Sunday, June 14, 2009

V The Seven Devils of Women's Ordination, or, She Who Lie Down With Dogs Catch Fleas

The foregoing does not bode well for women coming into the clerical system. And from what I have seen in America as well as Britain, the women being ordained are becoming even more clericalised than the men, perhaps because they are the new kids on the block and less secure, like any convert, over-zealous and anxious to toe the party line. At the same time, many of them are distinctly uncomfortable, often bearing a deep and undifferentiated unease, a sense that they are betraying something.

How, under these circumstances, women will be able to turn the tide I do not know and I do not think they know, either. Certainly the faces on television in November 1992 were not encouraging, nor have been subsequent encounters with women clergy. [23] And the question has to be asked if they are not wasting their time (as well as selling their souls) by entering such a moribund system in the first place?

The only potentially hopeful sign I see at the moment is the financial disaster on the Church Commissioners’ desks. Lack of finance may force the Church of England to redefine what it means by ministry, and to ask what is worth supporting. However, given its history, and the amount of self-interested scrambling that will perhaps inevitably take place among the people who will be making these decisions, it is perhaps more realistic to regard this potential hope as wishful thinking.

There is the additional problem that people in the Church of England appear to go to church for many disparate reasons, often social ones, to engage in what might irreverently be called, ‘tea party religion’. Without excluding this valid and useful social activity, the Church of England must decide what its principal function and purpose really is, from which all else must proceed. It must prioritise.

Is this governing principle to keep the comfortable cosy, using the model of the vestigial and often mythical country parish? (Which is not to say that there are not remarkable and healthy country parishes.) To be the ritual arm of the State, and ceremonial resource for the world (for all the world knows that no one does liturgy better than the C of E at its best)? To be a political pressure group? To be a moral force (though its credibility in this area, especially after the ordination debate, is deeply in doubt)? To be a colourful tourist attraction (it has been observed that it does some of its best work simply by keeping the cathedrals open and not bothering the millions of tourists who in some mysterious way find God in them—which is not to say that there are not cathedrals that are real centres of prayer)?

Or is it to bear the vision so that the people do not perish? —Which means back to the drawing board.


[23] For example, on a rare occasion when I agreed to facilitate a workshop for about forty mostly middle-aged women, there were two clergymen present , an Anglican in a collar and a nonconformist in civvies, and a newly ordained Anglican woman deacon, also in a collar. As the day progressed, the misery and pain these women had experienced at the hands of clergy started to pour out, obviously the first time they had ever dared to speak. I asked the clergy present, particularly the woman deacon, if they wanted to respond. The men participated in a low-key, penitential way; the woman deacon declined. In the afternoon we returned to a more conventional format. Afterwards, the men were very happy with the way the day had gone; the woman deacon vanished. A week later I was informed that she had written to the bishop, the suffragan, and virtually every diocesan official who might remotely be connected with education, complaining, in effect, that I was not in lockstep with the clergy and the official party line.

The terrible pain of exclusion and condemnation among the general public is more widespread than the clergy may wish to admit, and certainly more than they want to know. At the last Affirming Catholicism meeting I ever attended—it had gradually been taken over by the clergy, who were all sitting on one side of the table, while the four laypeople (both men and women) sat on the other—I simply lost it. I was also terrified, and so didn’t articulate very well. When my outpouring had ended, the clergy hastily turned to another laywoman there, who turned out to be the omsbudsperson for the diocese, saying surely my perception wasn’t representative. Sitting there in her plaid skirt, white blouse and sweater, she had the guts to say quietly, ‘I’m afraid that’s exactly the way it is.’


Anonymous sgl said...

Part 1/3:

re: the series "The Seven Devils of Women's Ordination, or, She Who Lie Down With Dogs Catch Fleas" particularly the the 2 excerpts below from the series:

part II
(which would have declared women something less than human and questioned Christ’s indwelling, capax Dei, supported the institution’s completely specious claims and its pathological desire to control God)

part V
As the day progressed, the misery and pain these women had experienced at the hands of clergy started to pour out, obviously the first time they had ever dared to speak.

a slightly different perspective on the impact of women clergy... from the 'A Silly Poor Gospel' blog of Peggy Senger Parsons, quaker minister, author, a couple stories about gender equality that i found touching:


Joyfully Subversive - redux

She was about eight. Long brown hair and very blue eyes magnified by thick glasses. She was wearing a dress imprinted with Disney princesses. It was clear that she was all into the wedding thing.

We talked about how soon the wedding would start, where the bride was ‘hiding’, and when the cake would be cut. We looked over the guests together.

“I wonder which one is the preacher?”

“Ah, that would be me.”

She looked up at me, mouth open, she pushed her glasses up her nose.

“But you’re a girl!”

“Yep” I said, not correcting the girl/woman thing.

“I’ve never seen a girl preacher!"

“Look all you want, baby – sometimes – God asks girls to be preachers.”

“Not at MY church.”

“What church do you go to?’ She named a large Conservative denomination.

