Monday, 9 July 2012

Hanging on in Quiet Exasperation

The British, slowly and unsurely, have reached the point where we're getting pretty equal as a country.

Sure, if you're born to a better-off family you'll get certain advantages in the way of nutrition, broader outlook,  education and so on. But short of abolishing the private ownership of money, it's hard to see how you'd ever truly prevent that.

And it would seem that the rich are differently treated under the tax system. But again, given the ability to make your stash, your right to hire good tax accountants is completely blind to whether you are male or female, black or white, a Tory donor or an edgy comedian.

Those who remember the game Dungeons + Dragons will know that it was inherently racist. I don't know if it's still true now - there may have been a Half-Orc Spring or a Dwarf Awakening - but it was the case in the 80s that the ability to reach unlimited Levels, whether as a Fighter, a Magic-User, or a Thief, was dependent on being a human being. There may have been exceptions, but if you remember what they were then you're sadder than I am - that's all I'm saying.

But even in the 80s, in a make-believe Mittle-Europe setting with trolls tearing up the place and Halflings existing purely for copyright reasons, I don't remember any rule that said, if you were playing a female Cleric character, you had to stop at level 2. So it seems to me the Church of England is still dragging behind a 40-year-old fantasy adventure game.

To be fair, it's in company. A woman can't be a top-flight footballer, either.

And I know that some say that the Church - whatever it may appear, from within and without - isn't about climbing up a greasy pole. That it's not about "equal opportunity", as ministry is about servanthood, not about leadership, so you can't apply equal-rights arguments to who should be bishops. But it strikes me that, if it's about equal access to servanthood, then women have even more claim - after all, who's been doing all the cooking and housework these last few millennia?

So it seems that it's all going to go round another loop, and the only mixed-blessing is that it's only the bran-eating Guardian readers and the purple-faced Telegraph adherents that will care. The rest of the population don't meet a bishop from one lifetime to the next, and probably don't care two hoots, under all those copes and mitres and stuff, whether they're male, female or Lawful Neutral.

And I've no idea what a "right" solution is. How do you reconcile the majority view of how men and women should be under God with a view that is different - albeit equally sincerely held, and frequently with more commitment? Certainly not by simply trampling over the "losers" and driving them out. That's surely not a Christian way. The last proposals from the Bishops got awfully close to my suggestion that congregations could simply vote for the bishop they liked. But in the process they simply knocked everything round for another bash. So now they're probably in for another four months of wrangling.

I know I've no suggestions here - just more moaning. But with food-banks to run, lives to be changed, late-night streets to be pastored - how come the only thing the World hears about the church is its obsession with what chromosomes the clergy have under their cassocks?


  1. That last question is easy. It makes for better news stories if the news involves sex (or gender, or whatever the right word is today, preferably with criminal charges attached, although a difficult internal fight will do in a pinch. They probably did a story about food banks last Christmas, because it was seasonally appropriate then, and who cares about street people? We don't have any here, you know, although if pressed most people will admit there are a few people wandering around who are probably merely ex-cons, mentally ill, or both, and who's interested in reading about them more than, say, once a year anyway? Maybe at Christmas. That's when you do the stories about religious folk helping others. Right now, we need some space in the news for the latest pop tart scandal.

  2. Edited for typos which reflect my own exasperation.

    Trouble is that you can't reconcile the majority view with the minority on this issue. Any more than you can abolish slavery/apartheid except for those who disagree with abolishing slavery/apartheid. This isn't trampling over the losers and driving them out. It is saying that the majority view must be upheld and the minority in opposition must get over it and move on either spiritually or literally. They have after all had many decades to get used to the idea and decide what to do and adequate provision had been made for them.

    Other than the Church abandoning the idea of women bishops there didn't seem to be any compromise that would have made them happy.

    I have been in two churches where they attempted to keep both sides happy and it simply can't be done either on a small scale or a large scale imo. Someone has to be told they can't have their way.

