We had our Diocesan Synod today. We were celebrating twenty years since the first ordinations of women to the priesthood. Although it’s actually twenty one years, because it takes us a while to get organised.
It’s good to celebrate the fact that women are now priests, although thankfully the liturgy was not in any way back-slapping about how equal we are in the church. Because we’re not.
Just before the celebration, we hasd the option of electing women onto the Cathedral Chapter of Canons (the senior priests in the diocese) and another to General Synod. Instead we elected two men. Both men are decent, honourable and true – as were all the other candidates, including the women we could have voted on. The fact is, we chose men. Again.
When women were first ordained to the priesthood, there was one woman on Chapter. Twenty one years later, there are two.
When women were first ordained, there were no women Bishops in the Scottish Episcopal church. Now that we are able to have women Bishops – there still are none.
It had to be pointed out to the whole Synod today that the canons (ie laws, not people) of the Cathedral that we were voting on changing were all gender-specific, and even then it was batted off as not pertinent, until someone offered to do the work of rendering them inclusive.
It’s not that anyone is against women, it’s just that our church is set up to be run by men, and it only seems natural that men run it. We say that we are equal in the church, yet we are still running things along the lines of a Victorian Club- the only difference being that we allow women to try and squeeze themselves into roles and jobs which have been designed for men, run by men and organised by men for thousands of years. That’s not equality, and it’s impoverishing the church by the lack of experience, spiritual insight and wisdom that women have but are not permitted by our structures to share.
Having women as priests has to mean more than just letting them be substitute men. It has to, if it means anything, profoundly affect the way we do things.
Today we marked a cairn in a tortuously long road. It’s good to see how much progress has been made, even though looking back it doesn’t seem as though we have travelled very far. But it is with a heavy heart that I look at the road ahead and see how very much progress there is still to go.
My part in the liturgy was to come up with some quotations from women through the centuries as an introduction to the service. It was amazing spending time in the company of these women. The last quotation I used was from Simone Weil:
Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.
“Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand”.