"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

No women Bishops (yet) is really a victory for equality

So this was to be the General Synod that finally approved the ordination of women as Bishops in the Anglican Church, which as we now know, it narrowly failed to do despite majorities in favour among the Bishops and the Clergy. The vote failed to reach the required majority in the Laity where a compromise provision for parishes that wanted to opt out of the authority of a female Bishop was considered insufficient by some.
To me, looking at this divided and deluded organisation from the outside, this seems like a good result for women who truly value equality, even in such an inherently misogynistic environment as the church.
There is no equality in being a female Bishop when the authority it is supposed to confer can be flouted on purely sexist grounds by conservatives and evangelicals who choose not to be bound by it. By pandering to the reactionary and, lets face it, more doctrinally correct faction of the church the Synod was actually in danger of creating second class Bishoprics notionally led by women but in reality likely to be subordinated to ‘real’ Bishops (A.K.A men).
It’s almost impossible to imagine any other modern institution where this kind of situation would occur. What company for example would appoint a female CEO but then tell its employees that if they didn’t like being led by a woman they could report to a male alternative instead? It’s a bizarre concept that only in the La-La land of religion would have any kind of intellectual traction and I can’t understand why women in the church would seek ordination under those circumstances.
Frankly I don’t give a damn if the Church of England ties itself in theological knots and pulls itself to pieces trying to unravel them, but if I was to offer them some advice it would be to accept that ordaining women is the right thing to do in the interest of natural justice, to tell the evangelicals to like it or lump it and move forward without the encumbrance of a reactionary rump who will condemn them even more quickly to social irrelevance.
Also, while they are at it, the Bishops must realise that they can’t expound gender equality with respect to women and at the same time oppose marriage equality. They are not entirely separate issues, as a church that claims to be for social justice in one sphere cannot discriminate in another and be intellectually honest
One way this situation could be resolved is for parliament to remove the churches’ exemption to equality legislation, which considering the C of E is an arm of the establishment it really should not enjoy in the first place. This would force the Anglican Church to normalise itself in respect to other British institutions or disestablish and forego its privileged position in government and public life. Either option would be preferable to the current anachronism.

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