So, yesterday was a big day for women in the UK. The Church of England General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of appointing women bishops (never mind that our BUGB ‘Archbishop’ (aka General Secretary) is the brilliant Lynn Green and we have had women in national and regional leadership for many years). And David Cameron has done a cabinet reshuffle that went something like this (with apologies to my magician friends).
**Prime Minister shows 4 playing cards – all kings**
**Prime Minister shuffles the cards (perhaps using some sneaky moves)**
**Prime Minister drops the kings**
**Prime Minister picks up the cards and reveals them to be 4 queens.**
**Prime Minister takes a bow.**
Now I have a problem here. You see I don’t think we should be rejoicing about the fact that the Church of England has agreed that it can appoint women bishops and I don’t think we should be rejoicing about the fact that the Prime Minister has reshuffled his cabinet and appointed more women. Before you brand me a bigot let me explain.
I don’t think we should be rejoicing because it should not be an issue. It should be a given that women have an equal role in society. It should not be unusual that women are appointed to leadership roles. It should not be headline news. It should be a given. A person’s gender should not matter at all. It should not be a factor in making decisions of the sort that were made yesterday.
And yet I also want to shout a loud ‘Woohoo!’ because these are two more steps in the right direction. These are two more public bricks being knocked out of the wall of prejudice and discrimination. These are two more examples of gender justice.
And, if I am confessing to the cage of confused hamsters that are spinning the wheels in my head at the moment, I also want to say that it does matter immensely. Because while gender should never be an issue and we should never discriminate on the basis of someone’s gender (or other factors either) at the same time a person’s gender is inherently part of who they are. I am a male human. It is part of what makes me me. I would not want to erase my masculine attributes or deny them because that would be to erase or deny part of my identity.
So when I say that “a person’s gender should not matter at all” at the same time I want to say that it matters completely. It is part of who we are. It is part of our identity. Reclaiming our gender identity and refusing to be conformed by stereotypes and prejudice is an essential part of being human and being a follower of Jesus.
And while the hamsters are still spinning those wheels let me try to make some sense of all of the above. I think it is possible to hold all of that in creative tension.
I think we can say wholeheartedly that gender should never make a difference by way of prejudice and discrimination. And we can say wholeheartedly that gender does make a difference as part of who we are. And we can say that until gender is not a cause for discrimination we must fight for gender justice and celebrate every step in the right direction.
When God looks at us he does not see our gender as an issue: he does not discriminate on the basis of gender. And when God looks at us he sees our gender and affirms us in it, celebrating who we are. And when God looks at us and simultaneously celebrates and ignores our gender he sets us the task of doing the same.
Be blessed, be a blessing.