People & Ideas

Jul 21, 2014

Crikey survey: which religions ban women from leadership?

Some religions prohibit women from having formal power, while others are open-minded. You might be surprised where some religions fall on the spectrum ...

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

The Church of England has just voted to allow women to become bishops. But while there are rumblings across most major religions in favour of allowing women to lead, some insist that only a Y chromosome gets you closer to God.

A Crikey survey of major religions has found Protestant Christian churches are perhaps the most open to giving women power. Progressive Judaism is not far behind. As for Islam, the perception some may have of “downtrodden Muslim women” is far from the full picture.

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10 thoughts on “Crikey survey: which religions ban women from leadership?

  1. morebento

    Buddhism is a lot more complex, due in part to differences in the traditional and national attitudes towards women. An interesting event recently centred on Australian Theravada senior monk Ajahn Brahm being censored speaking on women’s full ordination at a Buddhist conference

    Japanese traditions such as Jodo Shinsu have full ordination for women. The Tibetans have a mixed set of responses

  2. cassandra.richardson

    When did the Richard Dawkins Foundation become the be-all and end-all of atheism?

  3. Yclept

    When did atheism become a religion?

  4. RachelK

    There are many fine religious affairs journalists in Australia with an understanding of the complexities and nuances of the Australian religious landscape. For some reason Crikey offers consistently superficial commentary in this area, perhaps assuming that your subscribers are not religious people. A little more research, and looking to an Australian rather than US source for this article might have revealed that the third largest church in Australia, the Uniting Church, is an Australian church that has always ordained women clergy.

  5. Pointy Hatted Party Monster

    Sorry to indulge in churchy in-talk, but Anglicanism is not a protestant church in the same way you might apply the term to the Uniting Church, or bodies such as the Church of Christ or the Presbyterian Church. Anglicanism is reformed Catholic — which is why it retains bishops, priests and deacons as the form of ordained ministry (compared to other protestant bodies which don’t have these) and does not acknowledge the authority of the Bishop of Rome (some of you know him as the Pope). This is the legacy of arguments whose roots go back to the thirteenth century, which you can witness being reenacted between Rome and Beijing in the current day.

    Katherine Jefferts-Schori has had a really hard time, not least because she is the first woman to become the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Her time in the job has coincided with large amounts of litigation brought about by congregations attempting to realign themselves with bishops in various parts of Africa, where they’ve attempted to make off with the buildings in the process. As Presiding Bishop, Jefferts-Schori has also had to oversee the process of disciplining fellow-bishops who encouraged these congregations while muttering about not accepting her leadership. It’s been painted in all sorts of dark colours in various parts of the Anglican blogosphere, but the reality is that all the Presiding Bishop has been doing is fulfilling her fiduciary duty of not letting people run away with assets held in trust for The Episcopal Church. To add international insult to domestic injury, on one visit to the UK Jefferts-Schori was asked not to wear her mitre (the pointy hat) because the Church of England was in the middle of the second-last round of fighting over the legislation that passed synod last week.

    Another aspect of Anglicanism that gets lost when you describe it as ‘protestant’ is that it is not a unified world church with a singular source of authority in the same sense that you have with the (Roman) Catholic Church (or Dawkinite atheism, apparently). It is better to refer to the Anglican Communion, which is a family of national churches that share roots in patterns of British settlement. The fact that practices about the ordination of women differ radically from one part of the Anglican Communion to another is a result of this fairly lax structure: the Americans (including Canada), Hong Kong and the New Zealanders were ordaining women in the 1970s, when their fellows in England and Australia were still recovering from the arrival of General Synods. Many African churches don’t ordain women, and it’s unlikely that development will come very soon given the influence of displaced conservatives from places like…the US, England, and Australia.

  6. sparky

    They don’t mind taking the tax free status benefits from the 50+% of the population they won’t let near the phone to God.
    Not many people vote themselves out of privileged positions.

  7. AR

    “Which Religions?” ALL, by definition. Why would a woman want to be a part of such idiocy as religion?

  8. Bruce Joyce

    Please amend your last section which is misleading.
    The Executive Director, Development Director and Operations Director at the Richard Dawkins Foundation are all women. That makes three out of eight – pretty damned good in the context of your article.

  9. Harold Rogers

    So what . Let women be popes for all I care.

    This is a priority for whom ? I guess it must be the women who want to be on the same gravy train as the rest who write rules for morality and the way people should live their lives and be allowed to ponce around in funny costumes.

    Intelligence ….where is that to be found these days??

  10. AR

    HaroldR, alas, nowhere near, as you opine, funny costumes, smells & bells.

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