of population.

All I can do is to pray for grace. Not for me to blindly accept injustice, but for others to reflect upon why it is that religion is so downright offensive. We can do little about other countries. But I still feel very much a part of the UK and want to continue to be proud of our laws of state and a national religion that promotes justice, equality and an ability to allow other religions to exist in what is supposed to be a Christian country.

Of course the other alternative is that we become a secular state and stop pretending.

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10 Responses to A lifetime as a woman

  1. Tim says:

    Indeed: I made up my mind on the matter about 20 years ago and am increasingly horrified at the way the CoE behaves on issues of gender (and sexuality) (and authority). The phrase “get with the programme” comes to mind, putting it nicely.

  2. Tabor says:

    I am one of those spiritual people who is not religious, the ones you probably pray for. But I can’t think of any religion where women are not treated as second class or lower extensions of humanity. That is why I think most religions are man-made and not designed by any universal God of love.

  3. freda says:

    Thanks for your comments, Tim and Tabor, I don’t know when and how the religious institutions are going to get real. But at other times I am more buoyant and can summon the hope to pray that things will get better. Anyway, I count myself as part of the church worldwide and I agree that a God of love will win through in the end.

  4. Jimmy says:

    There are literally hundreds of precedents in the Bible of women – Leading, teaching, exhorting, prophesiying, praying, more than enough to make it clear that Paul was trying to stop the fledgeling church sliding back to what many gentiles of that time and culture came from – priestess paganism.
    The church should have left the idea that women should not aspire to positions of leadership in the church to that time and culture.

    Gay groups in the church often cite the changing attitude toward women in leadership as an example of how the church and doctrine can change.
    But although there is many examples of women in leadership roles in the Bible there is not one word of precedent for two gay married men leading a church. So that would have to be teaching a new doctrine and setting a new precedent.

  5. Lyn says:

    You know, as I read this, the thought that first crossed my mind was that the CofE was established in order that a woman could be put out of a man’s life. Interesting, isn’t it, that the institution hasn’t moved far in the interim?

    Years ago, in the ’80s, I was serving as an officer on the council of my church, a fairly liberal branch of the Lutheran Church here in the US. A couple new in town was visiting, and I made a point of welcoming them, visiting with them for some time following the service. In the course of conversation, the woman asked me if she heard me right, that I was on the directing council and was an officer. I confirmed it, and then was struck with the look of amazement on her face. I learned that they had belonged to one of the very conservative branches of the Lutheran Church, in which not only were women excluded from the pulpit, from participating in any part of the service (such as reading aloud from the scripture from the lectern), from serving on the directing council, but even from having a voice/vote in matters of the Church! She was as stunned in reverse.

    I’m afraid that as far as we sometimes think we have evolved, we are still stuck with a great deal of “isms” limiting our ability to simply be people. I wonder how many more generations before those isms go away.

  6. Linda Hillin says:

    I worked 17 years in a seminary where half the students were women. The “Church” is such a mess. The Bible is used so often to defend prejudice.

  7. cloudia says:

    we yanks have supposed separation of church
    & state, yet religion rules…you have a state church, but a secular society….curious.

    Aloha from Hawaii, friend 🙂

    Comfort Spiral

  8. Tim says:

    Tabor: the ones you probably pray for

    Depends what you think praying is, and what you mean by `pray for’. Hint: probably not as bad as you allude 🙂

    Freda: I trust you’ve seen good news? I fail to understand why it should take yet another 2 years but at least the CoE synod are being consistent.

    Here’s one to bake the noodle. That BBC news item has dug out someone threatening to leave the CoE over the issue. Is the church *too* paranoid about counting bums-on-pews that it daren’t let people go where they feel most comfortable? Also, doesn’t the approach “until I am driven out” quoted there seem incongruously pathetic? He’s involved in the decision-making processes of the CoE and yet takes a passive attitude, blaming the establishment.

    Jimmy: Gay groups in the church often cite the changing attitude toward women in leadership as an example of how the church and doctrine can change.

    I can’t say I’ve heard that one much, and it seems rather weak as arguments go, especially with its spin about doctrine changing.

    not one word of precedent for two gay married men leading a church
    There doesn’t have to be. The point is that the bible was written WITHIN the contexts of various cultures. You have to see the culture of the times first[0] and then see what the bible contains in relation to that[1], then you can extrapolate to today and assess what it means to subscribe to the tradition and its stories in today’s context. Society changes over centuries, writing stuff as it goes, and sometimes we look back on a remaining subset of those writings from a gap of ~1900yrs – does it not make sense to say “take the stories we find we can resonate with” and dump this preposterous idea of the bible “saying”, much less “prescribing”, anything?!

    [0] Let’s not forget that Roman blokes used wives for procreation and lavished affection on boys – as a cultural norm, (why) would that be mentioned in the bible in the remaining filtered epistle to the Romans?

    [1] When Paul “permits women to learn from their husbands at home”, that is relative to a culture that didn’t even allow that. It’s not about staying shut-up in church, it’s about giving women more rights than they already had.

  9. freda says:

    Didn’t manage to get to the comments feed for much of yesterday, so I am very interested to see the discussions developing.
    Lydia: you’re right I did enjoy the cartoon and the robust comments, and I like nakedpastor’s post today giving some suggestions for ground-rules in entering into debate on posts on his blog. Sorry, I don’t know how to link to things on this comments section of wordpress, so I’ll put the link on the main page for today.
    Jimmy: I am like Tim (see his comment) and think the idea of using the women-debate as a precedent for gay ministry is flawed. I would tend to use the “slavery issue’ as a way of entering into discussion. But for now I am sticking to the women in leadership and equality as my concern, simply because of my own experiences.
    Tim: thanks for chipping in. I understand from those who know the ins and outs of the synodial processes that there is still a long way to go before we can rejoice at all being well. The next 2yrs are going to be about vigorous jockeying for a power base to stall the whole process.

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