Sunday, 14 February 2016

Anglican misogyny

Fundamentalist churches are often rightly called into account over the way they devalue the role of women. But what about mainline churches like the dear old C of E? This story comes out of the Sydney, Australia Anglican diocese, widely regarded as a bastion of the denomination's evangelical wing.
"Students and teachers from some of Sydney's Anglican high schools say they are shocked and angered by remarks made by one of the church's most senior clerics. 
"Before delivering a speech to year 12 prefects during the Annual Service for Anglican School Leaders on Thursday, Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies faced a series of robust questions from male and female students about the place of women. 
"In explaining his view that the Bible says men and women have different roles in society and that God intended men to be the "heads" of women, many present believed he was saying women should not aspire to the same career heights as men."
Mr Davies apparently hasn't gotten the memo about living in the twenty-first century.
"A prefect at one of Sydney's most prestigious girls' schools, who declined to be identified because the students had been advised by their school not to speak to the media, said she and her friends were "angry" and "confused" that the Church was telling them the opposite message about gender equality to that told to them by their parents, educators and society in general. 
"Another said: "We're trying as much as we can, and to be told that in the end we're not going to get there because of our gender? … It was disrespectful to us, as girls." 
"When asked what Archbishop Davies said on gender equality, the students told The Drum that he told them the genders were equal, but the roles they inhabited were not.
"'We were told that men will make the decisions because men are regarded as having higher status and more power,'" one said. 
"As some of the students returned to their schools voicing their confusion, principals spoke privately to The Drum about the need to "hose" down girls who were told to submit to men by church elders."
The young people are right. Davies seems to be on a one clergyperson crusade to make Christianity irrelevant in Australia.


  1. This news item does not provide much on what the Archbishop actually did say, or how he said it and what reasons or explanations he may have given to support his opinion, but the news item reports what reporters claim that the students allegedly complained about, and we have no real facts about the general response by other students, staff or parents, whereas when the item appeared on the ABC news link it was followed by numerous and varied comments on the topic. The merits of the Archbishop's views may be debatable but regardless of his views wouldn't it be prudent not to uncritically accept this media version? "Parents, educators and society in general" may have views but are they all the same, and does not the Archbishop have the liberty to voice his church's (or at last the Sydney Diocese's) position and also be reported fairly, correctly and without prejudice? Much of traditional christianity may now be at variance with public opinion or media reporter's biases, but there may be much of relevance in the Archbishop's perspective to people who are willing to listen. Maybe this is a case of needing to read the media with a critical eye, which I believe would be Gavin's genuine concern in any case. Sincerely, john buchner

    1. Hi John. I seem to remember your name from Ambassador Watch days as someone with a WCG background who had recently earned a doctorate and was involved with the Sydney Anglican church.

      While I take your point, it's worth pointing out that (1) the ABC is a pretty reliable news source, (2) the church maintains that it can't provide a transcript, making it impossible to cite his actual words, though it's clear real offence was caused. I don't want to put you on the spot, but would be interested to know your own views on this subject.

      FWIW I picked up the link via comments by Dr Val Webb, an Australian author and theologian who I'm sure you're familiar with. Her comments: "Why does such interpretation from a first century text from a culture where women were treated as male property continue to be voiced. I am so glad the women students objected but some will feel they are supposed to believe this!"

  2. Thanks for confirming your interest in careful reporting Gavin - a quality that is essential to taking seriously the many views you report and also comment on. As to the ABC, it has had its critics re perceived bias but it usually depends on who is complaining! The report in question has cast the Archbishop's comments unfavourably and yet probabbly justifiably if his views were not well communicated. I do not have a transcript either so cannot judge, neither do I know how these students really were offended. All I kmow is that statements on gender equality generally fall into "good" or "bad" polarized categories and the Archbishop's comments seem to fall into the latter, according to popular opinion and those of other religious opinions, such as the respected Dr Webb. As you surely know, the Sydney Diocese takes its understanding of the Bible very seriously indeed, and its followers are firmly convinced of its stance - but not all. There are many arguments for a more liberal stance on many matters, whilst remaining true to core convictions I suppose. It is my understanding that no definite restriction on women's opportunities is asserted by the Archbishop, save the matter of ordination to priesthood (yet there are many women referred to as "Rev" already) and there are indeed many women who have gained recognition at the highest levels in many fields, yet it is unfortunate that the conservative position is nevertheless perceived as being oppressive and even insulting to women. It is the cause of that perception that needs deeper thought and, where necessary, reformation of views and penitance on the part of those who have offended women. I respect the character of the Archbishop and accept that many women in this Diocese would affirm his comments, in principle at least, but as long as people adhere to a naive biblical literalism there will be disputation and offence in this matter. As a matter of conscience, I support the aspirations of women in every field whilst also trusting that my church's evolution in this matter will be orderly and prudent. As to ordination of women, I have my own view that all ministry ought to be "lay" and be practised by all, primarily in the faith of Jesus, that enigmatic figure who I believe still has relevance for us all despite our disappointments with religion and the challenging assertions of progressive scholars. At the end of the day, I believe that Jesus still matters. And I hope that you will find room in your heart for that too Gavin. Cheers, john

  3. The Archbishop claims his views are biblical. I find that they lack biblical substantiation.