Women bishops and male parishioners

Like many of us, I’ve been following the archbishop elections. It could well be that our diocese will soon be needing a new bishop. A (male) priest commented in Facebook that he hoped the next bishop of Espoo would be a woman. This got me thinking.

It is true that there is a lack of women in the highest positions in the church. There are in fact curently no women bishops. On the whole women are also under-represented in the upper echelons of business life, although well represented amongst our political leaders. It is only relatively recently in history that women have broken through the glass ceiling in various sectors, so perhaps their under-representation is not so surprising.

I am more worried about the other side of the coin, however: the under-representation of men in church life in general. The numbers of male and female priests seem to be roughly equal, but there are clearly fewer men in other positions, especially deacons. Most volunteers are women and most active parishioners are women. I have heard it can be difficult to get male singers for choirs. I cannot think of any clear reason for this: why should worship, prayer, playing music or singing, for example, appeal more to women than men?  This is not, incidentally, a ”Finnish thing,” either. There is a similar problem in Britain, for example, although possibly slightly less marked.

I would love half of the bishops of our church to be women, but there is a more pressing need to mobilise more of the millions of ordinary male members of the church into taking a more active role in church life.  

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