The Right Reverend Philip North, selected to be a diocesan Bishop is to ‘withdraw’ from his appointment. Why? Reverend North does not believe in women priests, and this has caused more than a rumble in parts of the Anglican Church. Residents from his new diocese spearheaded by Reverend Professor Martyn Percy and his wife Reverend Canon Dr Emma, have been working to get Rev North to either change his views or stand aside. They have succeeded in their mission. This is the second post he has been pressured by activists in the Church to withdraw from. In a statement he said "The highly individualised nature of the attacks upon me have been extremely hard to bear. If, as Christians, we cannot relate to each other within the bounds of love, how can we possibly presume to transform a nation in the name of Christ?"
While Rev North is guided by Theology, God is suprisingly pragmatic and his laws serve the human condition well. I also don’t think women can be, or should be ordained.
The motivations for doing so are influenced by secular ideology and the creation of women priests threatens the integrity of the Church.
The desire to have female priests and bishops is driven by a secular idea of equality based on power and status. This ignores that a servant is equal to his master and we are all equally precious in the eyes of the Lord.
The insistence on a secular equality of power and status between male and female is particularly pernicious. It is a denial of the difference and complementarity of the sexes and these were created by God.
Above all, it suggests a stubborn and wilful denial, even a rejection of the greatest gift God has given to women; the gift of new life. It is turning our face from God. For if we truly valued that ability, we would never feel threatened or undermined by male power. We would know that we are totally and utterly the equal of men.
We don’t properly value our reproductive potential because we have lost sight of the value of life itself. This is a consequence of feminism which supports abortion, and divorce, encourages us not to look after our children and is inimical to life itself. We can see it reflected in an extremely influential feminist text: “Women’s body seems to doom her to mere reproduction of life; the male by contrast… must … assert his creativity externally … In so doing, he creates relatively lasting, eternal, transcendent objects, while the woman creates only perishables – human beings”.
By devaluating our reproductive capacity, feminism blinds women to their equality. And it is feminism that is corrupting the heart of the Church.
For when we properly value human life and therefore our capacity to reproduce it, we see our roles as complementary. Women give birth to the physical body. Men as fathers are providers, as priests provide spiritual substance. Through baptism a person is reborn.
Furthermore when we look at the role of the priest, it is women’s interests which are most tangibly served. Biologically men are more marginal to family life. Historically family life was dependent on their commitment and even now it plays a far larger role than feminists care to admit.
Through marriage not only are men channelled into being faithful, but through the symbolic representation of God the father and man the padre they are corralled into protecting, providing and if needs be even making the ultimate sacrifice.
This point is totally and utterly lost when a woman decides that she will be the father in the Church.
Having men as priests is not only good for women. It is also essential for the wellbeing of the Church. Motherhood and priesthood are mutually incompatible because both involve putting something of infinite value first. Mothers – their children. Priests – Jesus Christ. God tested Abraham to see if he would put God before his child. God would never be so cruel as to test Isaac’s mum.
Of course, we all know that many priests are not and never will be mothers or that they could be very devoted fathers to their own offspring. The point is that rules should be there to reflect general patterns and maximise potential. Even if this disadvantages those who would take exceptional roles.
Such injustices and unfairness are the bread and butter of Christianity. The meek can cope with them because they will inherit the earth.
After 25 years of women in the priesthood the Church is looking like a compass that has forgotten which way is north.
God’s calling is reduced to a career as the language of equal opportunities replaces theology under the greedy eye of WATCH: “There has been no attempt to make special provision for women – no sense that it might have been helpful to redress the lack of women in senior positions – no attempt to take advice from other organisations about how appointment proceedings may need to be reviewed if women are to flourish”.
To see women bargaining in the language of equal opportunities to act in personae Christi in some sense desecrates the priesthood. Jesus did not want, or ask, or choose, to be hung upon the cross.
Concepts such as sexism and feminism are part of the ideological soup we live in. Protecting us from the waxing and waning of earthly ideologies should be part of the role of the Church.
Martyn Percy worries what the church looks like to those outside it. Why pay tuppence for public opinion? I thought the Church was supposed to be concerned with pleasing God.
And the women priests in Rev North’s future diocese are worried that he won’t be able to provide support and sustenance. I thought they took their support and sustenance from God? They should not care what Philip North thinks of them because they should know that God is their ultimate judge.
St Paul made it clear that the celibate were better able to serve God (although this isn’t compulsory). In today’s Church we see the married - Emma and Martyn - chasing Philip North, a celibate priest, out.
I do believe these women had callings and that the Church was right to listen. But the women should have been more creative about what they had to offer and the Church perhaps more attentive to what God was asking them to do.
(I would like to acknowledge the influence of my husband Geoff Dench's book "Transforming Men: Changing Patterns of Dependency and Dominance in Gender Relations”)