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Monday, 26 November 2012

The Church of England: A new Sect


"The Church of England's decision to reject the introduction of
women bishops makes it look like 'a sect'." - Sir Tony Baldry

 The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, displays an unusual understanding of the word sect which in Christian terms means a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong. In our case that means the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which Parliament, the House of Bishops and a majority of clergy in Synod choose to ignore for purely political purposes.

Much has been made of the Commissioner's buffoonery in sporting a male-only, club tie while he was berating orthodox Christians for being sexist. What he had to say about sects was equally ridiculous. It is the rejection of Christian orthodoxy that will turn the Church of England into a Protestant sect, not the other way around. As mentioned in my previous entry, the new Dean of Llandaff wrote that "We should listen to Parliament". Why? MPs have demonstrated that they have no understanding of the issues involved. Every member I heard made false accusations on the lines of that peddled in the press by 'over one thousand clergy' when they suggested that orthodox Anglicans believe women are inferior to men. What utter nonsense and from senior clergy!

Comments made in Parliament showed an abysmal ignorance of the theology involved. This offering from David Winnick was typical: I am not involved with the Church of England and I am a lifelong non-believer, but I want to say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I greatly admire for the stance he has taken, that it is simply impossible to understand how on earth it can be argued that if women are considered appropriate to be deacons and priests, as they have been in the last 20 years, they are not worthy to be bishops. It is simply impossible to understand that. Will the hon. Gentleman also accept that, for many of us, this opposition to women bishops bears comparison with the opposition 100 years ago to women having the right to vote and to sit in the House of Commons? It is an anti-women attitude—a feeling that women have no place in public life, in religion or in politics—that I find contemptible.

It is contemptible that an Honourable Member is allowed to get away with such statements such as "they are not [considered] worthy to be bishops" and "It is an anti-women attitude—a feeling that women have no place in public life, in religion or in politics" when nothing of the sort has been suggested. That is not the position of the church but it remains unchallenged because clergy and bishops in general hold their positions not for their belief in orthodox Christianity but in the church being relevant to society. Typical of the bishops' response came from the Bishop of Sheffield who told the BBC that 'he hoped the news would not affect congregation numbers' when the most vocal don't attend church anyway. He should wake up to the fact, as one historian put it, 'God doesn't do relevance'. What has affected congregation numbers is the use of half-truths and even lies to promote a liberal agenda at variance with Christian teaching. 
 
There are far too many women who experience real suffering and desperately need our help instead of squabbling over imaginary injustices. Although illegal in the UK Female Genital Mutilation goes on because of "respect" and "cultural sensitivity" which makes detection in the UK almost impossible. Also, gender inequality is one of the main reasons for early and forced marriage: women and girls often occupy a lower status in societies as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes, beliefs that deny them their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities. Young girls are forced into marriage as child brides. It is ironic that immense suffering is allowed to continue out of respect for other cultures while a lack of respect for our own culture sees Christian orthodoxy overturned and genuine believers marginalised.

Women and men who complain about the supposed pain and suffering of women because they are not yet able to be bishops in the Church of England should focus on the real pain experienced by women and even girls in this country and far beyond. If they had had any thought for others they would already have secured the vote they crave for. All that is needed now is to allow orthodox Anglicans to practice their faith as it has been received. If they would only do that they could direct their considerable talents into helping to ease real suffering among women. That is the challenge. As Christians they should have the humility to accept it.

1 comment:

  1. Should that not be Sir Tony "Baldrick"?

    ReplyDelete