Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Traditionalists in the CofE running out of hiding places?

Andrew Brown at the Guardian has written Church of England traditionalists are running out of hiding places.

A backlash against the female bishops vote and gay marriage ruling has put church conservatives on the back foot.

On the face of it, this autumn has seen two resounding defeats for the liberals in the church of England, over female bishops and gay marriage. But it may be just as true that these have been two really pyrrhic victories for the traditionalists.

On female bishops it looks already clear that the best the traditionalists can hope for is an orderly retreat. I don’t think they had any idea how angry their opponents would be, nor how numerous. It really has been something like a revolution, in that the old power structures are quite inadequate to contain the real power of the laity. You can see that from the way that the supposed representatives of the laity in the General Synod, the house of laity, were the people who most diverged from sentiment in the pews.

Even in the house of laity the opponents were a minority, but they were a significant minority. That significance may now be over…

And he concludes with this:

…Where gay marriage is concerned the position is not nearly so stark. Fear of a wider evangelical backlash (for all I know, quite justified) led the bishops into their “quadruple lock” jail where now a liberal Anglican who wants to marry a gay couple is breaking the law in the way that no other minister of religion would be. It seems to me inevitable that some vicar nearing retirement will carry out a gay wedding in his church once these are legal and then wait for martyrdom. The resulting kerfuffle will only dramatise the difference between legal establishment, where the church’s bureaucracy is bound into the state, and what one might call emotional or effective establishment, where the church is a natural theatre of society’s self-understanding – a way to think about who we are, both as individuals and as a country. That’s not a distinction to which a wise archbishop would want to draw attention, but it’s going to be hard to avoid.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 8:23am GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

"It seems to me inevitable that some vicar nearing retirement will carry out a gay wedding in his church once these are legal and then wait for martyrdom."

But that is precisely the point of the fourth lock - that vicar won't be able to do this because the couple will leave the church as unmarried in the eyes of the law as they entered it.

The church got the protection it wanted and it is a watertight one.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:03am GMT

"I don’t think they had any idea how angry their opponents would be, nor how numerous."

I don't think that is true.

I am retired. I have PTO in an English Diocese and PTO in a Diocese that is not part of the C of E.

When in UK I do my bit as a "supply priest", but when I am not tasked I go to my nearest church, the FIF/ABC church 500 yards down the road - it's a bit 'igh for me, but I am supporting my local church.

What is clear to me is that they expected the measure to fail in the House of Laity and they expected an extremely strong backlash. They are also expecting to be forcibly ejected from the church which is their birthright.

My view? There has to be lebensraum for all, or we fail as a national church.

Posted by: Labarum on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:29am GMT

I would phrase it a bit differently--traditionalists are running out of places where a double standard in their favor might apply.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 11:39am GMT

This ignorant fool should get his facts straight. The CofE could not carry out a same-sex marriage because of a conflict between what would be a new statute law defining marriage to admit same-sex couples and the church canons, also enshrined in statute, which define marriage in the conventional way.

It would be perfectly possible to change this, but the church would first have to change its canon law, something which has not even been contemplated. The church has not asked to be banned from performing same-sex marriages - it would be a legal impossibility for it to do so.

Posted by: Original Observer on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 12:27pm GMT

For 35 years, the gay boogey man was a guaranteed winner and vote getter for right wing politicians in the USA (though over time, the margins of victory for the right in gay rights decisions became smaller and smaller). This year, the tide turned dramatically with gay marriage up for a vote in 3 states and winning in all 3. The voters in a fourth state defeated an amendment to their state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage in perpetuity.

In 2004, the specter of the gay boogeyman drove voters to the polls to give President George W. Bush a very narrow re-election victory.
This year, it is the specter of homophobia and misogyny that drove people to the polls to hand a surprising and humiliating defeat to the party of plutocracy and imperialism. The Christianists felt that defeat worst of all. Those who assumed that they ruled with the mandate of millions of voters found themselves suddenly marginalized.
The problem, they concluded, was not with themselves, but with the voters.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 12:27pm GMT

The existing traditionalist bishops can give at least a further 25 years of traditionalist episcopal ministry. During that course of time the CofE will become increasingly Evangelical and therefore much more amenable to traditionalists. The appointment of traditionalist bishops will then become much easier again.

