Saturday, 28 January 2017

Be Honest, Anglicans

It seems to me that if you are going to do religion at all, you ought to be honest. Sometimes it gets you into trouble, but in the longer run it is worth it.

Church of England bishops have 'done it again' with a pretty rotten document called Marriage and Same-Sex Relations after the Shared Conversations. The only reason it is "challenging or difficult reading" is because it is basically duff - of no useful interest to an outsider like me - but frustrating to anyone on the inside. Once again this sort of document promotes dishonesty.

So why should I be bothered then? Well, on one strong level, I am not. I am far more bothered about May meeting Trump and the press coverage around something that has a nasty smell about it. He's turned out to be every bit as bad as feared, and one waits for his wings to be clipped by other centres of political power. She turns out to be indecisive and making wrong associations time after time. At a coffee morning it concerned me how some folks just reflected the tabloid view of Theresa May - "She'll sort him out" I was told - whereas I replied no, this is just a tabloid way of raising someone up in their terms before knocking them down.

At least such in politics is fluid and moving. The Church of England hierarchy is, instead, stuck. It had all these conversations, with people risking their emotional necks, and the outcome is a reversion to some past dishonest 'working' of don't ask and don't tell. It doesn't work, however, when there is marriage for couples of different sexuality, and when 'discipline' can apply just the same when a Church has half a view of marriage. Proposing more proposing, writing about more writing, is all what there was: it's like looking for more long grass to kick something into yet again.

Some principles: sex and gender isn't binary; marriage is a personal and social statement of what there is and something about hope for its future; and such what is fundamental should be supported ritually. Christian Holy Matrimony is as much a construct as the approach of State and Society, and so meaningful rituals help mark and support the breadth of marriage. The Church of England is stuck in some narrow selective biblicism, its own Communion bias, and a selective ecumenism - no surprise, obviously, but it does mean it is stuck.

What puzzles me, however, is why people put up with this corrosive dishonesty. It is clear, if it ever was, that this Church is stuck between its own rock and hard place, and as much as the progressives push the sectarians will dig in. The progressives say the bishops are (at very best) disappointing, that all that heart-displaying was exploited for nothing, that the system is rotten, that these bishops are all signed up to this static state... and yet these folk stay for more. It is the State Church, of course, but this counts for less and less. There are choices out there! I seem to recall that James I vision of comprehension finally gave way to toleration when James II was replaced by William and Mary of Orange. From toleration came variety. And now the Church of England really does not represent much at all.

And yet the people who ought to vote with their feet retain a fanatical sense of loyalty. Has anyone wondered that this very sense of 'won't budge' is exactly what these bishops rely on in order to get by with their sanctimonious documents? If people really have no budge point, the authorities really will not move.

Try somewhere else. Set up your own, if you like the forms of Anglicanism. Cut the rope. Then note your own sense of liberation, and of those around you. It then won't matter what these little authorities say to themselves. This is the point: they really do not matter. They only matter because you let them have a sense that they matter over you.

And so, on this, I've no more to say. They don't affect me, nor my friends. The only thing I would say is that none of these bishops should be in the House of Lords, and our schools ought to have nothing to do with this form of religion. Beyond these public hang-overs, they can be then as stuck as they like. This situation is not being honest with anyone and it relies upon misplaced loyalty.

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