Thursday 31 October 2013

Noises and No Change

Here's a funny thing. I comment less on the Church of England and Anglicanism these days and it's a lot less relevant too. I don't know whether I am leading the way, or I am just part of a trend and there's nothing original here. I fell out of it, really, because I didn't believe what it believed, but before moving I stayed visible locally while the greater body generated a sense of 'disgust' by which I wanted less and less association. I haven't been inside an Anglican church now for over two years for any reason at all.

I couldn't give an ess aich one cup of tea about GAFCON and all that, and didn't fancy even responding to it. But there has been yet another declaration of war and this time in a sort of continuum from GAFCON in Nairobi recently to the expected contents of the Pilling report through which the Church of England might at last notice couples of the same sex forming.

So here's what I think, if it is worth the effort. Justin Welby made a mistake by going and giving GAFCON the nod, because it's a mouth that is determined to bite his hand. He's a reconciler by trade, but the danger is he gives the impression of being clueless about which way the ship is sailing. He's also giving progessive types like Changing Attitude a sense that he's in favour of change. He hasn't suggested change for the future at all, only surprise about rapid change happening all around him. He's made it clear that he will continue to uphold the source of the Bible for his restrictive attitudes, and that there will be no change. He just isn't going to enforce anything in any direction, perhaps unless it's forced on him and he must then resist.

He is different from Rowan Williams because Williams had written pro-equality theology and then, when in office, stood on his head, and used a certain gravitas from his past to stand on his head while continuing with good and clever interfaith and multiculturalism speeches. But he further acted to enforce what he now stated was (narrowly) biblical, and acted to create hierarchical structures that would enforce the narrow. He was as disciplinarian one way with his own Anglicans as he was generous with outside faith and social communities. Eventually the Anglicans in England saw through the Covenant and killed it dead here, and he retired early. The new chap is rather more like Tony Blair in that one confuses him making a speech with action, and trying the big tent approach of nothing actually done. Tony Blair's only real action was to hide behind a mad bloated United States president and do his bidding here, but GAFCON isn't the power that will find Justin Welby having to bend. He just wants them 'in' rather than 'out', but then that ignores the tactics of entryism.

But this big tent gloss is all it is, because nothing will change. As blogged, I've just written a letter to The Inquirer, that it is a mistake for Unitarians to target Anglican liberals in its publicity and faith stance. Anglican liberals just don't budge in any numbers. Odd individuals leave, but that's all. They are suckers for punishment, and dissatisfaction, and the authorities know it. Rowan Williams, with his high Catholic ecclesiology and social inclusive theology, knew it, which is why he betrayed his friends and others to try to secure the institution ("Read the Ordinal" he once told the General Synod). Justin Welby is the evangelical who can afford to make nice noises, but he will revert to base. He will always revert to base, the spiritual poverty of the Alpha Course marketeers.

Evangelicals with their centres of congregational gathering will rise up "if the Church of England blesses sin", and homosexual acts are listed as sin, and blessings of gay couplings just like that cannot be assumed to be non-sexual. The authorities found it necessary to suggest the Church of England will not have a liturgy for blessing gay unions.

(I can imagine it might, however, with the ridiculous lines, "And will you promise to hold your union in friendship and free from deliberate sin as consistent with the biblical witness?" Each individual in turn responds, "I will.")

Conservative Evangelicals are already going to be doing diversionary tactics if and when bishops are 'gender free' and they find one in charge. They'll be more activist than the Anglo-Catholic retreat into tiny corners and receive their stipends while imagining they can 'flourish', rather than join the Ordinariate made available by Rowan Williams's friend.

Of course, if the Catholics and part of Evangelicals still block the road to gender free bishops, Justin Welby will be left in one hell of a mess and have to focus on intentions to try, try and try again, to chase society that is likely to blow a raspberry at the Church of England and perhaps move towards a proper, secular and multi-faith State where the Archbishop does not do the royal christenings (what a laugh that was).

Whatever, the reality is that whilst the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is a tiny schism in England of an alternative Primates Council, the dodging around of Evangelicals with the anti progressive aspect in Fulcrum and similar and the dispersed Anglican Communion means no change on the blessings front.

And no doubt the liberals will continue to moan, complain, campaign even and, basically, carry on as before.

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