Posted by: Geo Noakes on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 1:29pm GMT

It would be foolish of a cleric thus to seek martyrdom on the altar of equality (?inequality) by officiating at the marriage of a same-sex couple, as (even if identical marriage registers are to be used for same-gender unions as those we have at present) there would be a question about the validity of the marriage in Civil Law. Whatever else one's responsibility, it does seem sensible to make sure that at any wedding the couple walk out of church together validly married in the eyes of Church and State.

Posted by: Nicholas Elder on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 1:44pm GMT

The reason Andrew Brown can write an article like this is largely thanks to people like Simon and others keeping Thinking Anglicans extremely well informed. I have tried to make space in my heart with as much Christian grace as I can muster for Traditionalists, as this has always seemed right and proper. Sadly, I now believe that too many of us gave way on too many fronts in a hopeless quest for unity.

All Christians of all denominations are encouraged to pray for Parliament. I believe this time of prayer to be of God. The standard of the debate enabled by Ben Bradshaw was much more enlightening with regard to the history of women's ministry in the early Church. As I listened to the General Synod debate I was sad that this was overlooked, especially given the excellent research and televised information that has been widely offered over recent years. This information used to be more or less confined to Theological colleges and clergy. I have often been surprised by the naivity of lay people and PCC members who had not been alerted to what I now regard as historical facts. We women have been far too diffident for fear of being labelled feminists when we should have called ourselves historians.

I have taken the time to listen to Fr. Philip North's question and answer session in Pusey House. I would encourage others to do so and then tell me whether he had ANGLICAN integrity in accepting the post of an ANGLICAN Bishop in the first place.

There has been a terrible tragedy here this morning involving a graceful member of the local R.C Church. My phone has been very busy as the RC community are naturally distressed. I suddenly realise I no longer need to label myself a liberal Anglo-Catholic. I am simply a liberal Anglican Priest and am humbled to fully realise my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters respect me as such, which is sadly more than I can say for many of the clergy and laity in the Diocese in Europe.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

One might mischievously observe that what we're seeing is the fulfillment of Sir Humphrey Appleby's prophecy, that when choosing a bishop in the Church of England one has a choice between a queen and a knave.

Posted by: Clive on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 5:25pm GMT

In this country, the USA, as churches get smaller, they become more and more dominated by their fanatics. It seems that a similar process may be happening in England.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 6:17pm GMT

When I saw the post header, "Traditionalists in the CofE running out of hiding places?", my gut reaction was "Hiding places?! You mean sniper's nests!"

...but then I thought (esp in light of this past week's tragedy in Connecticut) that that was poor-taste hyperbole.

But then in reading the thread, I saw this: "They are also expecting to be forcibly ejected from the church which is their birthright."

Having a bishop who ordains women (or *gasp* is a woman herself) IS NOT "FORCE". There's NO prospect of them to be "forcibly ejected". Can we have a mutual truce on the hyperbole?

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:00pm GMT

This is a genuine question, not intended to be advocacy on either side.

I wonder if someone can explain to me why any reasonable person would ever want to be associated with an institution which systematically excludes women from leadership positions? Whatever the other values and possible virtues of the organization, the evil of such an exclusion pretty much discredits anything else the institution might to say for itself. Why isn't this a "no-brainer?"

This may sound like an attack to some, but it is not intended that way. I am genuinely puzzled as to why such a debate would even be happening at all.

It is a question I have heard repeatedly from my (especially younger) contemporaries when I try to engage them in a discussion of what the church may have to offer. Over and over again, the discussion is cut off from the beginning: they don't want to hear anything further on the subject of such an institution, since the rejection of women's participation seems so completely unreasonable.

I find myself a bit puzzled as to how to reply; they seem to be quite right. It's clear that, once the church's debate on women's leadership is noted, they are not listening at all. How are we to evangelize Christ's message when the background of our discussion is such a clear non-starter. Indeed, how are we to retain our own faith if we are faced with a church with such an obviously discredited position? If they would lie to us about this, what else have they been lying to us about?

Posted by: bookguybaltmd on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:49pm GMT

"In this country, the USA, as churches get smaller, they become more and more dominated by their fanatics. It seems that a similar process may be happening in England."

