Ant Cule

Sexism in the Synod

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Is anyone surprised? Having spoken about the Patriarchy last week, the fates have been kind enough to bless us with one of the oldest on the planet wheezing and lumbering into our headlines all week. Of course the Church of England has a voting system that allows the conservative minority to preserve their precious traditions. Reading about this has been a perfect storm of subjects guaranteed to get my blood up; inequality and religion.

From Abraham down, it’s no secret that the major faiths are patriarchies, all viewing God as a male, viewing sex as evil and generally encouraging the suppression of women. The quote I’ve most often read with regards to this is St. Paul from 1 Corinthians 11:3: “The head of a woman is her husband”. They neglect to mention St. Paul hammering home the point that we are all equal under God. How about Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – see, the problem with relying on the Bible as your moral barometer is that you can get away with just about anything. I’ve read of both sides saying “This is God’s will” in very different contexts. It’s not God’s will. It’s the will of the few seeking to control the many and getting away with it.

Why not make the Church accountable to the European court of Human Rights? Cameron has spoken out against the Church’s decision, but is refusing to do anything about it. Is it really still so sacred?

What is there to lose? I’ve read of fear of schism if women were allowed to become bishops. But if the Church is not facing schism as a result of the vote then I don’t know what will prompt it.  Surely but surely the more able bodies and minds the Church can have extolling its message the better for it? It could be that I’m missing something? Maybe God’s word means nothing if spoken through a woman’s voicebox.

This looks to me like an old and archaic institution in its death throes because of its refusal to change with the modern world. And this is why I find people so fascinating. They are capable of the most enormous change and invention even in the toughest of circumstances, but are also capable of being the most stubborn, habit driven creatures. The Church of England changed and adapted to having female priests. The Church of England would have changed and adapted to having female bishops. And this is the most frustrating thing: the world has proven time and time again, it phases out things that don’t work and keeps things that do and this way progress is made. So why not take the risk? If female bishops truly didn’t work, then they wouldn’t.

It’s almost as if the Church of England is ignoring all the evidence.

-Ant Cule

2 thoughts on “Sexism in the Synod

  1. I have much sympathy with this blogpost. However, I think Ant falls into the typical atheistic default-position of hating religion without recognising its proper place in the liberation of women. Ant’s right of course that Saint Paul probably hated women. His diatribe in 1 Timothy 2 is very well known; women should know their place, shut up and bear children. At times, it would seem that the entire trajectory of the Church since Pauline times has been one of patriarchal domination. And with the Synod vote it would seem that the modern Church bears a remarkable resemblance to its misogynistic precursor.

    However, like all good Christians, Paul’s personal experience of faith was marred by contradictions and challenges. It is hard to believe that the chap who wrote 1 Timothy was also the chap who penned the words that in Christ’s view ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female’. On the one hand the Church has perpetuated a male-dominated system of belief which has marginalised the contribution to history of a whole gender; and on the other, preached a gospel of equality and blind love. The hypocrisy is plain to see.

    I want to make clear: the reason that I write this response is not to rubbish my religion or indeed my church (I’m a practising Anglican) but to put forward a much ignored viewpoint which is held by many in the Church. I want to make the point that religious belief is compatible with being a feminist. I know that just sniping at the Church for its ‘weirdness’ or its ‘backwardness’ does nothing for us Christians who struggle to reconcile two irrefutable truths: the divinity of Christ and the equality of His creation. In fact, it isolates us still further from the march for fairness and dignity.

    Like atheists, Christians, too, need to recognise the proper place of women in Christian history. It was a woman who Christ first revealed Himself to when He rose from the dead. It was a woman whom Christ sent to tell the disciples of His resurrection. It was a woman who told the male disciples of the Good News – not the other way round. In other words, the first preacher who was not God was a woman! For me, and millions of other Christians, there can be no greater hint, nod and wink in the direction of female equality than the very example of our Lord. Indeed, the contribution of female priests today shows that their God-given ability to administer His Gospel is gender-blind. What’s more, I’m glad the new Archbishop agrees with me.

    Secondly, the overwhelming secular and left-wing feminist movement needs to accept that feminism does not belong to them alone. It is not mutually exclusive to be Christian and feminist. It is not self-hating to love God and to love other women. It is not hypocritical to read and enjoy Saint Paul as well as Judith Butler. Indeed, if as a movement we can recognise the fight for dignity and respect for all people needs to include all people then we can hope for a more truthful Christianity in the years to come. Perhaps, after all and for all his faults, Saint Paul was onto something when he said there is neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ. Essentially, this article focusses too much on an outdated and historically inaccurate view of Christianity. It fails to mention the Christian motivations of the Suffragettes, the extension of education to females by the Church, the non-ordained leadership positions which women have occupied for centuries which allowed them to challenge the status quo.

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