On faith, freedom and female bishops
So the Church of England has debated the issue and ending up saying no to the idea of women bishops. This, we’re told, is a final no, but it strikes me that at some point in the past it was probably almost equally definite that there would no be women vicars, and yet today the Anglican church both in and outside of England has plenty of women priests who are not Dawn French. The article even says that it’s killed the prospect off for at least five years, which doesn’t sound all that final to me. For now though it does look like this has put the kybosh on the idea in the CofE.
And I say this: so bloody what?
There will now almost certainly be calls in Parliament for the Church of England’s exemption from equality legislation — effectively allowing it to discriminate against women by barring them from becoming bishops — to be removed, opening the way for women to bring a legal challenge.
Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour minister, said: “This means the Chruch is being held hostage by an unholy and unrepresentative alliance of conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
“This will add to clamour for disestablishment, there is even talk of moves in Parliament to remove the Church’s exemption from the Equality Act.”
Look, it’s their religion and if freedom of religion is to remain in Britain then we all have to accept that practitioners of a given religion can run it however they like providing it doesn’t actually harm anyone else. And no, not providing an opportunity to be bishops is no more harming women than the lack of opportunity in Britain for people of either gender to become astronauts. The bottom line is it’s their god-club and their rules, and whether the first rule of god-club is not talking about god-club or no mitres are men only or no gay weddings in our buildings it’s still their rules. I’m for gay weddings if gays want to marry and I’m for female emancipation and the opportunity for the girls to seek any work they choose up to and including that of sperm donor. But as with the obvious case of sperm donation, freedom to seek doesn’t mean that there must be a guarantee that the position must be made available to women.
Is it silly that women shouldn’t be bishops? Yeah, I’d agree with that, but I’d add that I find it no more so than many other aspects of religion in general and Anglican Christianity in particular. If it’s sillier I’d say it’s only because some other parts of the Anglican Communion have gone ahead and allowed female bishops. But is it unreasonable? Should the CofE be compelled by secular law to allow female bishops? No, I don’t think so. If you want to remove the exemption on the principle that all are equal before the law I’d be all for it, though I’m really for laws that dictate and restrict how one is allowed to think and choose to be ditched as fundamentally anti-liberty. And if you wanted to disestablish the Church on the grounds of separation of Church and State I’d support that too. But this isn’t about applying the law equally or any such noble notions. This is just punishing a religious minority (I’m guessing CofE regulars are in a minority these days?) because their world view isn’t modern enough for you.
It’s a religion, yes? An unscientific and untestable faith in a 14 billion year old entity as explanation for literally everything? It’s not supposed to be modern, surely? So let them have their rules, outdated as some of us may think they are, and let those ladies who want to be bishops apply to those parts of the Anglican Communion that are open to the idea. Or start their own church if competition for positions is too intense in Scotland and visas for anywhere further are too much hassle. If, as we’re told, the big worry for the Church was a schism with traditionalists and evangelicals leaving then why don’t the pro-female modernisers leave instead. This is how freedom and tolerance actually works, you see. Their god-club means their freedom to set their rules, as I said before, and the rest of us tolerate that since we know that freedom also means that nobody who disagrees has to stay in the god-club.
Or are we admitting that Britain isn’t a free country after all? If so that might be a start toward becoming one.
PS A brief apology. Obviously I intended making a joke about bashing the bishop but I just couldn’t think of one. To anyone who is offended by this oversight, please take 50¢ and phone someone who gives a shit.