But is it? Is the hostility towards women in pointy hats something that belongs in our shameful past (hah) of witch hunts or is it bang on to the present? It isn't necessarily a question of readiness, tradition or scripture (the difficulty with which I will discuss later) but precedent. Consider the apparent lack of consideration for a woman Director General of the BBC. There's no real reason why there shouldn't be one besides the fact it just isn't done.
When I think of woman leaders today I am irked by that very phrase, with the word 'woman' as a qualifier. When I look them up I am made aware first and foremost not of their party, their triumphs or failures but of their marital and womb status. Gillard, Merkel, Sigurdardóttir et al OK their policies aren't always what I would pick and Thatcher, arguably one of the most famous Prime Ministers, is not a role model of mine. But it matters to me that they exist. That they are or were leaders who should be judged as leaders, not women. However, until they cease to be seen as an anomaly they will always be regarded as speaking for and representative of womankind as a whole. The Head of any organisation – be it religious, political or business is by default assumption a man. It just isn't done.
But I, perhaps, digress. Back to women bishops. The appointment of an Archbishop who is decisively pro women bishops suggests the process might speed up, as Welby commented: “I see every possibility that there will be a woman Bishop of Durham appointed at some stage in the not-too-distant future.” Not too swiftly though, the Bishop of Durham also noted his successor was unlikely to be a woman.
Or bishoporinas as I hope they will be called – I do enjoy a feminisation
If you want history and not scripture a look at the early Christians shows no issue with female leadership. Historian Bettany Hughes's documentary series Divine Women and Rev. Peter Owen-Jones's series Lost Gospels provide accessible and informative histories for the layperson about the slow whittling away of female influence in the early Church as it began to grow. Names masculinised, murals chipped away at and books of the bible dismissed and the canon created. Owen-Jones notes that it's possible Mary Magdelene could have easily been in Peter's place as the head of the Church.
I am inclined towards the historical approach – though perhaps equally mired in speculation as the scriptures there are some facts you can't skew, whereas Hebrew or Greek can be loosely translated to mean various things. This is the big problem with translations. I have seen Galatians mention of gender being of no importance used as part of the pro-argument. Also cited is a passage in Mark, which is interesting.
In Mark 1 Mark (or the scribe) relates some of Jesus Christ's deeds, specifically here his healing powers. Jesus is brought to Simon's mother – who is suffering from a fever. Jesus heals her. That's not the interesting part. The interesting part is the wild differences in the bible translations. In the New Living Translation it says (Mark 1:31) “So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.” I hope she washed her feverish hands. BUT in the King James bible the passage changes to “And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.” In my NIV version does she minister? Does she vestal virgin. “...the fever left her and she began to wait on them.” She waits on them.
So, take your pick I suppose. I'm going with King James on this one. Can you disciple people and then inform 50% (or so) that essentially they are unable to grasp or express their faith? Do you really want a substantial percentage of the congregation just to lay around like flower arranging vessels waiting to be impregnated? Or do you want them to learn, to be inspired and inspire others? Next week the issue of women bishops will be readdressed, after much campaigning by Yes2WomenBishops it will be interesting to see if anything will have changed since the adjournment.
What does this mean to you – if you don't usually find yourself at tea with the vicar, or googling your bishop's opinions on things – it means more visible women. It means power. Power grab. I want so many women in leadership roles that the term 'role model' is obsolete, for young people to see that leaders are so diverse that they see no reason as to why they shouldn't join them. I don't see why this can't begin with the Church. Onwards Dibley soldiers.