“Ah, well, there are lots of churches and some of them, like mine, think everybody can preach. I am a Quaker.”

“A Quaker” she said, like it tasted funny but not all bad in her mouth.

We talked a little more about God, and what God might ask you to do, and then it was time to start the wedding.

Later, over cake, I asked her what she thought of the wedding, and how it looked with a girl preacher.

“It was nice, you did a good job, you talk read loud, and the cake is good. Do you really have a church or do you just do weddings, my mom said you probably just do weddings?”

“I really have a church. Nice folks. Probably a bit different than your church. Someday, you should come visit.”

She looked up at me, pushed her glasses up her nose again, pursed her lips.

“I think I would like that – a church where God talks to girls"

and a picture someone took at the wedding, showing the minister and little girl talking:

10:57 am, May 10, 2012  
Anonymous sgl said...

Part 2/3:
and another story, same author, same general topic of subverting gender stereotypes:


The Art of Joyful Subversion

So There I was…
Sliding the motorcycle into a freeway rest stop -- high summer, families out touring en masse. When riding, I am encased in a leather and Kevlar exoskeleton including full face, reflective, helmet. It is not real obvious who, or even what, I am. So when I whip the lid off, folks are often surprised to see a woman emerging from this cocoon. It’s a little like sipping your Coke and finding out that it’s a root beer -- disconcerting expectations. After the startle, some people are interested. Little girls are especially curious. Their dads and brothers usually compliment me on the machine -- girls want to know all about ME. Countless times I had had this conversation in nearly identical form.

Little Girl: “Are you a lady?” (By which she means gender female?)

Me: “Yes, Indeed!”

LG: “Do you have a daddy?” (Are you married?)

M: “I do – he’s at home.”

LG: “He lets you ride a motorcycle?”

And then I lean down close, look LG right in the eyes, and whisper to her soul –
“I didn’t ask – You don’t have to ask!”

Ah, the sweet taste of subversion!


A Baptist minister once asked me how long Quakers had allowed women in the ministry. I answered,
“Oh, 350 years or so – from the get go.”

And we didn’t ask -- because you don’t have to ask.

if you like her writing style, here's 2 more stories from africa and her 'subversive' way of getting people to think about their beliefs and stereotypes:

Subversion Shopping edition
Joyfully subversive - African edition

10:58 am, May 10, 2012  
Anonymous sgl said...

Part 3/3:
not about gender, but one of my favorites of her stories:

A Christmas - So There I was ...

So There I was ...

In the cosmetics department in Target on December 22.

There was a disturbance in the force. I was first aware of it as a matron rushed around the corner clucking her tongue. I rounded the end of the aisle and a Hispanic mother backed into me. She didn’t notice as she was staring at a man halfway up the aisle. He was interesting. Well over six feet, bald, agitated, rocking and muttering, with some sort of a palsy thing going on with his left arm. And Tattoos, lots of them, the homemade variety. If your home was Folsom Prison. Not just arms but neck throat and head. Some recognizable symbols that bode no good towards no one. And completely fixated on the display of Cover Girl makeup.

I watched him for a minute. His cussing was definitely directed towards the product. He was clearly in the throws of a dilemma and in need of assistance.

“How the %(*^#ing $%#@ am I supposed to figure this out?”

“Sir? Do you need a little help?

“Do you work in this #^*)ing %$&()#^&*( ?”

“Not precisely, but maybe I can help anyway.”

“My daughter wants some of this eyelashes goop. But apparently it has to be exactly the same as her old goop.”

“Girls do tend to be loyal to their goop. Do you know what kind of goop she had?”

“It’s THIS #%&(ing %)#@ here!”

And he showed me a well used tube of Mascara. Pink and Green - He had the Cover Girl part right - I was impressed.

“Well, excellent, so you want one of these ones right here.”

I ain’t stupid, but if you use your eyes you will see that there are about two dozen #%&(*ing types of this pink and green goop.”

“Yes, you’re right. There are shades of goop.”

“No #&$( !”

“There are browns and blacks”


“May I see her goop?” He handed it to me. All the outer markings had been worn off. Now I understood his problem. I opened the tube and withdrew the brush. “Very Black - the darkest one here - This one.” And I pulled one off the rack for him.

“You sure?”


“You actually telling me that you all can tell the difference between six kinds of black?”

“No, Of course not, But we THINK we can and that’s all that matters.”

“HA! I thought so.” He looked at the two tubes. “This is right?”

“She’ll be very impressed that you found it. You don’t have to tell her that you had help.”

“I just want her to be happy.”

“Of course you do. Is that all you need?”

“Yeah, I’m done. Thanks. You saved my life.”

“I’m just here to serve. Merry Christmas”

He sighed deeply and walked up the aisle towards the checkout lanes. Then her turned.

“It is waterproof? She said it had to be waterproof.”

“Got you covered. - Your girl a bit of a crier?”

“Oh. My. God. Don’t get me started!”

10:59 am, May 10, 2012  

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