Is it a sin?

Is it a sin, I find myself asking rhetorically, for men and women to be treated differently by institutions? Is it a sin for women and men to have unequal access to power and privilege.

My own view is that it is not merely wrong for gender to be a determining factor in what someone can do or achieve but that it is a sin.

Now, don’t start asking me to defend that from a biblical position. This blog tries to live in the land of common sense after all. If you want arguments that use biblical texts to try to “prove” an argument one way or another, I hope, if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know fine well to try someone else’s web page. We don’t do that round here.

The thing is, the Church of England has a decision to make soon as to whether to adopt the legislation currently before its General Synod that would allow women to be selected to be bishops. It has been a long and drawn out affair getting to this point. What England has been debating is how to retain within one church people who say they cannot accept the authority of bishops who happen to be women whilst also accepting the full authority of those women as leaders within the organisation.

It can’t be done, of course.

What has been proposed is a process by which congregations will be able to opt not to recognise a women who happens to be leading the diocese in which they exist but that they might request oversight, in some way, from someone else. The means by which this might be done has been subject to intense scrutiny. What is currently proposed is commonly said to be the best legislation that might pass in their synod.

Now, one does not comment on the business of another Anglican church’s synodical process lightly. No, really, one doesn’t. After all, one tends to find oneself arguing quite strongly for provincial autonomy within the Anglican Communion, for example by making the point that the American church was quite entitled to choose Gene Robinson as a bishop if it wanted to do so, thank you very much.

Those who did pile into the Gene Robinson argument from outside America argued that his consecration damaged the whole. His being a bishop undermined the local episcopacy elsewhere – or so they said.

Curiously, I feel much the same about the current legislation in England. If I were a member of the Church of England and a member of its Synod, I would be voting against it, even though I’m a great believer in women having exactly the same opportunities as men and women and an advocate for the cause of opening the Episcopate to men and women equally.

The reason for me saying so out loud is because I think that decisions made in England long ago over questions about whether women could be priests in England were at the root of so much of the Anglican controversies of recent years. The C of E somehow came to the conclusion that you could have priests who were women but also be in the church and not accept that those women were priests. It was a move that baffled many both inside and outside. And it also gave rise to the so-called “Flying Bishops” and talk of there being two integrities within the one church – an absurd contradiction in terms. That flying bishop idea is far more the cause of the trouble the Anglican Communion faces than the election of Gene Robinson was. The idea that you had to agree with your bishop’s predilections and pecedillos was hitherto entirely alien. In the past, you might not agree with your bishop, but he still was your bishop. Now, you could opt out and chose someone more suited to your own prejudices.

It was odd that there were those who could live with bishops they did not like or agree with in their own country who could not accept Gene Robinson being a bishop in another country.

Anyway, having had that experience, Anglicans from outside England might well be cautious of the current legislation facing the English Synod. If it passes, as it looks as if it may, the unintended consequences might, as with flying bishops, be enormous. If you sow the wind of sexism, you may well reap the whirlwind.

Because I believe in the equality of women and men, I find myself very reluctantly hoping that England says No!