The Church of England tests my loyalty sorely. My local church clergy ‘team’ is almost entirely feminised. In my neck of the woods, there is literally no escaping them, or their dumbed down approach to their ‘calling’. To a woman they appear to be labouring under the impression they are running a Sunday school. That is how we are treated.
With their predictable pudding basin haircuts these female clergy are, in my experience, particularly graceless. "Sit down", not please be seated, is how we are addressed at the start of the service. Forget any idea of starting with a priestly procession behind a cross or a choir.
Regard for any aspect of the liturgy and the conduct of the services is scant and bears virtually no relationship at all to the Book of Common Prayer. Sentences from the scriptures, collects, general confessions, or absolutions are rarity between the Christingles and all the other modern service forms. I sometimes wonder if they know the order of service at all. And when we are treated to this rarity, few of these lady priests seem capable of projecting their voices, let alone able to sing. Sacred music has all but disappeared.
No wonder the pews across England sit empty. We are no longer made to feel as though we are “Dearly beloved brethren…”. This is, I am afraid, the very discouraging female face of the modern Church of England
Frankly, I would no more look to one of these wimmin for spiritual enlightenment than I would for spiritual comfort.
The subject of women clergy is one I have to date buttoned my lip on. But no longer. Last Sunday was the last straw.
Was the prayer for the Queen and the Royal Family on the Sunday before Christmas deliberately omitted? Had the woman vicar forgotten that the Queen is the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England? I told her how disappointed I was by this as I left. She smiled blandly and refused to bother even to reply.
That was not all.
She had announced at the end of the service that, 'There would be a special Plough Sunday Service on January 24th”. It would be good, she added, if some farmers came. If anyone knew a farmer, she went on, perhaps they could pop a leaflet through their door. This is not a town church I am talking about, but a church in the heart of the country - and just about as rural as you can get. It serves, or is meant to serve, a predominantly farming community, yet our good lady priest who has been with us for a while apparently neither knew any farmers herself, nor was intending to visit them herself either - to get to know them or to invite them.
What exactly does she think her job is? Nothing if not to visit and get to know the congregation and to minister to them. My father was a clergyman, so I know. He also had a rural living where we lived from when I was seven. Our rectory was open house to the village. So was he - an open all hours vicar. Within months he knew everyone in the village and each and every one of the local farmers. The idea that he would have stood in front of his congregation to ask anyone who knew a farmer to invite him along is just too incredible a thought.
Small things like this reveal a lot.
When my dad retired in 1976 at 74, the Church was still a male institution. It was still taken seriously.
Since the ordination of the first women in 1994, its make-up has changed quite drastically. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of female full-time clergy increased by 41 per cent while number of full-time male clergy dropped nearly at the same rate. Now women comprise one in five members of the full-time clergy and there are far more part-time clergy the majority of whom are women.
At this rate the Church will soon mirror the medical profession and suffer all the same problems that feminisation has brought with it - a 'part time institution' working in its female clergy 's (family friendly) interests rather than for its congregation.
And guess what, as the wimmin have risen, church attendance has fallen. It's halved in the forty years since my dad retired with more churches losing congregation members than are gaining them. If there is no correlation between these two trends, then I am the Pope.
People might approve of the idea of women vicars for all sorts of politically correct reasons. Who would dare not? That doesn’t mean they like them in practice.
But instead of waking up to this self fulfilling downwards spiral of destruction, all the Church of England feebly does is push it further. Having women bishops has become more important than dealing with declining church attendances - as though 'gender equality' was of spiritual significance. It is not. It is purely ideological and political. It says more about women’s demands for status and power than about any godly calling - more about the modern female ego than about spiritual humility that is for sure.
No wonder that so few self respecting, serious and educated young men, as my father was, would want to sign up to this part-time feminised force to answer their calling.
For the more women are ordained as 'self-supported members' (providing their own financial backing while working part-time elsewhere) and thereby are allowed to be a vicar without the burden of doing the real job, the fewer real jobs there are for men. No wonder the number of women ordained has begun to exceed those of men.
No wonder congregations drop off and no wonder there are fewer baptisms, weddings and funerals in church.
No wonder at all when those leading the Church are too blind to see this connection or are too ready to sacrifice their belief and their mission on what can only be described as the altar of gender politics.
(Image Courtesy, BBC)