Wednesday 21 November 2012

What now, then?

So. Time to put the head above the parapet again after a long silence. No particular need to rehearse what happened yesterday - there will be plenty of accounts of it in various places - but what is a liberal supposed to do now? I have said before that my understanding of that label is the realisation that although I have reached my own views (hopefully) by reason and coherent argument, nevertheless I might be wrong.

Of the various dissenting views that were aired yesterday, I have to admit that some make more sense to me than others. I no longer agree with it, but I do understand the basis for the traditional catholic objection that we alone do not have the competence to make this sort of move. I would add, nevertheless, the remark made to me many years ago by an old priest to the effect that it took Rome 400 years to put the Mass in the vernacular after we showed them the way, but they got there eventually. The conservative evangelical 'headship' argument, however, leaves me scratching my head. I have never been a literalist anyway, but I really do not understand the sort of selective literalism that elevates some parts of the Bible to be infallible while quietly ignoring others. Still, the fact that I do not understand it is not a good enough reason to say that it is invalid as a point of view. It is a belief deeply and sincerely held by a small but significant minority within the Church of England and it deserves respect. Most of the people who voted against the legislation yesterday did so because of one or other of those deeply held beliefs. I respect absolutely the fact that they did so, and I am glad that they did so. They remind the majority in the Church that theirs is not the only view.

But. (Had you guessed there was a 'but' coming?) But, not all those who voted against the legislation yesterday did so because of their own beliefs. Instead, they went against their own conviction in order to demonstrate a spirit of inclusivity and openness to those with whom they do not agree. No doubt they did so with the best possible motives, but the potential havoc they have wreaked by doing so is considerable.

Yes, the vote was on the legislation not the principle, and yes, the people for whom the provisions had been designed had said that they were not adequate, but to think that delay would do anything to change this is frankly naive. It had taken us seven years to get that far, and the compromises was as good as they were going to get. The upshot of rejecting the legislation is that nobody wins. The majority of the Church of England is unable to proceed as it wishes. We have lost at a stroke what credibility we might have had left with the political establishment and forfeited our right to speak out against inequality and injustice in society. How can we do so without being branded the most obvious of hypocrites? As to those who opposed the measure through genuine conviction, they might have just lost their last chance for proper provision. The change will come, and if Parliament enforce it - as they might - or the next few meetings of Synod see the rescinding of the Act of Synod or re-writing of the 1992 Measure - and they might - then that change will come in starker form than we have seen up to now. So much for good intentions.

Many of us have a lot of explaining to do, but the ones who have the most explaining to do are the ones who in the end were not true to their own convictions. I hope they think that their compromise was worth the damage they have done to us all.


Little Voice said...

I'm not an Anglican so in many ways this is none of my business. To my Catholic mind you should have started with women bishops if that's the way you wanted to go. Having said that, I don't actually think synodical government works. The idea of politcally minded Christians voting on points of doctrine is abhorrent to my understanding of the apostolic faith. We receieve this faith as a gift surely. We don't vote on it like memebers of parliament. Now that you have voted - and appear not to have got the answer you wanted - either the Holy Spirit isn't with you, or the synodical process is not fit for purpose.

Youthpasta said...

@Little Voice - Or we have to accept that God spoke through the vote and said "Women bishops are fine, but you need to do better for you brothers and sisters who disagree"
After all, if the vote had been won then there would have been declarations that it was God's will and design that had come through. And in that argument it can't be God's will if you get the result you want and yet not if the result goes the other way.

As to the blog, as someone who value unity above women bishops, but does believe that women bishops are theologically and Biblically supported (I have blogged on this in the past here I can't agree with the conclusion that those in synod who share my view need to do the most explaining.

To my mind the most explaining is needed by those in favour who rejected the measure in July. The argument has been that put across that 5.1(c) in its original form would have left women bishops as "second class", but ignores the fact that regardless of what measure comes in, so long as there are parishes that do not accept the epicopal oversight of women bishops they will always, in effect, be inferior to male bishops by not being able to work with and minister to every church in their diocese. Like it or not, it is the reality that we are living in. By voting FOR 5.1(c) in July we could have not had the November sitting of synod and instead had people drawing up the code of practice and potentially looking forward to our first female bishop.
But this didn't happen. People like Christina Rees spoke out of their outrage at what was before synd and basically brought the whole thing crashing down. Whilst I acknowledge that there were those who would have voted against from the anti side, they would not have been enough to stop because most against women bishops would have sided with the Bishop of Lewes, who spoke about how it was not perfect, but it was enough for him to remain withing the CofE.