Gender: The Inclusive Church resource
Rosemary Lain-Priestley and others
Church Times Bookshop £8.10
THIS is a very welcome and accessible little book produced by Inclusive Church. Founded in 2003, Inclusive Church believes in a Church "which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality".
The book starts with a splendid family joke by the Dean of Guildford, Dianna Gwilliams. She recounts how, when she was nine, her seven-year-old brother asked their mother "What’s sex?" After her lengthy (and probably flustered) response, the small boy held up his school-trip application form with its boxes to tick, and replied: "How am I going to fit all that into this little box?"
With no such embarrassment but with admirable clarity, four Christians then tell their stories of exclusion and inclusion. Rachel Mann is an Anglican priest who is also a transsexual. Hilary Cotton is a laywoman who has campaigned for women’s ordination in the Church of England for more than 30 years, as her mother did before her. David Monteith is Dean of Leicester and is single and gay. Natalie Collins is a laywoman whose first husband abused her physically and sexually. She is now a gender-justice specialist. Each autobiographical account adds important texture to this book.
In the second part, an article by Grayson Perry which was originally published in the New Statesman is reproduced again here: "The Rise and Fall of Default Man". Using his personal experience as an artist from a working-class background and a transvestite, he depicts the "Great White Male" in Britain as "Default Man". The latter wears a suit and tie, is educated, confident, moneyed, and powerful. Perry challenges "Default Man" to make room for others.
In the final part, Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Dean of Women’s Ministry in the diocese of London, offers a précis of feminist biblical interpretation over the past three decades. For those not familiar with this important literature, she offers an accessible, albeit somewhat conservative, account. As others have done, she takes the reader through the ways in which Jesus interacts with women in the Gospels, and she defends Paul against the charge of patriarchy (even in 1 Timothy, which she takes to be Pauline).
My only reservation is the inclusion of Perry’s article. He does offer important insights about being a transvestite, but his central stereotype of "Default Man" seems curiously at odds with the aims of Inclusive Church. Labelling others by their clothes (I seldom wear suits and never ties), education, colour, and money is surely what Inclusive Church is rightly against.
Taken as a whole, this is an excellent book. It would be great to find it on sale at the back of every church in the country.
Professor Gill edits Theology and is Canon Theologian of the Cathedral Chapter of the diocese in Europe.