I watched a documentary on TV today about the possible discovery of dinosaur DNA. At the beginning of the programme the female scientist who is the leader in this field of research claims that male scientists behave in a different way to female scientists because they have different priorities. She said that male palaeontologists are into the size and power of prehistoric creatures whilst female palaeontologists want to know about what made the creatures tick and that sort of thing. I have heard this claim in various forms applied to all sorts of occupations including that of priest in the Anglican Communion. Specifically, it was one of the big selling points for the ordination of women in the Church of England. We were pretty much promised that as soon as the first woman was ordained into the priesthood the old patriarchal hierarchy would crumble and everything would be about caring for people rather than the institution and its property from then on. I personally bought into this hook, line and sinker.
However, like most things in life and everything politicians (wherever they are found) promise us it has turned out to be a disappointment. Let's face it, other than the fact that the trendier churches are into "messy church" and there is even more emphasis in our middle class parishes on the happy family, there has been absolutely no identifiable change in the structures and mission of the Church of England since women have entered priestly orders. As far as I can see, women priests who feel called to positions of seniority within the church have just bought into the preexisting male structures and are playing the game with as much cold-heartedness and selfishness as any male priest is capable of.
Of course, in England we are not allowed as yet to appoint women to the episcopacy. Perhaps when this happens women will finally be in a positions of authority that allow them to make the Church of England a more caring institution. But, looking at the Episcopal Church in the United States, where women have been in the house of bishops for some time and where the presiding bishop is a woman, I very much doubt it. Okay, all the female bishops in TEC are not as masculine in their demeanour, thinking and management style as Katharine Jefferts Schori, but none of them have yet challenged the hierarchical systems of their church. My guess is that the nasty has been done to more church employees under Jefferts Schori's watch than ever was during Frank Griswold's tenure.
Personally, I have come to the conclusion that patriarchy is not a male thing per se and that the difference we were promised is not between men and women at all. I think the difference is between those who want to control or want everything to be controlled and those who don't see the need for rigid hierarchies and prefer to negotiate, rather than order, their way through life. By the very nature of the two personality types the controllers will always win because they are bothered about winning whilst the negotiators can't see the point of winning. Both men and women can be either type and so we will end up with both male and female control freaks in charge and everything will remain the same.
But there is hope. There is the "Christ Anomaly." Once in a very blue moon a person will come along who is unbothered about their own prosperity and welfare and so committed to the wellbeing of others that they have the energy and drive to break through the institution's walls, albeit for just a short time, gain authority (not through connivance but because people love them) and actually change things for the better. Invariably they are martyred by the institution pretty quickly but they somehow always seem to leave their mark before they are stopped. Maybe the next instigator of change within the Anglican Communion will be a "womanly" woman and the church at its higher levels will become less "masculine" in its dealings with its members, its employees and the world. I fear that one thing is for certain, the Church will not automatically become more like the Kingdom of God just because a woman gets to be in charge. In fact, for those of us who cringe at the very mention of "messy church" it would become even more hellish.