We have been largely amused at the intemperate venting of spleen over the Anglican Church's decision not to ordain women as bishops. For some it is a sign of the end of the world. For others it is a deadly insult to modern educated progressive Man, er--Person. Still others see it as an embarrassing anachronism.
Granted the Anglican Church is in all sorts of strife and bother over this--largely because of inconsistency. It has recognised female bishops in countries such as New Zealand and the United States. It has ordained women as priests, curates, ministers, archdeacons--whatever they might be called. So why does the "office" of bishop represent the Rubicon beyond which "you shall not pass"? Granted episcopally governed churches are hierarchical and bishops represent the locus of church authority and power. But how compelling is this case when the Bible's teachings on the matter of men exclusively holding office have been re-interpreted or ignored or glossed to mean something else for all other ordained offices in the Anglican Church. If those arguments are compelling for vicars, they must be equally compelling for bishops--surely.
These peccadilloes notwithstanding the outrage has been diverting. Here is a sample from a correspondent for The Guardian:
The Church of England can no longer continue as an arm of the state
By voting against women bishops, it has shown itself to be a discriminatory organisation that seeks to be above the law
Up until now I cannot say I have been overly concerned with female vicars. That one in Dibley seems fun but mostly I am with Bill Hicks: "Women priests. Great, great. Now there's priests of both sexes I don't listen to." I don't believe or even pretend to believe in order to get my kids into the right schools. . . .
Unity in the church is a joke. When I asked my local vicar if I could use his church for a blessing ceremony using a female Baptist minister, he made clear his feelings about women vicars. But half a mile up the road the clergy were in the middle of a big gay picnic and had no problem with anyone using their building. For a donation. Which is fair enough.
One encounters these inner-city vicars who don't seem to mind what you believe – some will even say that the resurrection is but a metaphor – but don't be fooled. At the heart of the church is a steely core of evangelicals who have far more say than they should. The provisional wing of the CofE is as fundamentalist as they come: the one thing that all fundamentalisms share is the need to keep women in their place.So there is a "steely core of evangelicals" in the Anglican Church. Let's hope so. It's the most encouraging thing we have heard in a while.
Now we have heard a few woppas in our time, but this next takes the cake. At first quarter of last century Christian folk in the United States used to speak of the "fundamentals of the faith". By this they meant, oh relatively unimportant and innocuous things like the doctrines professed in the Apostles Creed. But this has all gone by the by. According to the enlightened Ms Moor the essence of all fundamentalisms (that is, all concerned with the fundamentals of a religion, in this particular case) is the subjugation of women.
Either Ms Moor is woefully ignorant or she is guilty of promulgating an oversized slur, or both. Whatever else evangelicals are in the Anglican Church most these days they are well-educated, researched, and nuanced--well able to maintain a coherent and principled argument. They have had to because their daily continuance in the Anglican Church has been like living in a perpetual intellectual and theological boot camp. Out of the crucibles of derision and opposition has come some very refined evangelical metal.
But then Ms Moor's outrage may produce some lovely fruit, if only the establishment would heed her. She goes on to argue that the Anglican Church has now become so offensive that it is just like any other sect (one can sense the establishment snobbishness in the term's deployment). It needs to be severed from the state as the Established Church of the land.
. . . . As the conservative MP who speaks for the synod in parliament said: "I think the great danger for the church following the vote is that it will be seen increasingly as just like any other sect." Indeed, this is how many of us already regard it. The question then becomes how can the church continue to function as an arm of the state when it endorses such out-and-out prejudice?The Anglican Church has committed the unpardonable sin. It has exposed itself to be undemocratic. That is the most heinous sin of all. It can believe what it likes about the Atonement, the Messiah, or the Living God. That's just fairy stuff. But to deny the most sacred verity of our time--democracy--warrants its termination.
Remember there are already 3,600 women priests in the church and 37 women Anglican bishops worldwide. Africa has just got its first woman bishop. So now we lag behind Swaziland.
The issue is not belief – people can believe in fairies as far as I am concerned – it is the relationship between church and state. In this crazy chess game, the head of the Church of England, the Queen, could not be a bishop. David Cameron has urged them to "get on with it" – ie, vote the right way for the church – but not conforming to equality legislation is untenable.
The church, in seeking to be above the law, is now a discriminatory organisation, though it holds 26 seats in the House in Lords, from which women are barred. This effective debarring of women from the legislative process is more than an "embarrassment", it is profoundly undemocratic.We hope that Ms Moor is representative of a vast swathe of fellow travellers and voters and politicians and judges. We hope that she gets her way. It would be the best thing in a long time that could happen to the Anglican Church. Establishmentarianism--whatever else it might entail--kills churches, eventually making them both pawn and puppet of the state. So Anglicanism has been hollowed out by paganism. It resembles the infamous whitewashed sepulchre of the final days of the Jewish Kingdom.
A secular country – and that is largely what we are – should have no truck with this. Why on earth should we respect this bizarre sect any longer? The separation of church and state is long overdue. An institution that allows the maintenance of a stained glass ceiling for its female clergy to bang their heads against should not only lose its moral authority. Let it also lose its unearned privileges.
So all power to Ms Moor. But in the meantime her apoplexy is nothing if not entertaining.