    The Church should have drawn a clean line under this issue years and years ago. For some people the debate continues today and will evermore while the Church lets it.

  3. The hardest disagreements are those in which there is no possible compromise, often because they are based on fundamental differences in the underlying beliefs. This particular problem isn't an issue in my area, but there are others I simply don't discuss any more, and I don't just mean the ones about the choice of music. Sooner or later the people holding the various positions will either die, move out, or move on without some of their co-religionists. Meanwhile, I realized I was getting distracted by all the sound and fury from what was right under my nose waiting to be taken care of.

    At least, we're no longer engaging in violent riots or actual wars over these kinds of disputes.

  4. I don't see any solution that will please everyone. But there has always been a middle way and the CofE has always been good at fudge - but the mix this time around is so toxic that no one wants to taste it.

    Charity, grace and love is required from all sides. I suspect that in the end, the current solution with the PEV's will be the outcome. Parishes will opt for their alternative oversight. I suspect that the Evangelical Alliance will request an alternative PEV from the Anglo Catholic ones.

    Perhaps that's the compromise we need. Just allow women to be consecrated and continue the PEV's - job done.

  5. Surely the "right" thing to do is what the majority believe is right?

    I think the reason everyone else is interested is because the CofE is an institution with considerable influence (at least here in England) and also one that claims to hold the moral high ground. Neither of these things seem to tie up with its discriminatory position on this issue. I can only speak for myself but it's the dissonance that fascinates non-religious people, who for the most part sorted this one out (WRT their ethics) decades ago.

  6. But the majority is not always right - well, I suppose you could assume that sometimes the Holy Spirit inspires a majority vote, but you're still left with deciding in which cases this happens and in which cases it doesn't.

    That's why many modern states that do hold elections have some provision for avoiding forcing minorities to always go along with majority views on issues of crucial importance to them.

  7. More typos. I think I will stop after this post. It's not good for me and doesn't make any difference.

    Exactly Steve. Not only that but the Churches, RC and CoE and others have lost probably three generations of women and therefore families because of this and the attitudes it represents.

    Maybe the majority isn't always right but there has to be some method of decision making and the fact that a majority has sometimes got it wrong isn't a reason for letting a minority block all change.

    I am often puzzled as to how people who don't believe a woman can exercise authority over a man reconcile that with having a woman Prime Minister. Nevertheless their right to choose not to vote for a woman doesn't give them the right to prevent women becoming Prime Minister. And they still have to obey the laws passed by a government led by a woman.

    As to deciding what side the Holy Spirit is on, well all sides always claim that and there is no way of knowing for sure. Usually God is on the side of the victor until He changes his mind. :)

  8. I think its wise to differentiate between a state and a private organisation like a Church, people are at liberty to leave a Church if they can't live with it's policies however for most people the country where they are born and raised is much less easy to physically abandon and so I'd absolutely agree that we must have added protection for minorities in that situation.

    1. I think some people would say it's very hard to leave the Church where they're born and raised as well. It's a real muddle. I have always been a fan of "friendly schism" - a kind of Velvet Divorce approach where you just say "go on then - keep the building". But instead we continue with smoke 'n' mirrors. And of course we can equally get this particular problem within one congregation, where teh "keep the building" attitude doesn't help.

      I suppose the bright side is that we'll all be dead in 100 years or so and there are no bishops (and, depending on how you read it, no chromosomes) in heaven. So it'll be the next generation's problem.

  9. I've often had sympathy with those who describe God as she!

    Because everything written and portrayed about God is paternalistic. The fact that the only physical manifestation of God is his only Son, Jesus Christ, gives more power to the elbow of those who proclaim male headship.

    But, apart from Jesus' incarnation as a man, God has no gender attributed, because God is God and gender is just not applicable in his context.

    Paul got is right in Galatians 3.28. I know that there are deniers out there, who put another twist on it, but we are all the same and equal in Christ. Live with it!


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