Backlash Over Parish refusal to consider Female Priest

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Image Credit: Jaggery (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oxford churchgoers have recently become embroiled in a parish controversy, following the publication of a job advert seeking male only applicants.

The job advert, to fill the role of vicar for the St Barnabas and St Paul’s with St Thomas the Martyr Parish, patroned by Keble and Christ Church College, has divided the community.

Many parish members have publicly stated they agree with the bishop-backed decision. One male resident of the Jericho parish told The Oxford Mail: “I disagree entirely with the ordination of women, it’s a male prerogative. Our Lord did not wish it and I am sure that it’s one of the reasons for the decline in Church membership.”

Others see this as evidence of misogyny and a failure of the church to move into the 21st Century. Labour councillor, Susanna Pressel expressed her shock: “What century are they living in?

They have several excellent women church wardens who do most of the work. It’s profoundly insulting to regard them as not good enough to be paid for what they do. It’s such a pity that the government has exempted churches from the legislation that enforces equal opportunities in every other organisation of any size.

The Church of England has the power to prescribe equal opportunities within their churches, but they are too cowardly to confront these dinosaurs and to challenge their misogyny.

The move has reignited the debate within Oxford over the potential for the Church of England to discriminate based on gender. The 2010 Equalities Act bans secular employers from such practises, but religious bodies are granted exemptions.  

Henry Gibbon, the Church Warden, expressed a more relaxed view. In his opinion, the congregation is divided evenly between the two camps. Although he is in favour of female priests, he thinks a male should be appointed at the present time “so that the congregation can continue to worship together in a spirit of love and mutual respect”.

Both of the patron colleges, Keble and Christ Church, have expressed their support for female ministry, whilst recognising the right of the parish to make its own decision on this individual matter. Applicants will be interviewed at Keble on the 16th October.


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