Thinking Anglicans

Lambeth: Sunday newspaper comment

Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times wrote A broad church with narrow attitudes. Here’s an extract:

…The visible loathing of some Anglicans for gays and women – expressed in terms that would have them prosecuted in any other walk of life – is indefensible. The British make much noise opposing the intolerant practices of Muslims and other imported religions. They seem deaf to the intolerance of members of their home-grown church. That the conservatives have constant recourse to biblical texts has no more to do with the case than if Islamic scholars appealed to the Koran against the Crown Prosecution Service. The law of the land is the law of the land.

No less astonishing is that the parties are largely warring because the Church of England remains stuck in an imperial time warp. A global membership of some 80m – overwhelmingly in the new Commonwealth – is under the leadership of an archbishop in England, custodian of just a million souls, and a governing body meeting in Lambeth.

The origins of this dispute thus lie not so much in the biblical understanding of sexuality but rather in Anglicanism’s inability to handle global diversity in human behaviour. There is no way African cultures will regard sex in the same way as Asians or Europeans. Why does the church pretend otherwise?

This is a relic of the status of the Church of England as the established church in what was once a far-flung empire. It has struggled to mimic the diversity of the British Commonwealth, allowing archbishoprics to flourish and hierarchies to proliferate. But the trappings of doctrinal centralism remain in place.

The obvious solution to the row over gay and women bishops would be to live and let live. Let a thousand sexualities bloom under the capacious canopy of mother church. Do not impose on the cultures of Africa the sexual norms and gender equalities that have evolved under the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant aegis. There is no need for this dispute…

Read it all.

3 comments

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    I am bothered by two things in this piece:

    1. “…a governing body meeting in Lambeth.”

    The Anglican Communion has no “governing body”. It has advisory bodies such as the ACC and the once-a-decade Lambeth meeting, but these do not “govern” the Communion.”

    2. “Let a thousand sexualities bloom under the capacious canopy of mother church. Do not impose on the cultures of Africa the sexual norms and gender equalities that have evolved under the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant aegis.”

    This has the issue as presented exactly backwards. The reality is that the GAFCONites are attempting to impose upon Anglican churches of the western nations the “sexual norms and gender [in]equalities” of the cultures of Africa.

  • JCF says:

    I don’t quite get Jenkins’ point, that this is all the fault of having *bishops*. Protestants have shown themselves (and I speak as a Yank here) PLENTY able to impose intolerant fundamentalism(s) without them!

    Lord have mercy… [and that goes double for the Sunday Times comment thread on the Jenkins piece: what I now think of as “the typical British dichotomy” of intolerant Christians, and intolerant atheists. What a waste!]

  • Ford Elms says:

    What an absolutely bizarre piece. He seems to have no understanding of the Church as anything other than a social organization. The idea that the Church is a body of believers groping for a better understanding of the God they worship, or even proclaiming that they have perfect understanding of that God, seems beyond him. There is nothing to indicate that he believes faith to be anything other than a way of doing social work. It’s an interesting read if you take the attitude that he is a disinterested outside observer commenting on what he observes of this arcane institution that he really doesn’t get, but that’s about all. In other words, it’s a sociological piece. As a commentary on what the outside world thinks of the Church, it’s quite valuable, as a critique of the faith, it’s useless. It’s much the same as a Western atheist telling a Muslim that Shari’a is outdated, or telling a Buddhist that they really need to change this reincarnation thing, it isn’t scientific.

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