There has been something of a furore (three syllables) about racism in football of late. Over this last weekend the focus has been over the refusal of a number of black footballers to wear t-shirts supporting the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign (see here, here and here for BBC website pieces relating to this).
The fuss has been caused because many people cannot understand why black players would object to an anti-racism campaign - surely they are undermining it's efforts. Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, was critical of Rio Ferdinand's decision not to wear the T-shirt. Easy for him to say - he's surely never experienced racism (and no, having a go at Scots is not racism, though we all know how ugly nationalism can be), and he's very much part of the establishment. There's something rather reactionary about telling someone how he should or shouldn't protest.*
The point of those players not wearing the T-shirt was precisely that they feel Kick It Out is not an effective force against racism in football. They ask serious questions about how seriously the FA takes racism, given the way the whole John Terry fiasco was handled. Then they look at the fact that the FA is a major funder of Kick It Out, and conclude that the public face of the FA is not in line with its actions. They see those funds as a sop, rather than a serious commitment. So they protest. As is their right. Note that the protest is about the football establishment/FA not Kick It Out per se; I don't think any of them are suggesting that Kick It Out has compromised itself - just that the cause isn't being taken seriously enough.
It just won't do to tell players that they out to stay united and show a common front against racism. If they feel the established mode of opposing racism in football is inadequate or undermined, they need to walk away from it. They are refusing to let the FA say "Look, we've got the Kick It Out campaign, what need is there to change?" The question of whether Lick It Out really is inadequate is beyond my competence but by protesting these players have made people at the highest levels ask the question - or shown themselves up by not being prepared to ask the question.
Whom do we respect more? The FA or the protesting players?
Now, what has this got to do with woman bishops? Well, As Rowan Williams acknowledges in his Church Times article, part of the reason we are having the debate is because of the promptings of secular feminism. And whilst many feminists are having a go at patriarchy, there are many who recognize that it is not just men who can abuse power. Where there is a pyramidal structure of domination and oppression it is better called "kyriarchy" (a term coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza in 1992). This recognizes that rich black women are perfectly able to oppress poor white men, for example.
But we are all bound up in these structures of domination. The western consumer, however poor, dominates the developing-world farmer, however wealthy. It's all down to the powers and dominions of this world (Ephesians 6.12) - or the sin endemic in humanity, if you prefer to put it that way.The answer must involve a liberation theology - we all need to throw off domination, of ourselves and by ourselves. We need to reject an easy satisfaction with the established way of things.
Which is where the Cross comes in, by utterly rejecting power, by embracing total weakness.
The protesting footballers were refusing to go along with the established(/establishment's) way of doing things. Good on'em, I say. But here's a problem I have over the consecration of women. When women join the establishment, will they simply come to fit in, and become totally establishment themselves? Will they just allow the kyriarchy to say "Look, we've got women bishops, what need is there to change?"
Feminism seems to me most powerful as a much-needed critique, as a prophetic voice, against kyriarchy. When women become bishops in the Church of England, that may be a battle won against patriarchy but will kyriarchy notice the difference?
*Let me confess an interest here - I'm a City fan; but I don't think I'd see things differently if some other big-name manager had said the same stuff.