by Audrey Bryant
from Signs of the Times No. 47 - Oct 2012
The Radio 4 programme, 'Frocks and the Church' on 1 July reminded me very powerfully of the Brixworth Deanery Synod debate on the Ordination of Women so long ago - when I was Co-lay Chairman.
The standing committee asked me to speak for the motion and one of the clergy spoke against it, a single, celibate, scholar that I had not met beforehand. He said he thought he could make short work of my argument which he assumed would be the standard one of practical ability. In support of the motion, I said something which he admitted he couldn't answer, and the motion was carried.
I want to put the same case to the dissenters and any floating voters again as the same statement applies: "We are not so much attempting to put a barrier in the way of women, by voting against, we are putting a barrier in the way of God." I said then that God had called women to a vocation in the priesthood at this time because the time was right; contraception and easy ways of dealing with menstruation (developed by men) had freed women to devote their lives to ministry as never before and, of course, God's timing is always right. God was calling women to the ministry and they were responding with great conviction. He found he had nothing to say to that.
Just it did then, the question of women bishops calls into question what is male-ness. Do men share something divine with God? Does God have a cock and balls? Does he have a hormonal difference from women or perhaps a psychological difference? Are these things intrinsically god-like characteristics? Who could claim that the Bible says these things? The creation of women by God means that they cannot be a 'tainted' creation. Without them the male part of creation cannot be fertile. 'Fertility' does not simply apply to physical babies or the same dissenters could claim that all babies were 'tainted'. The whole creative process which creates us in the image of God needs the seed, the womb, the muse, the desire and, above all, the love - the love of God. How God loved creating us, female and male as a completed, amazingly variable whole! I don't think the dissenters have a spiritual leg to stand on, only physical attributes which, of course, influenced all the writers and quoters of biblical texts in the past, however unconsciously. (Here I want to sing, "Tradition, tradition..." from 'Fiddler on the the Roof' with the same endearing pathos.)
Another point: We quote Jesus as saying, "With God all things are possible." Except women bishops? Clearly God would not enable something that contradicted the character of God himself, but he plainly and demonstrably loves difference. Every leaf, every pebble, every human finger-print is different and each relationship with God is different. Who are we to say that his church (his ever-loving spouse) can set limits which he has not. We know that the Bible is not his last word.
That recognition links up with the debate on homosexuality and of the election of bishops such as Gene Robinson of New Hampshire whose sincerity we witnessed at a recent MC conference. God has observably created a 'piano scale' of human beings, their sexuality anywhere between the extreme points of 'alpha-male' and 'omega-female' and most of them in the wide middle section. I venture to believe that God enjoys such variety as a creative place for his kind of selfless love. I quote my late husband for an inspired rule of thumb;
'We can't choose the cards we are dealt - it is how we play them that matters.'