Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Women Bishops: Why The Church of England Has Messed Up Here




The general synod of the Church of England has voted against the appointment of women as bishops. Two things are evident; firstly, it won’t be too much longer before the balance is tipped; and secondly this vote doesn’t reflect the views of the majority of Christians in the UK 

Let me say why I do favour women bishops, and why I think the C of E has got it wrong – I have two reasons; one is to do with a well known principle in moral philosophy, and the other is to do a well known principle in economics. The moral philosophy principle is this; I strongly support women’s rights to be ordained in ministry and leadership – be they vicars, chaplains, or bishops, or any other position, based primarily on a fixed view I have about humans not discriminating against other humans based on race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or any other congenital component of being human. 

The economic principle is to do with utilisation of skills, and this is an area that both the feminists and the patriarchs have got entirely wrong.  This is not an immutable rule, but for maximum efficiency you are best to optimise the specialised skills people bring to the table.  In a partnership, if two people have similar skills there is less to be gained from sharing them – all you’re doing is reassigning jobs from one equally suitable person to another.  For maximum efficiency, if two people have similar skills concerning task A, then you’re best to separate roles, where one does task A and the other does task B.  But if two partners have very different skills it is best to share both task A and task B because both sets of specialist skills can be brought into both tasks.  Suppose we have a town planning project, I don’t think are many people who would deny that an economist and a building surveyor partnership would be a more efficient partnership than two economists or two building surveyors.  Suppose we have a committee assigned to draw up a document that maximises good parenting; I don’t think there are many people who would deny that a group of five men and five women would be more efficient than a group of ten women or ten men.  And I cannot imagine there are many people who would deny that a partnership consisting of a livestock specialist and an agronomy specialist would make a better farming partnership than two livestock specialists or two agronomy specialists.

This is where the feminists and the patriarchs do not understand maximum efficiency.  Feminists, in trying to make women and men as similar as possible, say that task A should be shared equally.  That’s wrong – if they are similar they would achieve maximum efficiency by specialising.  Patriarchs, in trying to make men and women as different as possible, say that women should specialise in task A and men in task B.  That’s also wrong – if they are different they would achieve maximum efficiency by sharing and bringing to bear both sets of specialties and talents.

Now let me make one thing quite clear; there are situations in which this sort of logic would not be maximally beneficial.  For example, in a marriage, there are all sorts of good reasons why housework, driving, entertaining, gardening, etc are better shared (respect, closeness, togetherness, kindness, consideration, relationship equality, to name but five) – but this issue is about women bishops, and hence on grounds of moral philosophy and economic principles the church is making a mistake.  In both cases, appointing women bishops is the right thing to do.  Given that women are equal in every sense of rights and respect, both women and men should be allowed to be bishops on grounds that gender discrimination is ugly.  And conversely, given that women have very different skills to men (as well as many similar skills), both women and men should be allowed to be bishops on grounds that church leadership (be they vicars, chaplains, or bishops) will benefit from both sets of specialised skills being brought to bear.  Whichever way you cut the cloth, the church is throwing away one of its golden pearls by failing to maximise the talents of both men and women. 

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