Time to vote out the 74 ?

The Church of England was effectively created in its' present form by Queen Elizabeth the First to be a "Broad Church" which as large as possible a proportion of the population of England could identify with and take part in.

That tradition has largely been continued down the centuries. Although there have been times when the "Yes Prime Minister" joke about the compromises within the Anglican church including one between those who believe in God and those who don't has had rather more truth in it than was comfortable, the fact remains that the tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness which is an essense of what the Church of England tries to stand for has enabled that church to reach out to and help many people who would be completely unable to identify with a more dogmatic church.

But the problem with any organisation built on tolerance and staying in touch with the mainstream of the people of this country is how do you deal tolerantly with those who are intolerant and those who do not wish to reach out to the mainstream?

Churches which are true to the teaching of Jesus are never going to be able to completely align with secular society. The besetting sins of different ages may be very different, but most societies at most times will have tendancies which it will be the duty of a church to warn against, be they excesses of cruelty, selfishness, greed, or self-indulgence.

But a church which indulges in navel-gazing and internal arguments about aspects of it's own ideas which are light-years away from the society it is part of will not only put off the rest of society from listening to the church when it goes on about those subjects. Society will fail to listen to a church which appears antedeluvian, out of touch, and more than a little strange most especially when the church really does have something to say which that society needs to listen to.

And this week a small group of hardliners within the Church of England who do not represent the leadership, the clergy, or the vast majority of people in the pews managed to make the church look like a peculiar and outdated sect. They would doubtless claim that they were doing what they believe to be the will of God. I believe that they were frustrating His will.

The Anglican church has been ordaining women for decades. When that measure was agreed, everyone in their right mind on both sides of the debate recognised that if women were ordained priests, before too many years there would be women bishops.

Over the course of the past twenty years there has been fierce debate about how to acheive this. A set of arrangements, giving huge and generous concessions to those who do not want to submit to the pastoral authority of women bishops and those of bishops who do ordain women, has been discussed and seemed to have been agreed.

When the proposal to allow the consecration of women as bishops was put to the church's dioceses earlier this year, 42 of the 44 dioceses agreed.

An opinion poll survey of practicing Christians by the polling organisation COMRES a few weeks ago suggested that the majority of Christians in England, including 72% of people interviewed who were members of the Church of England, thought that it should be possible for women to become bishops.

Interestingly enough, that percentage suggests that ordinary members of the Church of England are not out of line with the rest of the population of the UK: that is well within the margin of error for that sample size, of the percentage that COMRES found for the population as a whole holding the same opinion.

So what did the Synod decide?

  • House of Bishops: 44 for; 3 against; 2 abstentions
  • House of Clergy: 148 for; 45 against; 0 abstentions
  • House of Laity: 132 for; 74 against; 0 abstentions

  • So hearly three quarters of Synod members, like nearly three quarters of members of the church, wanted the measure to pass.

    However, the rules require a two-thirds majority in each of the three houses. Which was overwhelmingly acheived in the House of Bishops, despite the fact that the present House consists entirely of men, and easily achieved in the House of Clergy, despite the fact that the male clergy who voted in favour, which most of them did, were voting to worsen their own promotion prospects.

    So the people who had a vested interest in favour of the status quo voted for change! But unfortunately in the House of Laity, while attracting majority support, the measure was just short of the number of votes it needed. If six members of the House of Laity had voted for, the measure would have passed.

    I don't usually blog on church issues but this ungodly and indefensible decision is, as one bishop pointed out, in danger of turning our national church into a national embarrassment. A priest of bishop should be a man - or woman - of God, but I have never found any of the arguments that God would only call people of one gender to serve Him in this way to be convincing.

    As the bible puts it (in Galatians, Chapter 3 Verse 28)
    "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

    And the idea that God could want a situation where women can be ordained to serve him as priests, as they have in the Church of England for twenty years, but cannot be promoted to the most senior ranks in the church, e.g. Bishop and Archbishop, is just ludicrous. That cannot be a religious position, it is sexist mysogyny plain and simple.

    I can only see one way to deal with this situation. When the present General Synod was elected, the hardliners were organised, and other groups within the church were not. When the next Synod is elected in 2015, we need to make sure that the people chosen are more representative. To be honest, and I would encourage everyone involved to pray about this before voting, I'm inclining to the view that those who elect the next Synod should ask the candidates how they voted or would have voted on this issue. And think long and hard before allowing any of the 74 foolish people who inflicted great damage on God's church this week to be re-elected.



    Jim said…
    "And the idea that God could want a situation where women can be ordained to serve him as priests, as they have in the Church of England for twenty years, but cannot be promoted to the most senior ranks in the church, e.g. Bishop and Archbishop, is just ludicrous."

    I have to say I quite enjoyed that bit. A monarch in the UK is not elected, but allegedly chosen by god. Now I am sure, that of anyone, god would know that the monarch is also the Supreme Head of the CofE.

    So, for the most senior position there is within his church, Did he Choose KING Elizabeth II?
    Anonymous said…
    Or as someone else once said - "We're all in it together"
    Chris Whiteside said…
    Hmm. DC was referring to the recession, though I suppose I can see a way those words oould apply in this situation.

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