I’ve finally got there. I’ve finally got the balance between trying to be gracious, and being angry. And if you believe that, then you’ll know I’m also the Queen of Sheba, Wimbledon Ladies Champion, and a Visiting Professor at Oxford University (well, if I’m going for wish fulfilment I might as well aim high).
There’s the give-away in that second sentence. I am angry, I am trying to be gracious. It’s a shame it’s not the other way round. I’m trying to keep calm and carry on in the face of discrimination by my beloved Church of England. Yes, I knew what I was signing up for. No, I didn’t know what it would feel like – and I say that after twenty years in the energy industry. Because, with my engineering degree, and my MBA, by doing a good job, other doors opened. They sometimes took longer than others, acceptance into new jobs sometimes took a while, but I always got there, I always became part of the team on my own merits. The only bar on my career was that imposed by my own imagination, and by the limitations of my abilities.
I don’t mind being limited by my abilities. I have a very dodgy ankle, which means I couldn’t make it through a knock up at my local court, let alone a tennis tournament – at any level. I don’t mind that I didn’t have the kind of brain which wanted to run market research, or call centres. I like being a bit of a geek, who loves graphs and maps and process diagrams. I like a lot of who I am.
But now here I am in an institution which tells me I have a calling, but I am limited in the places in which I can follow it. People who don’t fancy the idea of a woman priest can pronounce a theological objection (really, I don’t think there are many who object on theological grounds, if pressed) and never ever even make the effort to see if they can work with me or not. And no matter how it’s dressed up, that comes down to having a vagina not a penis. This isn’t trying to limit me based on my ability or my imagination or my discerned calling. This is limiting me with a huge part of my fundamental identity.
Twenty years in the energy industry taught me, really really taught me, that gender doesn’t matter, that what matters is getting the right person with the right abilities in the right place with the right resources and the right people around them. That if those things come together, human beings achieve amazing things, and have a lot of fun at the same time.
So I’m angry. The secular world gets it. I just wish Christian institutions got it too.
This post has broken my rule of trying to be gracious, of trying to listen to others. I’ve listened really hard, and all I can hear is the shouting of old arguments. I’ve heard them about women bishops, I’ve heard them about how women clergy dress (oh grow up and get over it) and I’ve heard them about who can and can’t teach others under particular conditions. I’ve heard them, and I’ve had enough. I’ve gone to the dark side and joined those who shout.
You may wonder where this leaves my desire to serve all those in my community as a parish priest. Alive and kicking, don’t worry. Because we asked our congregations what they thought. The one person who doesn’t want women bishops ever (and also had the decency to sign his name to the statement, which I think is gracious in itself) takes communion at my hands. There are a small number who either weren’t in church to respond, or who take home communion, who will not accept women priests or bishops. But the vast vast majority are supportive.
In the parishes, I’ve never been turned down for a baptism or wedding – which are randomly assigned, and I note they generally involve people in the younger half of the population at large. I’ve had a couple of funerals mooted where the family decided they wanted a man (before they met me), and know that funeral directors do a fair amount of filtering before deciding which clergy to contact – but funerals inherently tend to be for the older part of the population.
I’m still not joining any organisations, but I might just get louder. This situation in the Church of England is blatant discrimination, and it shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
I’m leaving comments open, but will remove any that tell me to calm down, or that I’m being shrill, or that I’m doing my cause no good by shouting, unless they suggest constructive, practical alternative courses of action.