And they wonder why churches are closing.

About forty years ago, I sat and listened to an already very old lady who described herself as a feminist – she had been one since she was my age. She had been a suffragette, had worked on equal terms with men, and stoutly believed that the sexes were equal. She was the generation before my mother’s. If my mother was alive today she would be 96. My mother worked. She had been a career journalist in the thirties and forties. She had been an editor.

And here we are, in 2010 being told that it will take ‘more time’ before substantial parts of the C of E, a western church in the same country that saw the suffragettes one hundred years ago and then the career women of the 30s, can bring themselves to believe that a woman can represent the authority of God on earth. Now is too soon.

I do ask myself what country these people have been living in. Plainly not the same England (sic) as that in which I spent my girlhood. Not the same England that my mother spent her girlhood in either. Probably, come to that, not even Edwardian England, either.

I had thought these discussions were perhaps part of a truly lunatic fringe, but discussions this week have, depressingly, convinced me that I know all too many men, and perhaps even the occasional woman, who really thinks like this – thinks, by implication, that God cannot be represented by a woman and that there is something in men which makes them uniquely the image of God and more Christ-like.

And they wonder why churches are closing.


10 responses to “And they wonder why churches are closing.

  1. A missive from across the pond.

    Churches can’t close fast enough, in my opinion. In Ben Franklin’s words, “Lighthouses are more useful than churches.” In America, churches pay no taxes on property holdings of any kind including parking lots, factories, bakeries. They are an anachronistic parasite. I ignored religion until the Religious Right in my country decided they wanted to flex their political muscle and try to turn the States into a theocracy.

    I could go on and on about their anti-feminism and anti-environmental attitudes but that’s probably more up your alley.

    Thanks for allowing me the space to rant.

  2. A lot of society is progressive, to the extent that I find it bizarre when I encounter anyone of retarded attitude:
    a) no women (priests / bishops)
    b) mankind’s responsibility is to devour the environment
    c) …the faith once handed down…
    d) “the bible says”, at which my hackles rise
    e) KJV was the best version
    f) …

    @queencitybreakdown: a theocracy wouldn’t be too bad if it was the kind of theo on which atheists and religious people could agree, and that involves a shed-load of Christians working out what God’s like first.

  3. rosemaryhannah

    Well, I think we might have rather a lot of problems getting to that understanding Tim – interesting though.

    When I moved home and had to find a new church, I started out looking for a church where I could offer a contribution – inevitable I suppose, I was taken down more than a peg or two. I really do not think I have much to offer my current church, but when I am tempted to despair over the current state of the wider church, the lovely interesting and supportive people in my new church put me back together again. It is, as everybody there well knows, an open inclusive church. It is good to know I am surrounded by people who, whatever their views, reach out to embrace others and not to reject them.

  4. I really do not think I have much to offer my current church

    I know that feeling all too well. When I first started going to an (evo-)CoE place down south, I wondered “what can an ex-classic-guitarist geek do here?”. But actually, half of that’s the church/Church’s problem: ex-classic-guitarist geeks exist and would like to church. If a church views itself as out to get bums-on-pews (because it thinks it provides something oh-so-wonderful) then it fails to cater for the variety of folks who’d like to come in. That’s not even the early-Acts-2 model: it must be more like a whole vibrant bodies-in-building disco where the demographic is representative of, and open to, the outside world.

    Down there, I did sound-desk.

    Up here, thanks to a shunt from the first rector I knew at church, my geekish tendencies have been well used (and still are).

    It can work out well 🙂

  5. rosemaryhannah

    Tim, my current church has such a huge array of talent in the areas in which I am strongest that I cannot but be redundant there- but thank you for that very heartening post.

  6. it’s not just the men, Rosemary.

    A number of women at synod rejected the suggestions that we should use inclusive (and diverse) language for God, and that we needed to better understand feminist principles in the church.

    It was the old ‘well *I* know mankind is an inclusive word’ sort of argument.

  7. rosemaryhannah

    If only we did not speak English it would be so much easier to fight this one out, you know – you cannot make the same confusions in Latin or Greek.

    I often wonder if we should not have found some way of insisting we were all men, and that men were called something wholly else – the trouble is I have never been able to think what else. And I suppose nobody else could either.

  8. rosemaryhannah

    And perhaps we should have tackled the God thing first. I cannot but feel that leaving blatant sexism aside and allowing for the fact we cannot totally understand God, the huge success of the pretty unimaginative ‘The Shack’ suggests most people are in a poor small sad frightened place when it comes to thinking about God.

  9. I am all in favour of the Hindu notion (if my understanding of Sinhala has allowed me to grasp what was being said to me) That God must (amongst everything that God is) be all that is male and female as he/she created both…thus assigning a gender to God or placing more value on one gender than the other is nonsensical (I think that’s what was being explained to me…but niether party in the conversation spoke Sinhala as a first language).

  10. rosemaryhannah

    Well, as to the Sinhala, I cannot speak, but certainly that would be the mature view of Christian thought. I live in hope it is the mature view in the pews, but dear knows I cannot pretend to understand the thought processes of those opposing female bishops, so perhaps not.

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