In last week’s student newspaper, you may have read my argument against having legislative quotas to get more women into Parliament. Just in case any of you reading that debate column think that I am a closet Neanderthal, you may think that the title for this column cements the suspicion that I am the sexist you anticipate me to be.
But no! This article is not based on why I think God finds a penis a necessary qualification to hold the position of bishop. I am an atheist and don’t believe in a deity. What this article is all about a certain group of Neanderthals who, this week, voted against the introduction of women bishops and shows just how out of touch many in the Church of England are with modern society.
We like to think that we are a modern, open society with equality of opportunity. But somehow, many in the Church of England seem to have not caught up with those principles. What makes the decision more offensive is that a majority of the synod voted for introducing women bishops. Any changes to canon law, however, have to be approved with a two thirds majority by all three houses of synod. Forty-two of the forty-four dioceses have voted in favour of women bishops, yet still change doesn’t happen. Shouldn’t a simple majority vote be alright?
This is pretty disgraceful considering that we are supposed to be living in a society based on equal rights. We wouldn’t vote against someone becoming a bishop, based on their race; why the double standard? The reason some bishops voted against the measure is that they are worried that they will lose more of their already dwindling congregation. “We have avoided what could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness,” said Rod Thomas, chair of the conservative Evangelical Reform Group. It seems rather convoluted that a measure that would unite the sexes would apparently divide congregations.
The vote has split the church, not unified it. The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, said that “The church has suffered a serious credibility problem while it worked on the legislation, and this is a setback that could cement the church’s reputation as being outdated and out of touch.” A political party or a Prime Minister that is out of touch loses votes. Margaret Thatcher’s ushering in of the Poll Tax, Tony Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq and the sleaze throughout the John Major era were all major signs of an out-of-touch government and these issues lead to their respective downfall. Likewise, a religious organization that will not allow women into positions of authority, such as bishops, will lose members.
Recently, the Augusta National Golf Club, one of the most famous golf clubs in the world finally admitted female members after public pressure. This was after the chairman of I.B.M., Virginia Rafferty, was denied membership of the club, despite it being a tradition that the chairman of the major sponsor of the tournament is always invited to become a member. In a press conference, Billy Payne, the club chairman, had no answer as to what he he might tell his daughters about the club’s men-only policy.
There is no reason to discriminate in the job market, because of someone’s gender. Nothing good for the Church of England comes out of this vote and just goes to show how many in a male-dominated organisation are still way behind the times.