In which Ruth gets angry for her sisters up north

In the past I have faced a bit of prejudice about being a priest who happens to be a woman. I say ‘in the past’ because, for me at least, it all seems to have blown over. People who were once agin women priests either have changed their minds or have moved to worship with fellow-haters. On the whole it just doesn’t seem to be an issue any more. I suppose my gay sisters and brothers are the ones getting the flak at the moment. Well, the ones who want to get married or be bishops at any rate.

However, this week I came across this letter from the Hebrides News. Let me print it here in full:

The pulpit is no place for a woman       17/5/13


One cannot help but sadly see that the Church of Scotland continuing her downward spiral when she gleefully and shamefully supports bizarre unions and appointments that the Bible clearly opposes. The continuing appointments of women at skyscraping levels in the church is not just wrong but very wrong, just as it is unbiblical for a woman to be a minister in any church denomination or congregation. There are around 196 women which are now ministers in the Church of Scotland. This is 196 too many. There may be only a few women ministers in our Highlands and Islands church congregations, but these few are still a few too many. The very fact that they are women debars them from the Christian ministry.

The pulpit is no place for a woman minister, however elegant she may be in public speaking or proficient in her knowledge of Biblical theology. She may rise up and hold high office in a nation, just like Queen Elizabeth and as the late Mrs Margaret Thatcher did, but not the steps that lead up to any Church pulpit, whether in Inverness Ness Bank Church or St Peter’s Episcopal’s Church in Stornoway.

Yes, women are to remain silent in every church assembly, and that includes pulpit, presbytery and the annual General Assembly. It is best to hear what absolute truth has to clearly say: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14v34-35).

The truth is that God has never ordained or anointed any woman to be a preacher or teacher. If it were God’s will that women should hold such a post in the Church, Jesus Christ would have shown an example by choosing one woman, at least, to be an apostle. But he did not, and even when he selected 70 disciples whom he sent out, two by two, no woman was included. Although Jesus had many women ‘disciples’ He certainly did not send any of them to go about preaching.

God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Certainly women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men.

Yes, a woman, by reason of her faith, knowledge and good understanding, can rise to a place of honour in the church but there are certain offices and privileges which God never assigned to women: no women apostles, no women bishops, no women elders, no women pastors, no women evangelists, no women deaconesses, no women priests, no women moderators. Clearly, the Bible has nothing to say in support of any of these appointments despite what many undiscerning women and unspiritual men may claim, whether in the church or out of her.

Mr Donald J Morrison

85 Old Edinburgh Road


I was so shocked and although I had heard that a friend who is the Episcopal priest in Stornoway had met with some prejudice I had no idea it was as blatant as this. To use the bible (and incorrectly at that) to justify misogyny is even worse. A friend on Facebook asks if censorship is the answer, and I keep thinking that if this were about black or Asian or gay people it just wouldn’t be printed. So perhaps censorship has to be considered. However, I suppose it has exposed this vile prejudice and made me realise how awfully hard it must be to live and work with this all the year round.

The funny thing is that although I suppose I am considered a Spiritual Leader in some circles, I have never really felt like that. My church is much more round-tabled. So if the only thing that women cannot do in this man’s church is teach men and have spiritual authority over them, then that’s fine. I share things and listen to peoples’ stories. It seems to be that it is his church who has turned it into a hierarchical model, not me. And whatever happened to making use of our spiritual gifts?

“Oh sorry Holy Spirit, I can’t lead the church as you ask and inspire me because I’m the wrong sex?”

“Oh sorry God, I can hear you calling me but I must say no. I’m a woman, you see, so you must be mistaken.”

My action has been to let her know that I am praying for her and to write a letter to the newspaper.  Would you consider doing the same?

19 thoughts on “In which Ruth gets angry for her sisters up north

  1. Pretty pee’d off at this too. I think you’re possibly wrong about if it were gay people, but definitely right if it were due to race. 21st century world how are ya?

  2. There’s a similar letter in The Scotsman today from the same person. Unusually, it’s very long, and far longer than letters usually published in The Scotsman. Wonder why that is.

    PS. It’s “flak” not “flack”, Sorry, but this is the second time this week I’ve seen it misspelt. It’s an acronymn for Fliegerabwehrkanone (anti-aircraft gun). I don’t see any “c” in there!

    • That’ll be why I don’t read the Scotsman either.

      And I sit corrected about ‘flak’ and have corrected the spelling. You live and learn! Thank you.

  3. I personally find it horrendous. Howevrr I bdlive they have the right to interpret the bible in their own way judt as we have.

  4. Just the sort of hideous, narrow, dogmatic legalism that keeps people out of any ‘institutional’ church.

  5. Pingback: Anger and Prayer | Still Striving For that Elusive Halo

  6. (Oh, and yes, random email of support duly sent – I’ve been to St Peter’s in Stornoway, coincidentally on the day of the last rector’s incumbency, and it was the one and only time I’ve heard 1970 go quite zippily; it set me up fairly well at the start of a week’s photo-holiday.)

  7. Donald J. Morrison is apparently a sometime preacher for the Free Church of Scotland (continuing) so his views aren’t surprising.

  8. Oh, dear.

    Well, it could be worse. He could be one of the more disfunctional amongst us and you’d have to take him home communion and keep a po face.

  9. It is shocking, I agree. But at least we know where we stand with someone who expresses himself in such an unambiguous way. I fear, however, that this kind of view is more common than one might suppose, even in the supposedly more liberal cities of the central belt. The fact that its expression in those places is more watered down does not diminish its insidiousness.

  10. Does he mean eloquent, rather than elegant? I’ll pray for him, he seems to have some real issues with women. Perhaps he was abused by his nanny, or his mum never showed him affection. Or he was too greasy and spotty to get a girlfriend at university.

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