Bettany Hughes asks “Who knows whether God is a girl?” in The Telegraph today:
Bettany Hughes, an expert in ancient history, claimed that Christianity “was originally a faith where the female of the species held sway”.
To oppose the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England is to deny the central role women played in the foundations of the faith, said Hughes.
“Who knows whether God is a girl, but mankind has turned to the female of the species for good ideas. Our own monotheistic institutions might do well to take a leaf out of the book of human experience and build on this consensus when it comes to reaping the benefits of a close relationship between women and the divine.”
Hughes is the presenter of a forthcoming BBC Two series, Divine Women, which explores the hidden history of women in world religions and challenges the belief that women should not be priests.
She said: “This Easter will be the last when I go to a church knowing it will be dominated by men. I love my (male) vicar, who has spent 45 years encouraging his flock to be clear-sighted about the world – past, present and sublime.
“But the paradoxical thing for me as a historian is that I’m keenly aware Christianity was originally a faith where the female of the species held sway.”
As evidence for her argument she cited the fact that, in the first 200 years of Christianity, over half of all churches in Rome were built by women. It was a woman, Phoebe, who was invited by Paul to take the word of God to Rome, Hughes said.
According to Hughes, the Church of England’s turmoil over the ordination of women bishops has been played out before.
Women presided as deaconesses, priestesses and bishops in the early centuries AD, she said, quoting contemporaneous “rants” by the French Synod attacking the “unacceptable and shameful” decision to allow women to officiate in church.