Comments: Are senior CofE bishops conservatives?

Oof. I noticed the same paragraph from +Wright; for me the argument about "deregulation of sex gives us AIDS" was the trigger.

Rather than lamenting the death of liberalism and bemoaning the rise of secularism, it's time it was given a fair chance - and indeed, given that modern society is rightly empowered to pick & choose its churches to attend, or not, the only shame is that it takes time for society to realise the progressive movement is well named.

Posted by Tim at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 5:08pm GMT

I think the Archbishop of York is the Anglican Entertainer, and that the current Bishop of Durham is going more bonkers with every sermon...

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/12/drum-says-liberalism-is-to-blame-for.html

...and this suggests that a few liberals ought to hang on in order to keep some sense in the machine.

Interesting how the once regarded liberal Rowan Williams is now regarded as conservative in those Guardian comments. I must find out how he does is version of detailed narrative theology so well inside his bubble.

Personally I'd redesign the Church and its constitution.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/01/old-church-new-church.html

Plenty of room for entertainers and nutters, of course, as most healthy institutions need the comedians and the somewhat tapped.

I like to be a bit of both, after all.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 5:31pm GMT

Revd John Bowden started a network of local groups (now called OTT) in about 1990 as a Trust funded by and arising out of the Student Christian Movement. A few still survive but these are not networking properly and there is no real structure or well-defined aim. The CofE consists of its parishes, run by dioceses and co-ordinated through synodical govt by Church House, Westminster. There is a need for pathfinding bodies like these guided by conservative bishops.

Posted by Michael Jameson at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 6:11pm GMT

"the Church's culture wars of the 1990s are over. The women won ... Gay people lost."

I find this nonsensical (or, at best, untenable).

Hatred of gay people is rooted in misogyny (which is the basis of the conservative order Brown states has captured the CofE). Women, being mysterious and dirty (but most of all, simply "other"), ought to be "on the bottom" (in a variety of ways). Men on top, women on the bottom is "Divinely-Ordained Order."

LGBT people most *obviously* upset that order, and pay the price. Conversely, as Brown notes, there may be a toleration of some towards their "Vicars of Dibley" (I think that's the proper reference? This Yank has never seen the show) in podunk churches of podunk towns. However, any move towards making one of the Dirty, Mysterious Other tribe into a High Priest entering the Holy-of-Holies (the episcopacy, esp. of the 5 senior bishoprics) is going to get Divinely-Ordained Orders' knickers in a twist.

For those of us who believe that Emperor DOO wears no clothes (except the twisted knickers *g*)---that it is nothing but (male) human-made Power-Over---to say "Women won, Gays Lost" is the house divided against itself.

Either in Christ there is NEITHER male nor female, NEITHER straight nor LGBT, or else the Prince of THIS World remains on his throne. Not the Prince of Peace.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 7:18pm GMT

I agreed with most of +Durham's sermon about the incarnation, but when he started talking about politics.... Gah, where to start? "Mrs Compound
Interest is having a bad hair day..." MRS? The personification of the credit crunch is female because, obviously, about 1% of hedge fund managers are female, so clearly to blame for.. oh wait, it's the hair metaphor. Men don't think about trivia like hair days, good or bad. Riiight.

I "failed liberal project" but I did OK in the cause work.

Seriously, I don't know if it's just me or a whole generation who have this visceral revulsion for words like "duty" and "discipline". As a child I heard them misused countless times by abusive violent people and their apologists in churches and schools telling victims to turn the other cheek, forgive and keep on enduring even as outrages continued. Even if you haven't seen "discipline" used as a misnomer for violence, doesn't "duty" have a death knell of stodginess, an aroma of boiled cabbage and suet pudding, to it? Can't we come up with a new vocabulary for willing volunteering, giving and participating in things other than making money and self-aggrandisement?

Posted by Joan of Quark at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 4:32pm GMT

"Either in Christ there is NEITHER male nor female, NEITHER straight nor LGBT"

Just to be counter for a minute, this presupposes that the difference between gay and straight is on the same level as the difference between men and women. It isn't. Now what the difference is is another matter entirely. But being gay versus straight is NOT the same as being male versus female. If we do not speak clearly as to how they are different, we allow the conservatives to do it, and they do it by saying that the difference is that one chooses to be gay. We know that's wrong too, but unless we delineate the difference and why we think the passage of Scripture you quote is still applicable to gay people, we simply give ammo to the conservatives. It's just not a good arguing strategy.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 5:28pm GMT

All of you are in denial as to the effectivenes of the Sugden-Giddings alliance. Effectively they have prevented not just Jeffrey John, but bishops in the mould of Colin Slee.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 7:53pm GMT

"this presupposes that the difference between gay and straight is on the same level as the difference between men and women. It isn't."

Um, I think you're the one presupposing here, Ford.

