Nice girls aren’t supposed to be angry – even when they’ve grown up into not-always-nice women – neither, of course, are nice Christians and definitely not nice priests. So I am, just at the moment, failing the niceness test because I am angry. Specifically I am angry about the position of ordained women in the Church.
Partly this comes from watching the Church of England trip over itself in its wearily long drawn out journey towards having women bishops. But, before we pat ourselves on the back in the Anglican Church of Canada, it’s worth remembering that the numbers of women in leadership here are hardly stellar. Out of 42 bishops all of 5 are women. Even the clerical leadership in our diocese of New Westminster is overwhelmingly male.
There are four common responses I’ve encountered when this issue is raised:
1. We’ve had more women in the past, just not now.
2. Surely we’re beyond the stage of needing to look at gender.
3. We asked women but they said no/no women applied.
4. We just appointed the best individual for the job.
All very reasonable, all very persuasive on the surface. But none of these responses seems to be adequate enough to allow me to pack away my anger and revert to nice Ellen. Instead I want to answer:
1. So? A past justice only highlights a present injustice.
2. The numbers make it clear that no we are NOT beyond that stage.
3. What is it in the culture that makes women reluctant to take on leadership in the church?
4. What is it in the culture that makes it easier for us to see gifts in men than in women?
I would be very interested in people’s answers to those last two questions – do feel free to post them as comments.
So, for now, I’ll live with being angry. I’ll try and bring it into my spiritual practice – maybe using one of the angrier psalms as a way of finding words to express this in prayer; reminding myself that though the meek are blessed so also are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
And, for now, I’ll carry on trying to be a woman leader in a male dominated environment without either becoming “one of the boys” or so alienated as to be unable to work for the change I hope to see.