Will Women Bishops Be Any Better Than Men Bishops?

According to the prominent female priest, Rosie Harper (a frontrunner in the OCICBW... Babelicious Bishops race and chaplain to the hierarchy's token rebel bishop, Alan Wilson):

"The first woman bishop must find a new way of being a bishop and not merely become a female version, according to a senior woman priest in the Church of England. Bishops currently behave like "little boys lost" who "posture" that they know what they are doing and find it impossible to escape the gentlemen's club culture until they retire."

She is spot on about her assessment of how the college of bishops operates (in fact, it's pretty much how the Church of England operates full stop, if the truth be told). Her hope for a future where the church is run by honest and just women bishops who all got their posts because of their abilities and Christlike character is a vision of an ecclesiastical Utopia that I, for one, certainly share. Twenty odd years ago I had exactly the same hope that women priests would lead us into becoming more like the communalistic, non-hierarchal church of the first Christians (if such a church ever existed). However, I now accept that was always a forlorn hope and that believing that women will change anything is pie in the sky nonsense.

It's not that the church avoided ordaining compassionate, intelligent, fair-minded women to the priesthood. Far from it, the church is now full of them. But then the church is also full of male priests with exactly the same characteristics. But like their male equivalent such good female pastors are noticeable by their absence from the higher echelons of the church's hierarchy. I did know one woman who really was a caring selfless priest who made it to the rank of archdeacon, but she hated the job so much that she returned to parish ministry as soon as she could.

Therein lies the problem. The sort of person who should be leading the church at diocesan level, who should have the authority to change things, to the core of their very nature does not want to. The sort of person who wants to be a bishop is the sort of person who wants to be in charge and will play whatever the game is to get there. This truth applies equally to women as it does to men as the experience of women priests over the last twenty years proves.

So we have the irony of Rosie Harper, a woman who has negotiated the political landscape of the Church of England just like the ambitious men do, calling for an episcopacy that eschews such boys school shenanigans and I do not believe her. I think she would like to be a bishop and that what she really means is that she wants the episcopacy to be a unisex club with exactly the same elite status that it presently enjoys with all the trappings of "I'm in charge" that comes with it. If she was the type of person she wants to see in the episcopacy we would not know it because she would not be a vocal member of synod, in the newspapers, all over the net and the Bishop of Buckingham's secretary in the first place.

Do not get me wrong. I think Rosie is a smashing person and well righteous. I would want her on my side in any fight. But I fear that what makes her the champion she is, are those personality traits that are (erroneously in my opinion) regarded by many as belonging to alpha males. The tragedy is that the system allows it to be no other way. Humans are a tribal creature and the chief of the tribe (male or female nowadays) is the one who has managed to beat the living daylights out of all competitors. Jesus wanted it to be different but he was ever the optimist and in this regard his optimism was completely misplaced.


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