Emily Wilding Davison sounds every bit like a tennis playing, bicycle riding girl from a Betjeman poem. Alas, nothing so genteel. 100 years ago this June she ran into the path of the king’s horse as it thundered down the Epsom race track. There are new theories about this act of what used to be thought of as doomed heroism. Doubt is now voiced over whether she meant to die for the suffragette cause. There was a ticket in her coat pocket for the theatre that evening. It suggests she only meant to attract attention rather than become a martyr. Brave? Certainly. Naïve? Probably. If you’ve ever seen a horse moving at the speed of a Mondeo on a dual-carriageway then it was unlikely the encounter was going to end up with merely a few bent hairpins and a dishevelled sash. She risked everything for change.
Mike and I recently visited friends who spent much of the day talking about their passion for the place of women bishops. Their reaction to the last vote incorporated feelings of anger, betrayal and injustice. Heartfelt though their views were, I couldn’t help thinking that perspective is everything; try using that argument if you ever got to talk to a Syrian rebel fighter. On the whole I think it would be a good thing if women were allowed to become bishops. Like most people I’m keen that the right person gets the job – any job, regardless of gender. From firemen to truck drivers, women are fulfilling roles that have almost stopped being gender specific. There are now laws and legislation regarding equality and discrimination. The lines of distinction regarding male and female roles are blurred and there is nothing stopping men becoming midwives or women working on a drilling platform. Emily’s sacrifice in part won these eventual freedoms.
However, rather than being hostage to every cultural milestone embraced by the secular world, we are to live lives distinctly different. So I understand why a woman bishop cannot be the straightforward transaction that its adherents would like it to be. But it seems right to continue to continue to seek God’s guidance on this theological knot. Which reminds me, our friends didn’t mention God once in their arguments. Yet as Christians I’m assuming we all believe God really does reign over all these things. Just supposing that right now His answer is no; not yet. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew a thing or two about timing – ‘for everything there is a season..’ Maybe the season is near or far. Or never. But in the immortal words of a Father Ted episode ‘maybe we should have a pray and see what God has to say about it.’ You can’t beat that kind of wisdom
For many it will always be a divisive issue and I suspect will be upheld uneasily one way or another. In the meantime there’s always the thorny and pressing issue of a new, female Doctor Who. Now that might really bring the house down.
Love in Jesus,