"Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the righting of ‘an ancient wrong’" reads the headline on the front page of February’s Melbourne Anglican, a publication that can be relied on to take the liberal-progressivist line on everything. And what is this "ancient wrong"? Why, none other that, until 20 years ago, the Anglican Church did not ordain women. And whom can we blame for this appalling outrage? God? Christ? Archbishop Cranmer? Centuries of anonymous "patriarchy"? All the above, one imagines.
What colossal, breathtaking arrogance. What an insolent assumption of superior wisdom. To dismiss as a wrong what not only Anglicans but Christians of all kinds universally believed and practised for nearly 2000 years (and the majority of Christians still do: how insulting can you get?); as a wrong moreover that could only be put right by a pushy gaggle of late twentieth-century Anglican women taking their cue from a secular feminist agenda, must surely set a record for blinkered self-obsession. Self-delusion too. These women who self-righteously claim to have corrected the prejudice of history are mostly middle-aged-and-over and would not in their younger days even have guessed that there was a wrong to be righted. The idea of ordination would not have entered the antechambers of their minds. Their clerical ambitions would have gone no further than wanting to marry a good-looking curate.
But then in the 1980s along came the "Christian" feminists trailing in the wake of the secular feminist pioneers and these middle-class suburban Anglican women discovered not only that they too were feminists but that they had been shockingly discriminated against since the time of the Apostles. Perhaps they picked up a book by Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza or Rosemary Radford Ruether or another of the eminently unreadable ladies churning out feminist propaganda from the tenured shelter of some American divinity school. Perhaps they went on a course of female spirituality where it was pointed out how disgracefully they and their sex had been treated. Perhaps a friend became a feminist and they didn’t want to be left behind or thought unintellectual.
Whatever, the perpetual feminist aspiration to be "the same" as men flowered in the confused and propagandised terrain of their frustrations. No longer was it enough to be mothers, or to serve the poor and homeless as nuns or to teach little children the simple truths of Christianity in Sunday schools. That was the kind of thing scheming males wanted women to do to keep them in subjection. For these women "empowered" by feminism, the new goal was the "right" to fulfil the vocations they now announced they had. Their campaign, conducted on Gramscian principles with stridency and the support of the secular media, proved too strong to be resisted by wishy-washy male church leaders desperate not to seem "sexist", and the ordination of women on the same terms as men duly became, in the words of the female preacher at this "celebration" of their triumph in Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral, "the new normal" of Anglican ministry.
Some people detect in this the hand of Providence. They see the introduction of priestesses as a matter of natural justice and its secular derivation as evidence of the Holy Spirit "working through contemporary modes of thought". If so, the Holy Spirit is saying different things in different places, for this is a purely Western view. It is only in the shrinking Anglican context in Australia, or Britain and the United States, that female ordination campaigners managed to browbeat or persuade their co-religionists into accepting this "new normal". The hierarchies in the countries where Anglicanism is growing and thriving won’t have a bar of it. Shameful as the Melbourne Anglican no doubt considers it, in those places the ancient wrong remains resolutely unrighted.
Christopher Akehurst, a frequent Quadrant contributor, blogs at Argus