TEC is posting growth in 1/3rd of the dioceses, including my diocese and my parish. In our diocese, the growing parishes typically have amazing female clergy and are affirming of LGBT persons. Our sense of mission is robust and we are highly active in the work of the Gospel locally and abroad. Programs and advocacy for the homeless and challenged families, for a couple of examples.

I think folks need to stop using the false decline of TEC in working out the problems in the UK. Reports also indicate that some of the schismatics are returning. It only takes a little experience with real LGBT people to realize that the homophobia is a sad bigotry.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 11:19pm GMT

This is perhaps the key, poignant question for many.

'Indeed, how are we to retain our own faith if we are faced with a church with such an obviously discredited position?'

And it does lead on to this distressing question.


' If they would lie to us about this, what else have they been lying to us about?'

Posted by: bookguybaltmd on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:49pm


One of the most disillusiuoning experiences of my life has been the dishonesty and cynicism of some bishops and also of other ministers. It is corrosive of both one's soul and one's integrity. God alone knows how it afftects the bishops implicated.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 12:09am GMT

"If they would lie to us about this, what else have they been lying to us about?"

I agree that women as priests and bishops should be a no brainer and I believe this kind of thinking is what happens when people ignore science, psychology and human rights and when they base all their thinking around nothing but their own texts, ignoring everything else as "counter cultural" and declaring those who read their own texts differently as simply not convincing.

But these people do not lie.
They are very genuine people and the majority of them truly believes that God somehow either doesn't want women in roles where they have something useful to say to men, certainly not in a religious context, or that God himself would prevent the ordination of a woman from "sticking".

These views are incomprehensible to most people in this country and even to most people in this church. But they are nevertheless sincerely held.

The question is how much practical application they should have in a church that is clearly harmed by them, but that also does not want to kick those out who are, after all, only holding views the church and society themselves held until 20 years ago.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:53am GMT

bookguybaltmd wrote: I wonder if someone can explain to me why any reasonable person would ever want to be associated with an institution which systematically excludes women from leadership positions? Whatever the other values and possible virtues of the organization, the evil of such an exclusion pretty much discredits anything else the institution might to say for itself. Why isn't this a "no-brainer?"

I'll try. For many of us who believe in God, being in community is important. In community we created sacred spaces and liturgies that open our hearts and minds to the Great Mystery of God and our relationship to our creator. The Anglican Church is a Sacramental one. Sacraments are "an outward and visible sign for an inward and invisible grace." So baptism, marriage, ordination, and the holy eucharist we receive on Sundays are important to us. In community, we can better meet the call of the Gospel for social justice, to feed the hungry, cloth the poor, minister to prisoners, etc.

Much of what I've said, especially about sacraments, has a unique flavor amongst differing denominations. I really respect the Quakers, for example, but the symbolic action and music of High Church Anglicanism (mine in a liberal setting) feeds my soul.

The church has a dreadful history of oppression. The bit with Women Bishops and LGBT persons in the UK is just another manifestation of it. In olden days it was whites over colonial natives, Christians over Jews, people who believed in the divinity of Christ vs. the human nature of Jesus. But we have a belief in Redemption. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that of Radical, Inclusive, Love. It will win the day. MLK said that the arc of history bends slowly, but it bends toward justice. We live in hope and that hope includes a more loving church.

I hope that helps, as a start. In the Episcopal Church in the US, we've ordained women my entire adult lifetime and LGBT issues have moved toward inclusion. This is Redemption and Liberation, finally.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 6:08pm GMT

What an inspiring and uplifting post from Cynthia.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 10:00pm GMT

"This is Redemption and Liberation, finally."

Finally? Now there is a bold claim.

Posted by: Labarum on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 10:32pm GMT

Erika, I think you make an important point and one of the very few that causes me to feel some genuine sympathy for traditionalists. The Church has given succour to sexist views and has told those who hold them that they can do so with integrity. It may now wish to change that narrative but it cannot do so retrospectively

Posted by: Jane Charman on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 10:36pm GMT

"This is Redemption and Liberation, finally."

"Finally? Now there is a bold claim.'

Yes it's bold, but it's so nice to get to work on the Good News instead of the Exclusive News.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 3:34am GMT
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.