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Church of England has no official definition of a woman, but does it matter?

by Tola Mbakwe

A campaigner on gender issues has warned that disagreements over defining womanhood may split the Church.

Speaking after a bishop’s statement that there is “no official definition” of a woman, Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust said “when the Church takes on the confusion that has been brought in, through LGBTQ ideology … the Church is no longer countercultural, but is really a conveyor of this ideology... I fear it will split the Church ultimately.”

Rt Rev Robert Innes, the Bishop in Europe, had made his statement in response to a question posed to General Synod by a lay member of the Synod, who asked: “What is the Church of England’s definition of a woman?”

The Bishop responded: “There is no official definition, which reflects the fact that until fairly recently definitions of this kind were thought to be self-evident, as reflected in the marriage liturgy.”

He went on to reference Living in Love and Faith (LLF), the Church’s ongoing project aiming to tackle questions about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage and how they fit with the Church.

Davidson, whose organisation aims to "challenge gender confusion" and "uphold science and conscience", criticised the bishop for not remaining faithful to scripture or the canons.

He added: “I think to be consistent with the scriptures and the canons of the Church, it would have been faithful to repeat what we understand to be the physical characteristics and uniqueness of womanhood, and to remind the people, that what matters to God is this oppositeness coming together. Marriage is in my understanding between opposites not sameness. The fabric, the structure of scripture, is about oppositeness when it comes to gender, and not sameness.”

Meanwhile, General Synod member Rev Ian Paul told Premier he doesn't think the Church needed an official definition.

“Now, some people have picked this up and say the Church doesn't know what a woman is, but I'm afraid that's complete nonsense," he said.

"Why would the Church of England need a theological definition of a woman? When as the answer says, this has been undisputed until about four years ago. So this isn't saying anything about the Church.”

Rev Paul, who’s also a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council, added: “The answer said The Living in Love and Faith process is exploring the questions around gender and how people identify. And it's also exploring the questions of similarities and differences between men and women and how we understand them. But that's nothing to do with saying we're going to redefine what women are, or follow any of those ideas. That's just an honest answer, describing some of the discussions we're having.

“Now, I personally think those are very important discussions, because on the one hand, some people seem to be saying there is simply no difference between men and women that are interchangeable. And I don't think the scriptures support that idea.”

However, he said the Church will have some important issues to address regarding sexuality.

Jayne Ozanne, synod member and founder of the Ozanne Foundation which works with faith groups to stop discrimination of LGBTQI people told The Telegraph the question posed to General Synod was “passive aggressive”.

She told the newspaper: “Mr Kendry's question is sadly a prime example of a passive aggressive question that is designed to upset the LGBT+ community and particularly the trans members in our midst. It's time these anti-LGBT attacks stopped and that we learnt to acknowledge that life is not quite as black and white as some appear to think it should be.”

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