Beware the fossilised females who caused this Church crisis
Without female bishops, something rich and fundamental is missing from the Anglican Church
SUSIE LEAFE describes herself as a "radical feminist". Yesterday, when the appointment of women bishops was lost by a slender six votes and both Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Church of England were plunged into a major crisis of credibility, Ms Leafe demonstrated that, on the the contrary, she is a very conservative disrupter. She is one of a very small band of women in the Church with the clout to hold back a revolution; a case of ecclesiastical sisters certainly not doing it for themselves.
In May, Susie Leafe and 13 other women members of the Church of England Synod, traditionalists and evangelicals, began an online petition. It was intended to stop years of campaigning invested in securing, yesterday, a two-thirds vote in favour of the appointment of female bishops at the General Synod.
The petition attracted the signatures of 2,228 women. Some of them cast their vote as members of the General Synod’s House of Laity that blocked that two-thirds majority. In doing so, they also kept the Church of England in an anachronistic time warp as an all-male bishopric debating social justice while failing to deliver it to its members; hypocrisy wearing a mitre.
How Ms Leafe justifies her stand reveals that in our modern society there persist relics of a by-gone age - fossilised females who, uncharitably, trap not only themselves but also their men in stereotypical roles that are not only redundant but also a relatively modern invention: mother in the home, father as the breadwinner.
In an article in The Times on Monday, Ms Leafe showed a complete misunderstanding of the goals of feminism. Let's hope her understanding of the Bible has more acuity. She appears to argue that the aim of equality is to treat everybody the same. Not so. The aim is to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to develop his or her potential to the full, inside and outside the home.
Of course, there are differences between the genders, moulded by nature and nurture; personal traits and social norms. Feminists took to the streets precisely because these differences were too often overlooked.
Men designed a world in which they could fit easily, assuming everybody else - i.e. women - was exactly the same as them. (Hence for years women struggled, for instance, to get pushchairs on buses designed for men.) That is now changing – unless Ms Leafe gets her way.
As a supposed radical feminist, Ms Leafe argues for another kind of "difference". One in which "only men can serve as bishops" while it is the female role to "offer self-sacrificial support". (Hands up anyone who was reared by a mother-as-martyr? Not a happy plight.) Such an orderly division of labour saves rows about who cleans the bath but it does so at a price. It is a stifler of talent, of capabilities, of collaboration between partners.
It is also a luxury. Ms Leafe's view of the world is one which only the affluent can enjoy. For the majority of households, rightly, the division of housework, childcare and earning the bread to put on the table is dictated by inclination and necessity not the Scriptures.
Men and women are different. That's precisely why without female bishops, something rich and fundamental is missing from the Anglican Church.