We don't even understand the chromosomes, genes, proteins and hormones which create varied genders, much less those which created varied sexual orientations!

What we do understand, is dwarfed by what we don't. I make no presuppositions---but only call to respect our COMMON Imago Dei (in each and every UNIQUE manifestation) all redeemed by Christ. :-)

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 9:45pm GMT

JCF, we may not understand the genetic basis of sexuality, but we can tell that homosexuality is not strongly determined. Studies of identical twins have shown that only about 40% of twins of homosexuals are also gay. This is more than the general population, but it is far less than you would expect if a 'gay gene' did exist. I'm not sure if these are twins separated at birth, or twins brought up in the same environment, so I can't really comment on developmental or environmental influences,but it's not strongly genetic.

Posted by James at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 11:34pm GMT

I should add the obvious point that sex is very strongly determined genetically. I haven't seen any studies, but I would guess that roughly 100% of twins are the same sex.

Posted by James at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 11:37pm GMT

"We don't even understand the chromosomes, genes, proteins and hormones which create varied genders, much less those which created varied sexual orientations!"

Which is the point. We understand clearly what makes a man a man and a woman a woman. We know the genetics, we know the anatomy, we know now how the genes work to produce either gender. We know none of these things about sexuality. I know my sexuality as an undeniable fact. I am gay. Simple. No choice. I also know that I am not what the conservatives say I am. I am not a pedophile. I am not a damage to society. I am, among my family and friends, the one who tells the stories of our parents and friends and of how things were once here. A tradition keeper, if I can say that without being pompous, so no threat to the nuclear family either. But my sexuality is not the kind of concrete thing that my gender is, for all that, though I chose neither. We do not need to make sexuality the same kind of thing as gender in order to respect the Imago Dei in everyone. In fact, I would suggest that by blurring the two, we run the risk of doing the exact opposite. We are failing to recognize something that IS, on its own, and instead confuse it as being of the same nature as something else. It has its own nature, and we need to better delineate what that nature is. We can't do that if we just claim it's the same as something else. Neither can we do anything to counter the lies of the conservatives if we do not seek to understand the nature of what we are, and we can't do that if we claim it's the same thing as gender.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 11:41pm GMT

" I haven't seen any studies, but I would guess that roughly 100% of twins are the same sex."

Ouch!
Only if they're identical twins.
Non-identical twins are as randomly the same sex as other brothers and sisters.

And although sexuality may not be defined genetically, it would be really nice if you started to listen to people who tell you they really didn't choose it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 8:23am GMT

"Are senior C.of E. bishops conservatives?"

Another silly Question - "Is the Pope a Catholic"?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 8:34am GMT

Ford

"We do not need to make sexuality the same kind of thing as gender in order to respect the Imago Dei in everyone. In fact, I would suggest that by blurring the two, we run the risk of doing the exact opposite"

I don't understand this argument.
If you do not choose something, for whatever reason, then it is part of how you were created.

You might think of theological arguments why one part of God's creation should be restricted to certain roles, and you can therefore oppose women's ordination.
But that's the only level of argument you could possibly make.

So if you said that gay people can, for some reason, not be priests, I could have a theological debate with you.
But you can't say that gay people are not part of God's created order in exactly the same way that all other people are part of God's created order.

And if we say that mankind is created in God's image, then that includes gay people, disabled people, people of all colour, people of all intelligence.... everyone. There is no exemption to that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 9:32am GMT

"we can tell that homosexuality is not strongly determined."

Speak for yourself!

"..it's not strongly genetic."

Well, a quick Google turned up this
http://www.worldpolicy.org/projects/globalrights/sexorient/twins.html

Which says the numbers are around 50% for monozygotic twins, and 20% for dizygotic twins. So you have to define 'strongly'. And no-one suggests that there is a "gay gene" that, if you have it, you're gay and if you don't, you're not. Well, no-one exceot conservatives who only bring it up to sneer at it. But there is a huge distance between something that is purely genetically determined on the one hand and something that is purely a choice on the other hand. But then, conservatives would know that if they had bothered to listen to gay people for the past forty years instead of shouting down our stories of who we are with loud cries of their certainty that we are exactly what their bigotry tells us we are.

And, what Erika said:

"And although sexuality may not be defined genetically, it would be really nice if you started to listen to people who tell you they really didn't choose it."

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:01pm GMT

"If you do not choose something, for whatever reason, then it is part of how you were created."

