Leader comment: Kirk should sound trumpet over sexism

Female Church of Scotland ministers and supporters march to celebrate 50th anniversary of decision to ordain women ministers. PICTURE: ANDREW O'BRIEN
Female Church of Scotland ministers and supporters march to celebrate 50th anniversary of decision to ordain women ministers. PICTURE: ANDREW O'BRIEN
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John Knox wouldn’t have liked it but the Church of Scotland needs to move with the times.

“The wonderful silence of the godly and zealous preachers, the learned men and of grave judgment, now in exile, that they do not admonish the inhabitants of ‘greate Brittanny’ how abominable before GOD is the Empire or Rule of Wicked Woman, yea, of a traitress and bastard. This is contrary to the examples of the ancient prophets. I am assured that GOD hath revealed unto some in this our age, that it is more than a monster in nature that a Woman shall reign and have empire above Man.”

The 16th century Protestant preacher John Knox certainly lived up to his reputation as a firebrand preacher in his 1558 pamphlet “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”, designed as an attack on Mary, Queen of Scots.

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What is less well known is that the following year he wrote a declaration to the “verteuus and godlie” Queen Elizabeth of England, insisting that she should not be offended by what he had written and wishing her a “long, prosperous and quyet” reign.

Despite this, it’s probably safe to say Knox would not have approved of the ‘regiment’ of more than 500 women, including nearly 200 Kirk ministers, which marched to the General Assembly building to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Church of Scotland’s decision to ordain women. “Probably birlin’,” was the assessment offered by the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, a former Moderator.

Despite the passage of time, it would appear that his avowedly sexist attitude has not completely disappeared from the Kirk. At yesterday’s gathering, ministers spoke of “resistance” to the idea of women in the pulpit, of places where the “tradition” was that “women shouldn’t speak”, and of how there was “still much to be done”.

A Kirk official said headquarters could not “issue instructions on these matters” and argued that “chosen change is better than forced change”. But if the Church of Scotland is to remain true to its name – at a time of plunging Kirk membership – then it needs to reflect the values of modern Scots. Ideas that women should keep quiet and be subservient towards men have long been considered immoral by the vast majority.

Everyone involved in the Church can contribute to “persuaded change” and help work towards what could be called: “The Last Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Sexists.”

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