“The future is female” according to one feminist slogan. In the Anglican Church, it looks as though that is very much the case: there’s been a rise of 17 per cent of women in the Church of England training to be ordained.

The consecration of Libby Lane as the Cof E’s first female bishop has been one of the wellsprings of this surge, according to its head of discipleship and vocation (also, unsurprisingly, a woman), Catherine Nancekievill. There are now 10 female bishops in the Cof E.

Whatever would that Scottish Protestant reformer John Knox think of this “monstrous regiment of women”, as he described women in any authority?

What would St Paul have said – he who averred that it was not a woman’s place to raise her voice in church? Or Dr Samuel Johnson, who compared a woman preaching to a dog walking on its hind legs: “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

But times move on, religious texts are reinterpreted and practices evolve. If the Anglican Church comes to have a majority of women in ministry, or even a 50-50 split, it will represent an extraordinary revolution.

And yet if we are truly to respect “diversity”, it’s for the best that different Christian churches still have different approaches. I know women who support a female clergy; but I also know women who vehemently prefer to see the priesthood as a male preserve, as being a more faithful adherence to the Gospel.

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