The issue is how that creation takes place. We have a set of genes that turn on and off at certain times in our embryological development. If they do not turn on, then one is female. Female is the "default gender", so to speak. We can delineate relatively specifically what it is that is happening. But sexuality isn't like that. There are likely certain genetic predisposing factors. But then there are also environmental factors, not merely to do with how we are raised, but also with things like intrauterine environment, levels of maternal hormones, and God knows what else. We freely admit that we don't know much detail about the process. It is clearly not of the same nature as gender. Now, that is NOT saying "it is not on the same level as gender", so don't go thinking I am saying it is somehow less important. Just that there are far more factors involved in the development of our sexuality than there are in the development of our gender. Thus, to say that "There is neither male nor female" should inform our attitude towards gay people may not be completely accurate, since male and female are not the same as gay and straight. That's all. If we are going to say that that passage of Scripture DOES indeed apply to gay people, and I believe it does, we have to say why. Saying that it applies because the difference between gay and straight is the same as that between male and female is patently incorrect and if it doesn't negate the argument outright, it certainly gives our opponents the ability to shoot it down.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:48pm GMT

True, maleness and femaleness seem to have more fixity, except that as soon as we get beyond the basics of what male and female mean (e.g. people with Y chromosomes very unlikely to get pregnant) we don't have very much to go on.

Once women were "protected" from the longer distances in running competitions (weaker sex, don't you know) and from learning Greek in school (might fry their fluffy-kitten-oriented brains) - these days the generalisations are rather that women's physiology is adapted for endurance events like marathons, and average women's brains are wired up for linguistic fireworks (all those left-brain/right-brain pop science books). Even when there are general differences we are not so sure what they are, and how many exceptions there are.

I'd tackle the Galatians meaning somewhat like this: all of these things - male/female, gay/straight, Jew/Greek (ideas of "race") are more fluid than we think, not something we should go round policing or enforcing roles on others.

Posted by Joan of Quark at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 2:45pm GMT

In the "bad old days" "safe" churchmen were appointed by the PM to be quiet & sit in the Lords & vote the party line.

I can't help thinking that they did far less damage to the Church that way ...

Posted by Prior Aelred at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 9:52pm GMT

I must say that in browsing various right midddles to far right Anglican/CoE comments on various blogs, I do have a renewed and surprise sense that the CoE is so presumptively rightwing in so many statements and streams, not least its bishops. Even Rowan Williams who has roots and credentials as a thinking progressive seems to go all to jelly when faced with any occasion when he otherwise might show some progressive intellectual leadership as we face the new and the not yet known and the unknowns - these days the hot buttons of embodiment, sex, gender (not equivalent), and sexual orientation (and lots more).

The most progressive general thing RW has said is that no Anglican believes in unintelligent readings of scripture - then he goes off to some local or global meeting where he will attend without dissent or even qualifying comment as some bishop preaches some dodgy bit of conservative-presuppositional assurance about who is exclusively right and good (rightist, always) and who is not (everybody else, nearly always).

Wrapping up these mean and temperamental habits in traditional holiday papers is the business order of the rightwing Anglican day, apparently, viewed from outside. Every time you push a bit on this, it somehow traces in fog lines of connection, eventually and mysteriously back to new conservative phenomena. Examples like Rushdoony or Till and Dominion or Christian Reconstruction. Thus, though the packaging narratives involving terms like duty or something else from tradition at first strike familiar resonances of returning to a safer, more golden past for which we are passing nostalgic; fact is, the meanness now evident in rightwing Anglican initiatives is animated fist puppetry, darker.

The new Anglican right has a salty taste for targeting outsiders and finding God's enemies. Make hasty presumptions preached mightily in pat prhases. Perhaps about, oh let me think for a second - the failure of liberal ideas, the brute impossibility of being a progressive Anglican believer, or Enlightenment Era merits entire?

One would then expect them to preach against modern medicine, dentistry, and the sciences which are among our best and most enduring legacies from the Enlightenment - but, no when they get a toothache they trot merrily off the to dentist and want the most up to date treatment possible - though of course, Enlightenment, democracy, science and modernity are all crocks. Especially when thinking anew about those queer folks?

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 7:50pm GMT

" Looking at the five most senior or important bishops – Canterbury, York, Durham, London, Rochester – not one could be described as liberal in temperament or theology." -
Andrew Brown's Blog in 'The Times'

Has Andrew Brown missed something here? Rochester more important than Winchester? I don't think so -even though both are on a par in their support of GAFCON and the dissidents of the Communion.

Andrew's take on the rise of conservatism in the Church of England is, I think, overstated. The Church has moved, almost inexorably it must be admitted, towards the inclusive message of the Gospel. We will see more clearly whether the rule of the conservatives will over-ride the move for acceptance of women's ministry (for instance) at the meeting of the next General Synod.

Whether the forthcoming meeting of the Primates in Alexandria will succeed in turning back the tide of conservatism will soon, also, become clearer.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 26 January 2009 at 8:34pm GMT

I see that such is the drift of the Church that Don Cupitt gave up attending in 2008, having given up leading worship in the early 1990s. Gone are strategies of subversion, being bloody minded and the rest.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/01/don-cupitt-and-me.html

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 1:22pm GMT
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