The Rev. Sally Hitchiner, chaplain of Brunel University
Photo: Time World Magazine
On the 20th of November 2012, the General Synod of the Church of England voted against the ordination of women bishops. The debate had been raging for many months, and elicited strong reactions on both sides, however the rejection of allowing high-ranking female clergy still came as a shock to many.
The vote was not unanimous. In fact, it was frustratingly close; falling short by only 6 votes in the House of Laity. The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, expressed his “deep personal sadness” at the outcome and his soon to be successor, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, named it a “grim day.”
Despite not being a member of the Anglican congregation, I was hugely disappointed by this blatant endorsement of inequality within a leading Christian organisation. Several weeks on, and with hymns and cards declaring the celebration of Christ’s birth everywhere in the run up to Christmas, I find that my disappointment has turned to anger. In declaring women unfit to hold the post of bishop, the church is effectively sending the message that women are less spiritual, less faithful, and less worthy of God’s love. So how do you explain to a girl at Christmas time that God loves her, but not enough to grant her permission to spread his message or lead her fellow men (and women) of faith?
A Christian child cannot even turn to scripture for comfort. The apostle Paul declares “it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (Corinthians 14:34-35) and that we should “not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (Timothy 2:12). Add to this the stories of Eve, Salome, the miscasting of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, and numerous other examples, the child is left with a clear view that in the Christian world, women are second-class citizens.
I know that none of this is news to those who have long campaigned for equality. I believe that this perspective does not reflect the true message of God. The Bible, viewed as an historical artifact, was written by men and reflects the male-centric society of the time. In modern times, however, when we speak of “mankind” we don’t refer only to the male population of our globe. It is time for the church to stop taking the Bible so literally and to embrace the true message of love and equality:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Girl Museum Inc.