Thursday, 22 November 2012

Don't like the rules? Then don't join the club

The CofE is in the news at the moment because of its controversial and divisive vote on the position of women within its organisation.  The problem as I see it is that, whilst society has embraced women in increasingly senior roles in business and government, the Church has a different, much older template for the value and roles it gives men and women.

The Bible on which the CofE is founded was written two thousand years ago in a middle-east country with a social structure very different from that which has developed here in western Europe 2 thousand miles away.  The scriptures, or at least those which survived the Ecumenical Councils of the first century AD to become the approved, "official" texts of the religion, give equal value to the sexes but differing roles within the church "family".

Men get leadership roles as part of their ministry, which should come as no surprise as that's how that part of the world's society was ordered.  To then say that women are left with cleaning and babysitting is to distort the function of each individual and overlook much of the service of Jesus as described in the New Testament, which was full of un-characteristically menial and humbled activity for both a man and a potential saviour-figure, whether political (as the disciples and others often assumed) or spiritual.

Jesus is quoted as saying that he'd return and take his Church to heaven with him, but he wouldn't say when, so the structure of the church having been established in this particular place, time and society, it has been left to try and continue in this way across the centuries and spread throughout a world that has changed and developed in so many ways over such a long time. His instructions to the church, though, were to be "in the world but not of it", the implication clearly being that it should remain apart from the world where it finds itself, which presumably includes its structure and how it regards the roles for men and women within it.

The challenge for today's CofE, and also therefore for the emancipated, independent, authoritative working women that wish to be a part of it, is to either compromise its origins to become more "relevant" to modern society and the way people live now, or stay true to the letter of the scriptures and remain an organisation with significantly different rules to 21st century western life.

Much has been written and said this week about "interpretation" of those scriptures.  The problem as I see it is that God can't be in both camps, so when both sides say "I believe God is saying this" then that's the real dilemma that everyone else will pick up on.

[n.b. other denominations are available.]

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