23 May 2008

One more and then I'll shut up. For a while...


The Anglican Church in Australia has appointed its first female bishop, Kay Goldsworthy. This is considered controversial around the Anglican Church - despite the fact that my calendar indicates that this is the 21st century. It's hard to believe that there are still some gasping old windbags in the church who believe that women should be barefoot and pregnant.

Not long after this, Barbara Darling was appointed as Australia's second female Anglican bishop.

The Anglican Church of Australia has allowed female priests since 1992 - that's 16 years. By now, female bishops should be being appointed. It is expected that, even with the rampant sexism that goes on in religion, at least one of them should be being appointed to the post of bishop by now.

Unbelievably though, a protocol was agreed last year that reads like this, and I quote:

Archbishop [Roger] Herft [Anglican Archbishop of Perth] and his diocesan council came to the unanimous decision following an agreement last month between Australia's Anglican bishops on a protocol to handle opponents of women bishops.

Under the protocol, parishes that cannot in good conscience recognise the ministry of a woman bishop will be offered the services of a male bishop.

This followed the affirmation by the church's legal body last year that it would not breach church law to appoint a woman bishop.

A bit offensive, I'm sure that you agree.

As befits a momentous occasion like this, Goldsworthy's ordination was presided over by the Archbishop of Brisbane and Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Phillip Aspinall. However, noteworthy by their absences were the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, his brother and the Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Phillip Jensen and the Bishop of Northwest Australia, David Mulready.

Mulready has already indicated that Goldsworthy will not be welcome to conduct services in his diocese, one of only three in Western Australia, where Goldsworthy has been appointed bishop.

Disgustingly, there has been a clamouring silence from moderates within the Anglican Church over the boycotts by the Jensens and Mulready. No one appears to be game to publicly call upon the Jensens or Mulready to resign, or to even condemn their actions.

(Phillip Jensen, you might recall, in a bizarre attack, described "holders of high office in the Church of England" as prostitutes, immediately after criticising Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury) for his tolerant views on homosexuality. During the same speech, he is reported as describing Prince Charles as an adulterer, yet denied that this was a 'personal attack' shortly after.)

I'll put this on the record once again. Moderates who do not speak out about this sort of stuff are either cowardly, or they secretly support this sort of sexism.

16 comments:

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Oh I laughed at the story this morning- With some Bishops claiming it was not biblically right.

Why a woman would want to join this pack of irrelevant, lazy old misogynists is beyond me.

Dikkii said...

G'day Sean, and welcome back.

Why a woman would want to join this pack of irrelevant, lazy old misogynists is beyond me.

I agree. Mind you, some of them might be actually attempting to fix the problem from the inside, in which case I wish them the best of luck.

David B said...

Dikkii

By way of reply, I'll just ask you one question on this:

As a male, how would you feel if you found yourself is a position of being disciplined (in the ethical sense, that is!) by a female authority figure?

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Dave,

It makes no difference to me. If I have done the wrong thing I expect discipline. What hes ones gender to do with it?

David B said...

Hi Sean

The relevance of it is that I'd be very surprised if all men took the same (enlightened) view as you do.

Also, I would be similarly very surprised if all women would be willing to undertake such a role.

Thus, whilst ensuring that the ultimate authority figure in a church is a man is perhaps a rather conservative response, it seems to me to at least be pragmatically understandable in the interests of being able to mange conflict if / when it arises.

Dikkii said...

G'day David,

As a male, how would you feel if you found yourself is a position of being disciplined (in the ethical sense, that is!) by a female authority figure?

*Breathes out*

I hope that I've misunderstood you, but it appears that you may have nailed your colours to the mast with that question.

I have to say that I agree with Sean, and even though it may be that some males might object to this sort of "disciplining" (yes I admit to having smirked when I read this) isn't this their problem?

This attitude about women in positions of authority, by the way, stinks just a little. Gail Kelly is the CEO of Westpac for a reason: she can discipline, and is respected by males and females alike for this very thing.

And if you think I don't know anything about Kelly's work - I was at the Commonwealth Bank when she was the General Manager of their Customer Service division, and can personally vouch for the respect that she was held in by the employees.

(Much more so than her successor, John Mulcahy, who is now the CEO at Suncorp)

Anyway, I hope that I've misunderstood you, David. Objecting to women in senior positions on this (rather lame) basis says more about parishioners and subordinates than I have said on this blog or elsewhere else to date. And it is scathing.

David B said...

