Vanguard (Lagos)

23 November 2012

Nigeria: Traditionalists Triumph

opinion

On Tuesday, the Church of England's General Synod said "no" to women bishops. Even though the modernisers were only narrowly beaten - by a mere six votes - the traditionalists' victory is immensely significant, not least because this matter cannot be voted upon again until a new Synod is elected in 2015.

According to the Rev Prebendary Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, an evangelical Anglican group that is against the idea of female bishops:

"We are required to accept something that we don't believe the Bible teaches. The [proposed] legislation requires us...to accept women as bishops when the Bible says they should not be in that position."

But many Britons - and not just Anglicans either - disagree with Thomas's position and are very upset about this development (which few anticipated).

Clergywomen openly shed tears of frustration. The Rev Rachel Weir, who runs a campaign group called Women And The Church said: "We are absolutely devastated. Not just devastated on behalf of clergywomen - it's awful for their morale - but [because the outcome of this vote is] a disaster for the Church of England. There is something badly wrong with the system."

Surprisingly perhaps, most Anglican clergymen - the Archbishop of Canterbury included - are on the same page as Rev Weir, support the idea that women should enjoy identical promotion prospects and are describing the result as "gravely damaging", "a crushing blow" and "a national embarrassment".

The Bishop ofChelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell said: "This [refusal to permit women to become bishops] is going to be very hard to sell to the People."

Even the habitually reactionary British Daily Mail newspaper regards last Tuesday as "a sad day that leaves the Church in chaos" and went on to say that while it respects the theological objections of those who obstructed the move, "this vote has condemned the Church to years of infighting over a question which most of the nation finds abstruse or simply bewildering...

"...After all," asks the Daily Mail, echoing the views of millions of perplexed and irritated onlookers, "haven't women priests more than amply proved their worth in the 20 years since the Synod overcame its objections to their ordination? Why, then, this civil war over their appointment as bishops - which will surely come one day - in a church noted for its flexibility on almost every issue?"

The Daily Mail editorial concludes by wishing that the Anglican church would focus more on the need to provide moral guidance in aUnited Kingdomthat is plagued by ills such as casual abortion, family breakdown and greed.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

As far as I'm concerned, it is utterly weird, in the twenty-first century, for women who choose to serve the Anglican church to be deprived of equality.

As far as I'm concerned, folks like Rev Thomas should abandon their belief in female subservience. Male dominance was a social norm when the Bible was written, so I really don't blame Biblical scribes for carrying on as if men were superior. The fact is that men were in charge of pretty well everything then.

But things have changed. A lot. Women have now proved that they can play leadership roles and be Heads of State, nuclear physicists, breadwinners, soldiers, etc. And while Rev Thomas and his ilk clearly find the New Reality hard to swallow, they really need to Get Over It and quit being enemies of progress!

Home truth

I recently read a ThisDay newspaper report in which Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, the Governor of Zamfara State, was said to have strongly condemnedNigeria's heavy reliance on oil and failure to develop alternative sources of revenue.

Yari apparently expressed the view that the "easy money" that is being generated by the sale of crude oil has turned us into a nation of "lazy rent-seekers". And he was, according to his interviewer, especially scathing about policy-makers and both the Federal and state levels, whom he accused of not coming up with sustainable solutions to economic problems.

Bravo to Yari for being so courageously blunt about the shortcomings of a leadership class to which he belongs. It is indeed true that most Nigerian government folks are indolently unwilling to deliver creative dynamism. And it's about time they started to think outside the box and do their jobs properly.

In the meantime, let's hope that His Excellency is able to practise what he preaches. Zamfara is one of the poorest states inNigeria. I have been there and it's a pretty depressing place. But, like every corner of this country, it has tremendous potential.

If Yari can transform it into a highly productive success story and liberate it from its current dependence on petro-dollars, I will become his biggest fan.

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