The 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918

Bishop RachelFeb 6th 2018

A message from Bishop Rachel 

As I walked into the House of Lords today my thoughts were of chains. Not only the chains with which suffragettes bound themselves to railings,  but also the human chain of men, women and children whose words and deed throughout history have paved the way both for women to vote and also to respond to their calling, not least in the Church.

As female parliamentarians gathered in Central Lobby for a photograph, the photographer flicked her hand at some men and asked them to move out of the way. That would have been unthinkable 100 years ago.

And yet it is because women and men dared to think the unthinkable that I and other women are here today.

But we still have a long way to go. Many girls and women in this country still experience the chains of being diminished, abused or ignored, and it is even harder for numerous girls and women in other countries. Today I give thanks for young women such as Malala who are standing up for the right of girls to be educated and reach their full potential; and we need to go on adding our voices to those who stand against practices and accepted cultural norms which demean women and girls across our world.

In the midst of all this, one thing I continue to speak out against is the message perpetuated by advertising and social media that our worth is located in our appearance. This is a message that particularly affects many girls.  I have been moved by many of the conversations I have had with young people in schools reflecting together on their power to relate to one another differently.

And relationship is indeed at the heart of all this. We have been created to live in good relationship with God, one another and with creation.  Yet our choices in the past and the present continue to result in brokenness and human abuse, belittling and destruction.

Thank God that God has done the unthinkable. In Christ’s death and resurrection the love of God has ensured that hope, life and restored relationship will have the final word.

Today I give thanks for the courage of all those in that human chain of history who enabled that Act of Parliament 100 years ago. Now, as then, there is still a long way to go, and I pray that I might have the courage to use my word and deeds in ways which enable girls, boys, women and men to flourish and fulfil their potential and become the people God has created them to be.

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