Dikki

It becomes more than just a problem for the particular males themselves when they start creating disruption and conflict in the church community by not respecting the female authority figure's leadership.

I agree that this would be rather lame in a corporate context (such as in a bank), but it is important to remember that church communities essentially exist "from the bottom up" and are meant to be as open and inclusive as possible. There is no contract of employment that one signs in order to be become a member of a church. This means that churches are more vulnerable to these sorts of conflicts than are most other types of organisations.

Personally, I actually think that this issue could largely be addressed by having multiple rectors in a parish / multiple bishops in a diocese (or some other form of overall governing) - in much the same way as companies have multiple directors on their boards - with a mix of men and women filling these positions, rather than only having one rector / bishop in each case. Under such a structure, men would be able to discipline men and the issue would go away.

I should also add that there there would be very few people in the Anglican church who would say that women are less capable than men (in some respects, I actually think that the reverse is true) - the issue is a more pragmatic one of ensuring peace and good order within the congregation.

As to your comment about parishioners and subordinates - all organisations have to have their own authority structures - banks have their CEOs, their back office clerks, and everything in between. It is of course the case that not all members of an organisation will agree with every decision that is made at the top, but that is beside the point.

By the way, after I finish this post I am about to fire off an email to the senior minister at my church disputing (as a matter of biblical interpretation) something he said about these issues at a talk I heard him give yesterday, and I can assure you that they are often the subject of vigorous internal debate.

Dikkii said...

David,

It becomes more than just a problem for the particular males themselves when they start creating disruption and conflict in the church community by not respecting the female authority figure's leadership.

Again, this is their problem (the disruptors) not the church's. I see nothing in this that stops moderates making it clear, just like in broader society, that such antiquated views are anachronistic.

...it is important to remember that church communities essentially exist "from the bottom up" and are meant to be as open and inclusive as possible. There is no contract of employment that one signs in order to be become a member of a church.

Let's look at this in a slightly broader context:

...it is important to remember that societies essentially exist "from the bottom up" and are meant to be as open and inclusive as possible. There is no contract of employment that one signs in order to be become a member of society.

(My substitutions)

In the broader society, we let idiots such as the disruptors that you are referring to know that their views are silly and that no one should seriously listen to them. Eventually, they get the message.

By way of example, down here in Victoria at the moment, a great deal of pressure is being applied to Channel Nine regarding John "Sam" Newman's triumph for misogyny on the (AFL) Footy Show a few weeks ago. It has resulted in a few corporate sponsors such as ANZ and The Age commencing advertising boycotts of the show. And ratings are down 15% since then.

I fail to see why a particular church community shouldn't follow the example of the broader community on this one. In fact, just limiting discussion to a specific community sounds an awful lot like special pleading.

By the way, after I finish this post I am about to fire off an email to the senior minister at my church disputing (as a matter of biblical interpretation) something he said about these issues at a talk I heard him give yesterday, and I can assure you that they are often the subject of vigorous internal debate.

I applaud your efforts on this.

I fail to see why you need to resort to "biblical interpretation" when all you need is "it's just plain wrong you misogynist kook" but that's probably my style not yours - I don't see any need to justify an argument of sexual equality. It's self-evident.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

... Under such a structure, men would be able to discipline men and the issue would go away.

I agree with Dikkii here, this is facilitating misogyny and would I think create just as many problems as it attempts to solve.

Dikkii said...

... Under such a structure, men would be able to discipline men and the issue would go away.

I'd probably add to that, Sean, that under the structure referred to above, men can still discipline women. Just not vice versa. Hardly fair.

David B said...

Dikki

Some of these people, be it in the church or elsewhere, just simply do not get it. Ever. Sam Newman has been carrying on like this for years (as I well remember from my 3 and a half years there in AFL land) but did previous criticism stop him this time? Of course not.

What's more, if society ends up simply driving such people away (or underground), and / or pushing them out of site, then the longer term consequences can be horrendous (think current indigenous issues, for example).

I suppose my point is really that is better to keep such people where they can be seen / educated etc. In order to do that, there needs to be appropriate structures put in place to manage them. Also, from the church community's perspective, one of the core elements of Christian ethical teaching is grace - that is, treating people better than they deserve. This means that the church's options here are perhaps somewhat more limited than those of society as a whole.

Sean and Dikki

To clarify my comment about "men disciplining men", I primarily meant this as the "back up" option, rather than as the first response. What I imagine would normally happen in this structure is that discipline would be exercised collegiately (in much the same way as a father and a mother both have responsibility for disciplining a child). My apologies for not making this clear in my previous post.

