'MISOGYNISTIC dinosaurs' have banned women from applying to become the priest of an Oxford parish.

A job advert for the role at St Barnabas and St Paul with St Thomas the Martyr stipulates it is for men only – a decision backed by the Diocese of Oxford and accepted by the Bishop.

That's because, according to one member of the Jericho parish, God does not want a woman to lead the congregation – and the ordination of women 'is one of the reasons for the decline in church membership'.

He told the Oxford Mail that if a woman vicar was appointed he would leave the church, adding: “I disagree entirely with the ordination of women, it’s a male prerogative.

"Our Lord did not wish it and I am sure that it’s one of the reasons for the decline in church membership.”

The Parochial Church Council, which is elected on behalf the congregation, is within its rights to request that 'our next incumbent is a man who has been ordained by a bishop who is a man and who has been consecrated in the historic, male episcopate'.

Employers in the UK must comply with equal opportunities employment laws, which make discrimination due to gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity unlawful, but the church is exempt from this.

Its advert has provoked outrage in the community, with one councillor slamming the church for being 'too cowardly' to confront misogyny.

Labour city councillor for West Oxford Susanna Pressel said she was 'shocked and appalled' and asked: "What century are they living in?"

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She went on: “They have several excellent women church wardens who do most of the work. It’s profoundly insulting to regard them as not good enough to be paid for what they do. It’s such a pity that the government has exempted churches from the legislation that enforces equal opportunities in every other organisation of any size.

“The Church of England has the power to prescribe equal opportunities within their churches, but they are too cowardly to confront these dinosaurs and to challenge their misogyny.”

Church warden Henry Gibbon said he believed the congregation was split ‘about 50-50’ on the issue but that a woman priest would ‘almost certainly’ not ‘find favour’ in the parish.

He added: “While some are unable to accept [female priests], those of us who strongly support it, including myself, are also in favour of the appointment of men at this time to this parish, so that the congregation can continue to worship together in a spirit of love and mutual respect.”

Mr Gibbon said he had received no negative reaction from members of the congregation, when asked earlier this week.

The diocese’s ‘recruitment monitoring form’ asks applicants whether they are ‘pregnant or on maternity leave’ and offers applicants the chance to answer 'I do not wish to supply this information' when asked what their gender is.

Meanwhile, in the application form for the position, there is a section on ‘promoting racial equality’, but not on any other type of equality.

Emma Percy, chair of national organisation Women and the Church, and chaplain of Oxford’s Trinity College, stressed that she ‘respected’ the parish’s decision, but added that she would like the church to be in a place where ‘people don’t worry about or have to specify the gender of their priest’.

She said: “People hold views that seem strange to me.

“[But] the reality is, under the legislation, parishes were given the right to this exemption.

“A church like St Barnabas sees itself very much in the Anglo-Catholic tradition [and] I respect this as their choice.”

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Oxford University’s Christ Church and Keble colleges, which are joint patrons of the parish, said in a statement: “Under current church legislation, a minority of parishes have chosen to receive only the sacramental ministry of male bishops and priests for theological reasons.

“Where this has happened, as is the case with the Benefice of St Barnabas and St Thomas, the Colleges do not share the views of the parish on the ordination of women, but are committed, in line with their duty as Patron, to support them in the process of appointment. Both Keble College and Christ Church fully support the ministry of women as priests and bishops in the Church of England."

Prominent equality campaigner and member of the General Synod Jayne Ozanne said: “The fact that the Church of England is allowed to actively discriminate against women, and has exemptions under the Equalities Act to do so, is something that I know many are now beginning to question.

“I for one wonder how long it can continue to be an established church which supposedly serves the whole of society, and yet has been given special dispensation not to adhere to state law.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Oxford said: “While the Church of England has ordained women in every level of leadership, a small proportion of parishes believe on theological grounds that their vicar should be a man. St Barnabas is one of those parishes and under current legislation, advertising specifically for a male priest is permitted.

“Everyone is committed to the appointment of a vicar who will be an excellent parish priest and an asset to the community.”

Both the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, and the Archdeacon of Oxford, Martin Gorick, were offered the chance add to the Diocese’s statement. Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran declined to comment, as did Colin Cook, a city councillor for the area, because – as Lord Mayor of Oxford – he intends to remain neutral.

A number of prominent local women with links to the church, including Deacon Sue Gillingham and Archdeacon Olivia Graham, either declined to comment or did not respond to enquiries.

Two other parishioners told the Oxford Mail that they supported the parish’s stance for theological reasons, with one woman adding that it ‘had nothing to do with misogyny’ and that her husband, who is also a member, shared her views.