Reform Women Instruct us Not to Listen to Instructions from Women

Earlier this week a group called Proper Provision (from what I can gather the women of Reform) presented the Bishops with a petition regarding the Women Bishops legislation that the House of Bishops is debating almost as I type this.

Reform Women
I do find this kind of thing highly ironic and not a little bit irritating.

Reform, is a group formed specifically to prevent women from getting their pretty little female hands on anything like any kind of authority to run a church all by their fluffy headed little selves.  How on earth they think that using women to be figureheads for being anti a church where women are listened to, is beyond me.

Are we to allow women to use their voices or not?

Come on Reform! You can't have it both ways.

You cannot point at these women and say - 'You see, we're right, listen to the women', and at the same time be using these women to bring the message 'Don't listen to women!'

It's sheer nonsense.

To me it entirely exposes the kind of thinking and non-thinking that goes on at the heart of an institution like Reform who, on one level, think they are really doing women a favour.  And some women are convinced  that they are.  When I was at college I often found myself at the brunt of other women's ire.  It was painful, but it did lead me to ask the question as to why I was such a pain in the arse to some of them.  It really was as if my raising the point or just exposing some of the sexism that I saw or experienced, was taken as a betrayal of the unwritten Code of Women, which goes something like this....

'Don't point out that we're women, or someone will notice and stop us from playing'

'Don't ask for the shape of things to change, be grateful we've been allowed in at all'

Of course at college it was slightly different from the Reform nonsense because there was some semblance of women being allowed to be ordained and run churches, but some of the outworkings are the same.

If you spend your spiritual life being told that you are 'equal but different' as the Reform Women are told, then the narrow area of ministry that you are then offered seems not only wise and generous, but you will absolutely guard it with your life because it is your whole world and it is being controlled by those who tell you that they are in control - they are in control because they are the ones in control and they say who gets to be in control.  You are given all your self-worth through the eyes of those who control the barriers to your potential.  To be actively seen to be colluding with the power-holders will increase your sense of belonging to that group and give you affirmation from those who hold the key to your possible potential.  Those who are seen to be trying to demolish these boundaries are seen as traitors and world-destroyers.

In college the atmosphere was one of not upsetting the applecart.  Women who smoothed any turbulence found that their affirmation from some of the men increased.  It doesn't take too long for us to learn that 'keeping the peace' is the way to  belong and 'upsetting the status quo' is a fasttrack to exclusion and suspicion.  Of course a lot of women in an evangelical college have been well schooled in this for a long time.  It takes quite a lot of courage to choose to claim the emperor has no clothes anyway.

It's really tough when women work against each other, and it is tough for women to break the rules of the communities that they've grown up in and to which they belong.

But I also have enough respect for women to say that you cannot at the same time 'Speak Up', when the message you bring is 'Shut Up'.


Simon Heron said...

So who can make the argument against women as bishops? (not that I'm planning to, just interested to see who you think can)

Anonymous said...

Some women, good faithful Christian women, have conservative views on gender roles, and want their position respected. Get over it.

radical disciple said...

Hi Simon

Well it won't suprise you to know that I would disagree with any argument against having women as bishops - but that's not quite the same as seeing the fundamental flaw in sending women to proclaim the invalidity of women to have authority to speak...

inherently from this perspective women are given their interpretation of Scripture from men (because women are not allowed to preach or teach Scripture on their own account), and so for women to be the ones giving the message that is inherently one stemming from the men who teach it (even if they do adhere to that teaching themselves), is rather disingenuous.


radical disciple said...

Hi Anonymous (I do encourage people to leave a name, otherwise it seems a bit of a non-conversation...)

You cannot get away from the fact, as articulated above - that the women involved in these congregations are told by men that they do not have the authority to interpret Scripture and so any adherence to a view on Scripture is caught up in the cycle of having to bend to the authority of the one who does have authority to say what Scripture means, the men.

This has nothing to do with whether they are good or Christian or respected. I know a number of women who quite possibly have signed this petition and it has nothing to do with whether I respect them or not, to point out the flaw at the heart of it.

blessings, Jody

Simon Heron said...


I understand what you're saying, and to a certain extent agree with it. Are you saying that any woman studying scripture independently (ie with no teaching from a man) will always come to the same conclusion as you? And if she doesn't, then how can she speak about it?

I suppose it would be possible to argue that the fact that more women have not signed up to Proper Provision is because they believe that they are taking the exhortation to keep silent to its logical extent, and therefore must not speak about it.

Either way, their view is not taken into account. Which can't be right.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Jody, the way you've written this is one of the reasons why there's so much tension between evangelical wings at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, not sure about this supposed contradiction Jody. You are assuming that because they don't want women as incumbents, therefore that they never think women should be listened to or that women should never hear other women teach the bible. I don't think that's their position (given the fact they have women, including an ordained woman, on their leadership team).