Dikkii said...

G'day David,

Some of these people, be it in the church or elsewhere, just simply do not get it. Ever.

Somewhat defeatist, I think. Possibly true, but in a small number of cases. Should moderates stop trying because of this lot?

If we accept this, then I put it to you that the hardliners have already won.

Sam Newman has been carrying on like this for years (as I well remember from my 3 and a half years there in AFL land) but did previous criticism stop him this time? Of course not.

Maybe not. It's worth pointing out though, that this time around, companies like The Age and ANZ are at least putting up and ensuring that their dollars do not go to supporting this any more. This is big artillery, no matter how you describe it. Newman might come out unscathed at the end of the day, and he probably won't change his attitude towards women but I can tell you this right now: Nine management will be giving him hell at the moment.

What's more, if society ends up simply driving such people away (or underground), and / or pushing them out of site, then the longer term consequences can be horrendous (think current indigenous issues, for example).

I won't actually, because I think that it's a terrible analogy. I have no recollection of anyone being driven "underground" by EEO legislation, movements to support women's liberation, women's suffrage or the blue stockings for that matter, nor do I think that such a scenario is even remotely plausible in the Anglican Church.

You don't really believe this, do you?

It's difficult, for example, to believe that Fred Nile's defection from the Uniting Church has provided any more legitimacy to his views. In fact, he comes across (to us outside New South Wales) to be even more of a bigoted nutter than he was before.

Also, from the church community's perspective, one of the core elements of Christian ethical teaching is grace - that is, treating people better than they deserve.

Sweet FSM, David, this is some fairly full-on spindoctoring you're engaging in...

I'll play along - wouldn't moderates be treating sexists "better than they deserve" to be politely bringing their idiocy to their attention in a civil way and cordially requesting their resignation? Isn't staying quiet treating misogynists badly by allowing them to continue damaging the church's brand name?

And by condoning such sexism (for that is what it is), how well are moderates treating women parishioners and clergy? Is it "better than they deserve"?

If yes, then I'd really hate to see how badly they could be treated.

To clarify my comment about "men disciplining men", I primarily meant this as the "back up" option, rather than as the first response.

Hmm. "Back up" option rather than as first response. David, why are we discussing a "back up" option? This is patently ludicrous that our discussion has even got to this point.

What I imagine would normally happen in this structure is that discipline would be exercised collegiately (in much the same way as a father and a mother both have responsibility for disciplining a child). My apologies for not making this clear in my previous post.

No need to apologise. But I suspect that you know as well as Sean and myself that this is not what is being suggested, nor does it even approach full equality, don't you?

You also, I suspect, know that this suggests a radical departure from the old pastoral structure, and presumably only because the chicks have to be kept in check. This is not only a disgrace, it smacks of policy on the run.

I know that you're not defending these practices, but to me it's frustrating that no one wants to at least try to fix this sort of thing up.

David B said...

Dikki

I'm not saying that society / the church should just let people who hold these attitudes carry on regardless (far from it), but ultimately there needs to be a structure in place to be able to manage, and educate, such people without simply casting them out.

I also think that you may be seriously overstating the effectiveness of EEO, bluestocking, etc beyond the educated "middle class" (for want of a better term), but that's a whole separate discussion in itself.

Dikkii said...

David.

I'm not saying that society / the church should just let people who hold these attitudes carry on regardless (far from it), but ultimately there needs to be a structure in place to be able to manage, and educate, such people without simply casting them out.

Whoa. Let's not put the cart before the ill wind which blows out with the bathwater. At no stage have I suggested that the sexists in power at the senior levels of the church be "cast out".

Resign from office, maybe. But "excommunicated" from the flock, which is what I assume that you mean? That's probably a little bit too severe. I'm not even sure if the Anglican Church does excommunications. Nor am I suggesting such a thing.

All I'm suggesting is this:

1. If senior churchmen such as the Jensens or Mulready wish to engage in shameful misogyny that threatens to interfere with the careers of churchwomen on the basis of their gender, they should resign immediately. This is serious shit.

2. Moderates have a duty to speak out and encourage such resignations.

FWIW: Whilst I agree that sexism will not be completely eradicated in broader society, for you to suggest that EEO etc hasn't been effective beyond the educated middle classes is a little peculiar, and yes, it's relevant in this context:

* If an executive tried to convince other executives in a large company that appointing females was wrong on the basis of their gender, they would almost certainly be asked to resign

* If a male voter were to suggest that females should be banned from voting on the basis of their gender, they would be ridiculed, laughed at etc.

