It’s not unusual for a man of a certain generation to make remarks that are perhaps not quite in step with 21st century values.
It’s one thing when your Great Uncle asks why you’re going to work and putting the kids in childcare, or your best friend’s dottery grandfather thinks women these days are getting just a bit too big for their boots.
You’ll laugh it off because, honestly, it’s easier and you’re not going to convince them to change their minds anyway.
However, it’s another thing altogether when it comes from a trusted figure in the community, someone who has been commissioned to offer care and wisdom to all people.
At some point, we have to draw a line in the sand of silly old men and ask them to join us in the contemporary world.
Earlier this week, students from Anglican schools in Sydney gathered together for the annual service to commission the 2016 prefects and captains.
Prior to the service the Archbishop of Sydney, the Right Reverend Glenn Davies, held a Q & A with the students.
According to ABC, during the course of the Q & A, Archbishop Davies was asked about leadership roles for women. According to those present, he indicated that women should not strive for leadership roles, because a woman’s role is to support men.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Sydney said, “The Archbishop’s Annual Prefects service offers the opportunity to commission Year 12 leaders and to pray for them for the year ahead.
The Archbishop also invites any prefect to ask him questions in a Q & A session prior to the service. The service, as well as the question and answer session, proceeded as normal today with good support from Anglican schools across the diocese.”
However, the ABC reports that students were left “shocked” and “confused” by “the outdated ideas he promoted at the service.”
According to reports some staff left the service close to tears, because the Archbishop’s comments were so far from the messages they were trying to send to their students about women’s equality.
For the most part, the Anglican Church would disagree with Archbishop Davies. Anglicans ordain women as priests and make them into bishops. Most Anglicans are entirely comfortable with feminism.
However, Archbishop Davies leads the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, and while there are progressive parishes in Sydney, the diocese is overwhelmingly hard conservative.
Much of Sydney Diocese subscribe to the doctrine of complementarianism; that is that men and women are fundamentally different and that they play fundamentally different roles in family life and in the community. Complementarians frequently state that husbands are the head of the household, that women should submit to men, and that women must be silent in the church.
While I can’t say one way or another if Archbishop Davies does believe in complementarianism, it should be noted that one of the prefects told the ABC that, “we were told that men will make the decisions because men are regarded as having higher status and more power, ” and that in 2013 he refused to consecrate a woman as a bishop in the diocese of Grafton for reasons of conscience.
Complementarians draw their beliefs from the biblical creation stories in Genesis, where God says to Adam that he shall rule over Eve, and in the New Testament they rely on the writings of Paul who in a number of letters says that women must submit to men.
I’m a fairly regular church-goer, and my father is an ordained Anglican Minister, who was originally trained in Sydney Diocese. However, my father is also a progressive and a feminist and he would argue that those values can also be inspired by the bible. But that’s by the by.
I remember very clearly once, an old boyfriend of mine asked Dad whether or not he believed that the bible was literally true.
Dad replied by asking him if he thought Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was literally true.
The answer was obviously not.
And then Dad asked him if thought that Pride and Prejudice was an accurate reflection of the society that Austen lived in, of what people of that time thought and believed and the way that life was lived.
The answer was yes.
And so it is with the bible. I will never believe that it’s entirely literally true. But I do believe it is reflection of what people thought and believed at the time, and that it gives us a picture of the way the world worked many millennia ago.
And if that’s the case, then we have to place the teachings of the bible within their appropriate context. Should we argue that a women’s role in society is to support men, that they ought not strive for leadership, of course not. Should we argue that love for each other and care for our neighbour should be what drives us each and every day – the core of Jesus’ teaching?
When the church asks, as it so often does, why women are leaving, it’s worth turning to look inward. When church leaders push women and young girls away from leadership, when church leaders refuse to ordain women, when church leaders place women in a position of submission, is it any wonder that women leave?
Perhaps a better question is, why has the church abandoned women?
The beliefs and attitudes expressed by John Piper’s in this video is one of the reasons why women feel abandoned by the church.