Dawn French plays the Vicar of Dibley in the BBC’s comedy of the same name.
While Angela and I were in the UK, the Church of England announced its decision to allow gay men in civil partnerships to become bishops. (Those who don’t know about the Church of England, it’s a branch of Christianity that allows its clergy to have sex within the bounds of heterosexual marriage.) Interestingly, when we heard this news, we’d been reading for our forthcoming anthology, As the Bishop Said to the Actress, and while our submissions did contain many fun, humorous stories, we were also reading quite deep, dark subs that spoke to the problem of sexual shame.
One of the many downsides to the new decision is that, within their civil partnership, gay bishops would be required to still be celibate, while also repenting their past “sexual sins.” Gay marriage isn’t yet legal in the UK (though, frankly, it’s a waiting game), and the power tactics in this debate are abundantly clear: “If you’re heterosexual, you’re allowed to have sex in wedlock. If, however, you’re gay, we won’t let you get married and we want you to recognize that your past extra-marital sex was sinful.”
It’s a bully’s game.
But at least being a bishop is possible if you are gay.
Not if you’re a woman, however.
Yes, just hours before I started writing this post, proposals about the introduction of women bishops received a big “no” from the Church of England. In other words, a gay man can be trusted with a high church role. But a woman, of any sexual identity? Big, bad no. Isn’t it amazing how deep sexism can go?
Of course, one thing that comes to mind is this: With their emphasis on which body bits you own and what exactly you do with them, the Church of England is obsessed with genitalia, not to mention sex itself. Metaphorically speaking, the church is peering through everyone’s keyholes, ready to yelp if they see two cocks in the same place. I can’t think of anything more sex-obsessed than this, or as voyeuristic.
Thank God for Sister Margaret Farley’s book, “Just Love,” which sings the praises of masturbation. This brave writer-nun, who indeed understands that love is what matters above all else, is much-needed in the Church of England. At least, that’s my five cents on the matter. (Or tuppence, depending on where I am at the time.)
In the meantime, we look forward to releasing As the Bishop Said to the Actress — an erotic anthology that explores the burden of shame and the power of sexual liberation, especially when we’ve been told that sex is a sin.
By the way, have you ever seen the Vicar of Dibley? The BBC’s comedy stars a Church of England vicar, played by Dawn French. It’s certainly helped to turn around the notion that only men are vicars in the UK.