Friday, 15 January 2016

Anglican Institutional Homophobia

The process of an institutional reconciliation method is to produce the least sanction that can hold the whole together. This is where few are satisfied the most but most are dissatisfied the least that can be expected.

The Episcopal Church, that is the one inclusive as a Church, is thus sanctioned for three years, in that it is reduced to observer status in doctrinal and interfaith matters - it cannot make its own input to those concerns at a Communion level. Beyond that comes lots of jargon about love and including the institution.

But in three years the primates of the Communion may well gather again via threats and intended actions, and the same occur again. By then the Canadians may well have developed a consistent Church-wide policy of inclusion, so it would be added to the demotion to observer status.

Justin Welby has done his managerial task of institutional reconciling. He has done what Rowan Williams did. The assumption is it pains Welby less, because he comes from the evangelical wing. Probably, but Welby sees the social consequences for the Church of England and its marginalisation from society, whereas Rowan Williams was an enthusiast for a stronger worldwide Communion to become something more like a Church and with a greater episcopal authority at its core. Welby had considered even a looser Communion, depending on whatever kept the operation going. As it happens, he has balanced it on the basis of those who want a Communion of a believing fellowship, another view of authority. There wasn't an institutional live-and-let-live solution on offer, which is what he was considering. In the end, the solution is of either being on one side or the other, and thus exclusion to observer status of the one Church that has moved to inclusion.

So the ethical and the institutional are separated. Ethics do not come directly from the Bible simply because people in authority choose which passages they accept and reject. They reject passages against divorce; there is no Anglican Church isolated because it tolerates divorce: they all do it. Once again, the institutional is forwarded on the basis of marginalising one identifiable group of people. A second class Church (inclusive) must mean a second class Anglican: and its the same folk yet again (and this time they are not even mentioned in the communique).

The Episcopal Church has to accept the punishment because if it seriously walked then the pressure would be on for the Anglican Communion to take in the Anglican Church of North America, the GAFCON inspired breakaway. This only encourages of course an Anglican Church of Northern Europe... The institutional fix does not preclude entryist activity in the Church of England and on the continent.

The Church of England as pivotal in this once every three years lowest common denominator institutional activity is the one Western Church frustrated into being unable to change. LGBT in England people keep thinking they are making progress only to realise that they cannot make progress in this institution. It is not available. Plus these bishops are the least radical in proportion than for many a decade: they are institutional people. I simply point to the new and female Bishop of Hull, Alison White. When asked to comment on the removal of Jeremy Timm from preaching, she waffled on about "patiently" and "respectfully" having conversation and listening. In other words, the women have been co-opted, brought in, and very good of course, but they immediately adopt the institutional system. No one can budge. Well, Alan Wilson has become the exception on the edge of bishops that shows the rule.

I read what many gay folk say about their religious beliefs and their strained relationship with this national Church  (it is time it was forfeited this role: the State is going to have to be increasingly careful how it uses this institutional inheritance for civic religious roles, and may have to consider a new approach across the religions). I note Colin Coward's own expressions of broadening theology, but he is not the only one. I'm not surprised because as one detaches from an institution - as one is rejected by an institution - the result is some cutting of the rope. Given the pantomime to come in another three years, and given the Church of England's own freezing away from ethical progress, these folks either have to get out or become guerillas in the midst of the institutional sclerosis: misbehaving, shock tactics or similar. But they would have a more harmonious and self-affirming future outside. These days one does not have to stay with the same: there are choices and you can even do your own. Let the Church of England take the consequences of losing its moral authority.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As an outsider to the C of E, although brought up in it and now Unitarian, I am left wondering where they get their inspiration these days. The North American and African branches of the Anglican communion both have their own versions of the voice of the holy spirit, and naturally they feel they must follow their calling. But in this country there seems a culture of compromise and managerialism, as the national church struggles to find its role in a pluralistic, democratic society. My impression from the media is that the bishops are undertaking more of a short-term political calculation than a spiritual search for 'God's will' - what's the least risky choice to hold it all together and buy time for another few years, and to still appear a bit conservative to other churches (RC) and religions (Islam). They chose rustication over expulsion this time, but what do they intend to achieve? What are they hoping will change during the next few years to make it any easier next time? This church as an institution is in a stalemate over this issue, but as you say, it is not just the isolated issue of homosexuality, it can’t be separated from the wider subject of inclusion. It’s really all one issue with inclusion of women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, of all the powerful and powerless. However I do hope this row doesn’t spoil any of the good work that gets done at the local level .

Blessings, Nick.