In the name of God, why not women?: Lucy Tollinton has little faith in arguments against female ordination

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
I AM getting fed up with the people in the Church of England who are against the ordination of women. I feel their hostility towards my sex, and cannot understand it. I have not heard a single argument that I find satisfying. Indeed, many seem remarkably feeble, considering the intellectual status of some of those who advocate them. What is it that is wrong with women which justifies excluding them from a full role in the Church?

I am an active member of the Church of England. I am not a theologian or a philosopher or an academic. I am becoming increasingly distressed by this issue, and wonder what I shall do if a vociferous minority again succeeds in preventing a reform which is so long overdue. Much is said about the damage which may be caused to the Church of England if women's ordination goes ahead. Very little is said about the damage that will be caused if it does not. There will be no sudden schism, but rather a gradual drifting away.

The Church has to offer an image of God that is consistent and plausible. I am not saying that I want to start calling God 'She'. As a useful analogy, I am quite happy with 'Father', the word Jesus used, although the master of the universe clearly cannot be defined entirely by maleness. But my point is that a God I can put my trust in - the God I see through the eyes of Jesus - is not one who would refuse to allow Himself to be represented by more than half of mankind simply because they were born female. God must be the pinnacle of all virtues. He must be rational. On what grounds would He reject me as His servant in this role? On many grounds, but surely not my sex.

One argument I have heard recently is that the ordination of women will 'lead to' calling God 'She', homosexual marriages in church, and all kinds of other abominations. What is the connection between these ideas? The argument is so absurd that I do not feel much need to refute it. It is rather like saying that we must not teach children to read because because it might lead to their reading violent or pornographic books.

A second argument is that we must not break with tradition: because there never have been women priests, there never can be. This alarming principle must, of course, only be applied to the Church. Its wider application would be interesting, to say the least. But I fail to see how anyone can find it convincing. The gospels tell us that Christ spent a great deal of time trying to get away from rigid rules and proscriptions, and emphasised instead the broad abstract principle of love, which He said should govern all our actions.

The position of women in Palestine at the time of Jesus' ministry meant that it would hardly have been possible for him to have them as his immediate disciples, but all the evidence suggests that he treated them with a respect and consideration quite remarkable for the time.

Another argument is that we cannot act alone. The Church is a universal Church, and until all Christendom agrees to a change, no change can happen. This is a wonderful thesis, which will postpone the whole issue until the 22nd century. But if no one in the history of Christianity had ever stood up for what they believed to be right in the face of an established, bureaucratic and at times heavily corrupt Church, where would we be today?

Finally, let me take a look at men, the sex so much better suited to higher spiritual office. For thousands of years they have managed to persuade both themselves and women of their moral, intellectual and spiritual superiority, largely as a result of their physical strength.

And although I do not want to jump on any male-bashing bandwagon, when I glance through my morning newspaper and see the misery being inflicted on women and children by men - in Somalia, in Bosnia, in Georgia, and many other places - I find it very difficult to see anything morally or spiritually superior about them.

So what is wrong with women? They have, of course been blamed over the ages for men's own inability to control their sexual urges. There are also beliefs in some societies about the uncleanness of women during menstruation. Could some of the problems women face in the Church be related to men's conflicting feelings about their own sexuality? If we cannot find a rational explanation for their attitudes, then we must look for an irrational one.

I hope this will not be dismissed as another tirade from a misguided feminist. Placing someone in an unattractive category is an easy way of ensuring that they are not taken seriously. I am a full-time wife and mother. I do not consider myself a feminist. I am not a member of the General Synod. I have no control over the vote on 11 November.

I simply feel the need to put my point of view, suspecting that there may be others who feel the same. I would like to make a plea to all those who have influence in this matter, to look to God, who has no human imperfections, before they cast their votes.