Some years ago when Hub was training for ministry, we made good friends with another couple. She was also training, her hub was a scientist, and I was going through a discernment process about my own future.

Anyway, one evening we sat round a bottle of wine and started talking about sexism, and the assumptions we make, and how our language can betray our real thoughts. And how we always seem reasonable to ourselves, and our friends might seem quite reasonable to us as well: but when it comes to women in ministry, all sorts of sexism can kick in. This is not universal, I hasten to add – but at the time, in the late 80s, there was a battle royal going on about whether women should be priested. There was a lot of prejudice against us (and still is, although it is much less!)

The four of us produced this, which we called ‘Irregular Declensions‘ – (only it should be ‘Irregular Conjugations’ … )- you know, like those language verbs we used to learn at school:
I/you/he, she, it/we/you/they …

(Please note that this is copyright and any copy should link to this blog).

I express reservation
You protest
She throws a tantrum

I am called
You thought ministry was a good idea
She is campaigning for the feminist cause

I have insight
You are perceptive
She’s got female intuition

I defend my principles
You keep repeating yourself
She’s nagging again

I have a career
You have a job
She’s earning pin money

I am deep in thought
You are miles away
She’s depressed again

I am filled with the Spirit
You are charismatic
She is over-emotional

I consider the pros and cons
You worry
She’s neurotic

I speak my mind
You get angry
She is aggressive

I like to balance antitheses
You are moderate
She can’t make up her mind

I anticipate
You take risks
… women drivers!


Good heavens. Just noticed. Those aren’t declensions … they are conjugations!!! 😳 And Hub used to be a grammar teacher, too … what is the point of having an educated person in the house if they don’t save you from grammatical disaster??? :))



  1. Perfect conjugations!!!! I laughed out loud, not something I do everyday. The three way contrast is exquisite.
    Of course sexism is not funny where ever it rears its ugly head. I am so glad that the theological sexism is much less than it used to be.
    I do sometimes think that boys and men feel that all the positives are on the side of women and all the negatives on their side. Society has a much narrower view of masculine behaviour and ability. Please don’t report me to the Feminist Collective, I’m still a feminist truly.


    1. Well, I prefer to think in terms of equality, Silver, because if I come down on one side or the other I start getting unbalanced … like standing on one leg!

      Glad you laughed!


    1. There is a passionately-held conviction by some people (some women as well as men) that church leadership must be male. I believe this is a genuinely-held conviction and I think we should somehow make room for it in the church, because otherwise we are being just as intolerant!


  2. I am rather surprised you say sexism in the Church (RC excluded in this discussion for obvious reasons)is not so rife, or it is reduced. As an outsider, I do not see it that way. It may have changed its style. It always rears its distorted head, in not so subtle forms. There needs to be a re-visit of the definition of religious and theological sexism as written and understood by men and likewise by women.


    1. There is far more general acceptance of women priests. They have proved themselves to be able pastors. There are still pockets of conservatives who passionately believe that church leadership should be male.


      1. I agree the women priests have proved themselves very able indeed. The ‘conservatism’ is both in the ecclesiastical heirachy and the congregations. But, sexism does not stop at the male female gender discussion.


      2. I know. There are other subtleties as well which are nothing to do with gender. But I am not expecting to deal with a perfect church. We will always be imperfect. The important thing is, are we working on it? And the answer is, yes … but more is needed. We must be in constant renewal.


      3. I suspect that a more fundamental problem is that of what I call ‘hierarchism’. This is where certain posts are seen as ‘more important’ than others (they certainly wield more influence) and it is this that is at the back of gender politics … how dare women invade our space and take our influence from us men? I dislike this even more, and feel it has no place in a church. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.


      4. In this sector of gender politics you have a serious problem. There are also others that may prove more intractable, even with time.

        At the foot of the cross, as written in various versions of biblical scribing, it was mainly women who were there to do what is stated. Again as stated, it would have been highly important work and at the higher level and order. They were not scrubbing steps for men to walk on. Yet, women remain metaphorical steps for men to walked on.


      5. Still true but not nearly as much as in the past.

        I fear that it is mainly about status, and I deliberately withdraw from this situation, challenging it when I find it on the grounds that status is not a ‘kingdom’ value (God’s kingdom, that is). When we debate issues they need to be debated on honest grounds, not on the presenting ones nor the pc ones.


      6. Not being active in a church in England, I do not have the intuitive feel for what is bubbling under the surface within the cloisters.

        Scotland has its own ecclesiastical politics where women are seen to contribute at all levels. The one woman minister in our small town, who ministers to other community churches within the church’s purview, is currently based at the Episcopal Church. I believe if it were easier to attract ministers of either gender to a remote community, there could be a regular sprinkling of women. When ministers retire, they are not easily replaced. Sometimes taking what you can get, (always men in the other denominations) gets something pretty grim. Not the easiest way to maintain a loyal following, as one particular church has seen.


      7. ‘We’re’ constantly cutting down on clergy and putting hamlets and villages together. I see that more and more parishes are asking for ministers on a ‘house for duty’ basis – ie a voluntary post with paid expenses. And there’s a lot more emphasis these days on the gifts that the whole congregation has, and encouragement and training for those to be exercised so that it doesn’t all fall on the minister.


      8. The gifts the congregation is given – talents, abilities, spiritual gifts. We encourage them to identify what they might be, then to work out how they would like to use them, and some training when necessary. We try and build a team spirit.


      9. Oh … when Cameron first started going on about it. The bishes all pointed out that the church is strongly connected to the community at grass roots level in every area throughout the country and was the biggest provider of volunteers. So in that case ‘we’ are a useful player in this concept …

        All true, except I have never been able to rid myself of the suspicion that Big Society is an excuse to take away from those who need help most.


      10. Last para, absolutely so!

        Bishes and Arch bish need to reiterate a bit more often and forcefully. Not only are the churches involved in philanthropy, there are many organisation who work with churches and other devolved groups who are being bitten in all directions. The knock on effect continues apace.


      11. Indeed, and the vast majority of church projects are in partnership with other agencies. The point that the bishops have been making is that the church through the parish system has a network of voluntary agencies already in such partnerships throughout the country. The problem is, that the government is defining Big Society differently from our agencies. We’re here for the vulnerable and those who slip through social security nets. The government appears to be targeting the very people who need support and facilitating. Hence Rowan’s rage.


  3. :)):)) Most entertaining…..The ‘irregular declensions’, to be sure…;)
    NOTE: Theological Colleges are by the very nature of their origins…..if not ‘raison d’etre’….’Male-Orientated’.. :roll:;)


      1. Turn Up for the ‘Books’ to be sure…. To be fair….every effort is being made to ‘neutralize’ the ‘male bias’ endemic to…..Ahem!…;)xx


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