Female Bishops in Church of England is a Good Step… But it’s Just a Step

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, said that Monday’s decision to permit female bishops in the Church of England was “a moment of joy,” but that:

there will be those within our body who will be hurting as a result of this decision. Our answer to the hurting [should be] ‘we will not let go until you have blessed us.’ We move slowly because we move together.

He seems not to realize how many people are already hurting by Church policies and mores that actively oppress them. Perhaps it’s time to find better ways to earn their blessing, and to move with them, rather than fret about the sensitivities of those who would uphold the status quo. Of course women can be talented and capable religious leaders, but the current push for women’s ordination or appointment to the bishophric doesn’t erase prejudices that have thrived in, and because of, Christian churches. Allowing them to join the boys’ club is a small gesture to placate progressives, and distracts from other archaic policies.

A Church that gives women more power gets points for liberality, but it seldom has to address deeper issues of patriarchy, like male language for God, permissive attitudes toward gendered violence, and expectations that women must prevent men from lusting. Nor does such a Church necessarily affirm LGBT lives, or welcome non-white people.

The solution to institutional bigotry isn’t some kind of “lean-in feminism” where the women who are best at politics move up the ranks and marginalize others. What’s needed is a more democratic Church. The real “moment of joy” will come when we’re more concerned about what’s taught from the pulpit, rather than who’s preaching from it.