Monday, June 18, 2012

Has the C of E jumped the shark?

I don't usually pay much attention to the goings on over the Pond. However, in not one, not two, but in three recent events, the mandarins of the Church of England have behaved in a way that is so tone deaf towards its own people, so retrograde and indeed vicious, as to appear to be wishing for its own demise.

The first occasion concerns the so-called Anglican Covenant, which is a thinly-veiled effort to punish the annoying Americans (and Canadians and New Zealanders, etc) by relegating them to second-tier or outsider status in an ecclesiastical hierarchy with whiffs of Roman Catholic authority. In a loss of face for Abp Rowan Williams, a majority of his own dioceses have rejected this anti-Anglican power grab.

But just when you thought that the decisive rejection under the regular rules of the C of E put the nail in the coffin, we are pointed to certain…. shall we say, manipulations? that suggest an age-old trick: if you don't get the result you want, change the rules. Most of us call that cheating, and consider it ill-becoming a person of faith. From Simple Massing Priest,
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the early stages of an unseemly attempt at political hardball from the smoke-filled backrooms of Church House, Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office. This data is going to be used to justify some sort of General Synod resolution to affirm the Anglican Covenant despite the defeat in the diocesan synods.

Oh yes, it will not "adopt" the Covenant - but the message will be clear. The ecclesiastical bureaucrats are not about to allow the ephemeral concept of due process to get in the way of their project to recast the Anglican Communion from a fellowship of autonomous churches into a centralized, unitary and curial body.
So much for letting your "no mean no".

Our second unseemly event shows precisely the same thing: if you don't get the result you want, change the rules. Stack the deck, skew the system, and pull any underhanded political trick necessary. In this case, insiders have attempted to scupper the over-due recognition of women as suitable bishops, with the addition poison-pill amendments that were already rejected. The strategy here is very wink wink nudge nudge; let the little ladies wear a mitre but you and I know they aren't REALLY bishops. Not like the boys who pee standing up. Some of whom are closeted gay men.

Finally, the most recent and ridiculous event was the release of an anonymous statement purporting the speak for the C of E claiming that the British government's plan to recognize civil marriages between gay people would create the biggest rupture and gravest threat to the Church in its 500 years. Remarkably, this document claims that the C of E has actually supported gay civil rights.

This is a patent lie, says Giles Fraser, as he points out the evidence to the contrary. He writes further
"The greatest threat to the church in 500 years." Do us a favour. Worse than the dissolution of the monasteries? Worse than secularisation? It is telling evidence of the irrational fear that the church leadership has of gay people that they are prepared to make such ridiculous statements. And as a threat specifically to marriage, what about divorce? Unlike homosexuality, this is a subject on which Jesus was pretty specific, but the C of E is perfectly prepared to marry divorced couples. Indeed, they are perfectly happy to marry gay people too – just so long as they marry people of the opposite sex. For years, gay men and women have been pressured into lavender weddings and often lives of misery so as to live out a model of supposed respectability. The church has blessed these marriages, and blessed pets and battleships, but they won't allow gay people who love each other to make lifelong commitments in the sight of God.
And he concludes, speaking for many,
The church is no more a cartel of moral wisdom. And those of us who still stick with it – though there are days like today when this is increasingly hard – do so in the hope that it can be called back to a deeper moral seriousness that is not in hoc to bourgeois notions of respectability and prejudice. This is not a great day to be a member of the Church of England. I am simply ashamed.
Many of our C of E friends are deeply, deeply hurt by these machinations. In some cases, to the point where they feel that they have been driven out of a church which they no longer recognize. The C of E of gently absent minded vicars, warm-hearted volunteers, church fetes, and reliable moral decency seems an ancient anachronism, wrapped in lavender and put away in the cedar chest. Instead, there is a faceless entity dedicated to preserve the privilege of a core of old men. As the headline in the Guardian put it, they are become a church fit only for bigots and hypocrites.

If they want to be stand against the tide of human dignity, then there is only one thing for it:

It's time to disestablish them, and leave them on the fringes of polite society, with the fundamentalists of other sorts.

12 comments:

Wormwood's Doxy said...

The C of E of gently absent minded vicars, warm-hearted volunteers, church fetes, and reliable moral decency seems an ancient anachronism, wrapped in lavender and put away in the cedar chest.

No, IT--lavender and cedar smell lovely. This is more like rotted fish, wrapped up in last month's newspaper....

IT said...

My point was that the good things of the C of E have been packed away. What remains is the fish left out on the counter, rotting from the head down.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Sorry--working too much!

Brother David said...

While his opinion is just that, his opinion and he is entitled to it, SMP is Canadian and I don't recall that he has any more access to understanding the CoE, than anyone else in North America.

Malcolm+ said...

Have you read the article at Simple Massing Priest, Brother David? I openly concede that I am a mere colonial. I do, however, have significant experience of hardball politics - which is precisely what is going on here.

MadPriest said...

Who is this "Church of England" who keeps making these statements? We don't have an agency which can speak on our behalf without our permission. We have synods that vote on policy and we have the right (albeit a right that can land you in the unemployment line) to say what we want to say as individuals. But this Vaticanesque tub thumping is a new thing and a very scary thing indeed.

Turnip Ghost said...

Disestablishment won't come; you're too psychologically dependent on having bishops in Parliament. You clung to your claim to rule France until 1801, centuries after such a claim had had any real meaning; you will probably cling to Establishment for centuries after it's had any real meaning, too.

MadPriest said...

I see you write in English, troll. That's because the USA is our bitch.

JCF said...

Brad's got a bug up his arse, and is on another trolling bender 'round the intertubes again.

Poor Brad.

IT said...

If you people wouldn't feed it, it would go away! In any event, snarky though it is, its comment has some merit: it won't be easy to disestablish given the weight of tradition. Why don't we grapple with that rather than rant back at the troll?

What WOULD it take to disestablish? and what would that really mean to the UK?

MadPriest said...

Typical lesbian. Won't let the boys have their fun :-)

Counterlight said...

You could just delete and block his comments. They're all the same anyway.

I wouldn't rule out a disestablished C of E, or a Republic of Britain, but not in my lifetime. Older and sturdier traditions have fallen before (see France across the Channel).