A friend retweeted this earlier:
Yet another thing I genuinely don’t get: why women want to part of a club that resolutely keeps telling them to fuck off.
It is a very good question. Here is my answer. A lot of it is similar to this post, which I wrote back in 2010. Some of it, however, is considerably more hopeful than I was in 2010.
I should first make it absolutely clear that I am deeply disappointed and saddened by yesterday’s Synod decision. It hurts like hell. I think it is bad for the Church’s mission, in terms of both ministry within and credibility without. I had almost begun to believe that we would see the first female bishop in the Church of England before I turned thirty – and could then move on to eradicating inequality elsewhere.
With this decision the Church of England has, of course, rendered itself unworthy to speak on the topic of inequality, hurt and betrayed hundreds of its own best ministers, and, it seems, hung out a huge sign saying WE DON’T WANT YOU.
I, however, am staying. Here are some reasons why:
The overall vote was 72% in favour. 72% of Synod do want us.
The measure got through the bishops. It got through the clergy. It only failed in the laity. Of course this is disappointing and infuriating, and highlights how bloody stupid the voting system is, but I am, in an odd way, encouraged. The bishops and clergy are there because that’s their job – and the vast majority of the bishops and clergy want women to be bishops. The laity are there because they’re fanatics with an axe to grind, on one side of the debate or the other, who have gone through all the hassle of being elected to Synod in order to grind that axe. (I, of course, am a fanatic with an axe to grind. I’m not on Synod, so just think how fanatic they’ll be who actually are.)
I wasn’t able to listen to the actual debate, being at work and all and therefore restricted to the Church of England’s Twitter feed, but I understand from people who were listening that several people who spoke (and, presumably, voted) against the measure did so because they felt that it did not protect women bishops enough. A clearer case of shooting oneself in the foot I never saw, but it does suggest that the House of Laity is not entirely a herd of misogynist dinosaurs. Of course, misguided idealists can do just as much damage…
Outside of London, where all things can be found, I very much doubt that I’ll find another congregation that’s simultaneously sound on women and LGBT, and has a decent choir. I’ll be interested to hear the Rector’s sermon on Sunday; I suspect it will be along the lines of ‘keep working for this, because we will get there’.
In a repeat from 2010:
This is my Church. It is my Church by right as an Englishwoman, by baptism, by faith, and by inheritance. I am working to see it become more like the Kingdom of Heaven, and I am not going to stop doing that just because those members who wish to restrict the ministry of other members have ‘won’ this time.
The Church of England is still the Established Church. For as long as it remains so, it behoves me as a member of the Church that belongs to the nation to make sure that the doors remain open to the nation.
In fact, in a bizarre way, this feels a lot more hopeful than 2010. I stopped crying last night when I thought how other members of my church would be feeling the same way as me. This time it’s not just me and a couple of other wingnuts on the internet. This time it feels like the vast majority of the Church of England, the rank and file, the clergy and the congregations, crying out in pain and fury. We are all standing at the foot of each other’s crosses. It’s rather like the end of Life of Brian.
We wanted it. And we will get there. And I want to be there when we do.