* If a male student wrote into a student newspaper suggesting that female students should be banned... I'll stop right here because this is too ridiculous to even contemplate.

However, male bishops in the Anglican Church appear to get away with it scot free. Male clergy in other religious institutions get away with it fully.

David B said...

Dikki

Whilst I am not a particular fan of the Jensens, I don't think it is fair or accurate to call them misogynist. (I can't comment on Mulready as I know nothing about him.) I think you will find that they genuine believe that there is a need to have a male as the head of a one rector / one bishop congregation for reasons of congregational order.

There are lots of other ways in which which they encourage women to play very active roles within the life of the church - more so, in fact, than they encourage men who don't want to become ordained ministers (but that's another story....).

As to your comment about careers, if anyone (male or female) takes up a formal position in the church as a "career", then they shouldn't be there at all, because they would probably be doing so out of the wrong motives and will end up failing, or burning themselves out, etc, etc. The church is not a corporate ladder as you seem to be suggesting.

I agree with your examples about the types of sexism that wouldn't be tolerated within society, but each of them says nothing about what people think in private, or "behind closed doors" (as it were).

What I am ultimately more concerned about is the attitudes of the human heart, and socially enforced compliance on these issues can only ever go so far.

By the way, there is a report on todays' Australian that makes it pretty clear that Sam Newman is still showing no remorse for his actions, despite all the public critism and despite Channel 9's response.

"Casting out" is perhaps too strong a term, as you say, although there are from time to time some very rare cases where people are asked to leave due to incorrigible inappropriate behaviour.

I would much rather there be a structure, along the lines that I have proposed, where males who are behaving in this way be pulled into line by other males (in circumstances where the misbehaving males have already rejected the authority of a woman to discipline them), than to either have them continue to be a disrupting influence or to have to kick them out other than as an absolute last resort.

Dikkii said...

G'day David,

Whilst I am not a particular fan of the Jensens, I don't think it is fair or accurate to call them misogynist. (I can't comment on Mulready as I know nothing about him.)

You're probably right. "Sexist" or "chauvinist" is more accurate.

I think you will find that they genuine believe that there is a need to have a male as the head of a one rector / one bishop congregation for reasons of congregational order.

I don't dispute that any more than I dispute that people genuinely believed in the olden days that women weren't fit to cast their vote in elections. It doesn't make it any less unacceptable.

As to your comment about careers, if anyone (male or female) takes up a formal position in the church as a "career", then they shouldn't be there at all, because they would probably be doing so out of the wrong motives and will end up failing, or burning themselves out, etc, etc.

David. As I'm sure that you're aware, there are many reasons why people commence careers, either specific ones, or in general. Let’s not mince words here – a career is a career.

But after starting that thought, please allow me to look at this from the opposite direction: Supposing that we stop paying clergy their wages, stipends, fees etc. Does this mean that clergy will continue to work for nothing? If yes, what drugs are you smoking and do they ship to Melbourne?

The church is not a corporate ladder as you seem to be suggesting.

Well I could have made certain that only the clergy and other employees were covered by this inference, but you knew exactly what I meant. That's an odd statement that you've made there, and slightly at odds with reality.

I agree with your examples about the types of sexism that wouldn't be tolerated within society, but each of them says nothing about what people think in private, or "behind closed doors" (as it were).

What goes on behind closed doors or in people's minds is neither pertinent to this thread, nor is it something remotely possible to police.

We're discussing public statements and actions, not private or mental ones. Agree we should fix people's private attitudes. Disagree that it's an immediate focus.

By the way, there is a report on todays' Australian that makes it pretty clear that Sam Newman is still showing no remorse for his actions, despite all the public critism and despite Channel 9's response.

He is a complete friggin' idiot. However, in news to hand, Channel Nine have axed him, and I contemplated in a comment on Greg's blog a few weeks back that an extended stint of unemployment would possibly assist Newman in waking up to himself.

I would much rather there be a structure, along the lines that I have proposed, where males who are behaving in this way be pulled into line by other males (in circumstances where the misbehaving males have already rejected the authority of a woman to discipline them), than to either have them continue to be a disrupting influence or to have to kick them out other than as an absolute last resort.

OK, I agree to disagree, but is there still any reason why others within the church can’t just publicly call for (at the very least) censure or resignation? It appears simple to me?