Is God a man or a woman?
It has always been assumed that God is a man. But no one knows His gender and some people go as far as refusing to discard the possibility of the Almighty being a woman.
But the country’s most senior female bishop has stated recently that God is neither He nor She.
Challenging sexism in religion, Rachel Treweek said, ‘God is God and should not be seen as male.’ But the Bishop of Gloucester also insisted she was no feminist and simply wanted to ‘gently challenge people’.
‘Language is very popular in shaping people’s views and shaping our culture,’ she said recently in an interview in the Observer. ‘In the Creation narrative we are told that God created human beings in God’s likeness, and then it goes on to talk about male and female. If I am in the image of God, then God is not to be seen as male.’
Despite her breakthrough appointment in June, the fifty-two-year-old said the Church of England had a long way to go to combat sexism. She warned: ‘We’re not where we should be with diversity, particularly ethnic minorities.’
Bishop Treweek called on the Church to accept it was made up of ‘people of all colours, genders, different experiences, different social backgrounds’ adding that she was frustrated that ‘people haven’t necessarily heard the narrative I want to give’.
The former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who left the Anglican church following the decision to ordain women priests, told the Daily Mail: ‘Undeniably, if you follow the gospel, then God is most certainly a man. If you don’t follow the gospel, then why are you a bishop?’
In May, a proposal from women priests to start calling God ‘she’ was derided as ‘plain silly’ by Mrs Widdecombe.
Monsignor Alfred Gilbey, the ultra-orthodox Catholic society priest who lived in grand style at the Travellers’ Club in Pall Mall, and who I interviewed, had a rare eloquence and gave the impression of a single-minded individual who was not afraid to cause controversy, especially when it came to his views on women.
Tackled directly on the subject, he swiftly emerged as a woman-hater extraordinaire, nostalgic for the days when universities and other institutions were strictly male reserves. His view, he considered, was ‘wholly compatible with the God-given design of women as complementary to men’. Which was to say they were not the equal of men.
I could only feel he was taking an unnecessary risk. What if God turned out to be a woman? What then for Monsignor Gilbey?
The Rt Revd Treweek, who was recently introduced as one of twenty-six Lords Spiritual at Parliament, is a controversial figure. Four weeks ago, angry villagers in Willersey, Gloucestershire sent hate mail containing rotten meat to her office in a row over a housing development. Last month, she was among eighty-four bishops who pleaded with David Cameron to do more to tackle the refugee crisis. Her diocese has since made efforts to help refugees and asylum seekers in Gloucestershire. She has promised to focus her efforts on helping people on the margins of society and tackling issues of social justice, homelessness and domestic violence.
In my view, she’s better off doing her charity work than trying to allocate an identity to God – which is perverse to the edicts of Christianity and the gospel. In that respect her denial of being a feminist does not ring true.