She’s a Lady, you know

395px-Mitre.svg“Have you met our new Bishop? She’s a lady, you know.” Or as Stan from Dinnerladies might have said “a real female woman”. It hasn’t happened yet, and there’s lots of quiet rumblings of ‘maybe by Christmas’ which all reminds me with a nasty thud that the last time ‘they’ said it’ll be done by Christmas that hopefully, the First World War failed dismally to stop. I’d rather it was done properly than quickly, by which I mean I want Bishops to be appointed because they are called by God and have the right skills for that particular context, and I want them to be able to exercise their episcopal authority regardless of their gender (and indeed regardless of the gender of their partner, should they have one).

But the point is slightly different tonight. I tweeted earlier “If a woman isn’t appointed to 1st poss vacancy – outcry. If she is, outcry.” It is the nature of being a groundbreaker that there are always critics. In fact being a ground breaker, literally or metaphorically is deuced hard work, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The first few women who are appointed bishop in the Church of England are going to be subject to all sorts of scrutiny and pressure simply because they aren’t male.

I do, to a very small extent, know what I am talking about. I was the only female engineer on the power station where I worked, and only the second technical female employee on the site ever (the first had long gone by the time I arrived). For a short window of time, you couldn’t pick up a brochure about the company without seeing my youthful visage, complete with hard hat. There were a few folk about who were convinced I got the job because I was a woman and it looked good to have a woman for the gender statistics. Of course, the really tough bit is that those few people may well have been right. I don’t know. My degree was adequate but not spectacular – and I have no answer for those who questioned my being there. In many ways it will be worse for early female bishops – the role is inherently high profile, and they will have been appointed by a process of discernment that isn’t the most transparent thing in the world. They are going to need prayers. I’d best get on it.

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7 responses to “She’s a Lady, you know

  1. Seriously – it could be you. Why not? You seem to me to be prayerful, interesting, pastoral, thoughtful etc. I can think of several “wrong” men, by comparison. xxx One just hopes that when it comes to the moment, God is wide awake and giving non-confusing nudges.

    • If ever I am called to the Episcopate, I sincerely hope I’ll have a sensible amount of parish experience under my belt – and I would need a new hard hat (they have use by dates, did you know that?!). I’m confident God is in the process somewhere, just hope we humans listen! I’m far too prone to speaking my mind and forget that when people ask me questions, they mostly don’t want to hear my answers 😉

  2. Back in the real world, there’s a queue of equally talented women, whose experience of high-level leadership in the Cathedral’s and Diocese around the country mean that they’re in front of Claire. 🙂 They’re the ones who are getting the experience of being high-profile and under scrutiny as ‘the watchers’ in the House of Bishops. As Claire says, the first women bishops, will be under even worse scrutiny; much more than any human should be subjected too; and the anti will be upped on their male colleagues too I suspect. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    I guess you could donate your hard-hat Claire since they’ll need it WHEN we get that far (which I doubt will be by Christmas, in fact we’ll be darn lucky to even have the legislation in place by then)!

    • There’s a queue? NOW you tell me 😉 See previous reply about my hard hat – it’s out of date (and arguably the wrong shape!). I’m more worried about the legislation being right (by which I mean something I agree with!) than the timing – I think it’ll be a couple more years yet, but I am notoriously poor at guessing.

  3. We’ve had the “over-scrutiny of female candidates” in the Scottish Episcopal Church for a while now. Although they’ve been “allowed” here for a while now, there have been no female bishops in Scotland yet. But more than once there has been a candidate, and the whispering that goes along with it has been as tiresome as you could imagine. Being one of the early appointments will be tough, but it will be also good and right and about time too, when it happens.

  4. From my perspective I can only cry “Why not NOW Lord”!!

    I don’t get the idea that male primacy is still a valid scriptural or theological context to live by? We live with a legacy of 2000 years of male leadership in the Church and outside the Church and what a fine mess we’ve made of it.

    You allude to WW1 and that is a prime case of male leadership which cost millions of lives and so in WW2. In the case of WW1, women were still fighting or the vote, and even after the whole amount of work they did in the war effort, the vote was only grudgingly given to married women over the age of 30 in 1923. I wonder if Women had been intimately involved in such decision making on an equal basis to men, would we ever have gone to war? (Mind you, Margaret Thatcher seems to me to have been one of the most warlike of leaders the country has ever seen).

    The Church is often described as living in the past and moving slowly to catch up with secular society, but also where the Holy Spirit seems to be taking us. We prevaricate, we delay, we fight bitterly with each other, which little by little, take us further away from mission, public credibility and from the God of love who, through Jesus Christ is our whole reason for being.

    I often hear that we are called to be ‘in the world’ but set apart from it by our faith and love for God, living by the Gospels and bringing the Kingdom of God about here and now. The failure to accept that gender isn’t a bar to leadership and that sexuality isn’t a bar to being a good and faithful Christian and suitable for leadership positions within the Church, betrays that implicit message of love and places us firmly in the bounds of “errors and omissions” which need and deserve repentance. Until we’re repentant and make things right, we are far away from God as those who oppose God’s existence on the basis of ideology or science or who just couldn’t care less.

    So, now is the time for a repentant church to make things right for every women who has been discriminated against in any way, and to make a bold statement of that repentance by allowing women to be consecrated as bishops fully and equally with their male counterparts.

    I sincerely pray that we do so, or we become a elitist sect, do gooders, without any morality worth following.

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