Teetering on the verge of schismPosted by PH
Lots of folks have been predicting a split between the traditionalist and the “mainstream” members of the Church of England. One certainly cannot call them “progressives” even though the “traditionalists” would argue that they are in the mainstream. From my perspective, though, calling the others “progressive” is just too hard a label to swallow. First it was gay clergy. It’s hard to knock the CoE because of their “gay wars” when the Episcopal Church is fracturing over homosexuality, too.
But women clergy? Especially women bishops? I never imagined “the end” of the worldwide Anglican communion would come over that issue. (Yes, this clearly shows what a sheltered life I’ve led I’m afraid.) Apparently a third of the clergy in the UK are women. I’m sure it’s much, much higher in the US. But the Anglican communion is comprised of more than dear old “Britain”. The ultra-conservative Southern hemisphere is an increasingly powerful force and they don’t mind throwing their weight around. The combined forces of the traditionalist “South” and “West” are formidable indeed.
The NY Times reports that the compromise on women bishops Archbishop Williams offered the conservative wing, in part, was this:
But the votes on Saturday appeared to have blocked, perhaps conclusively, a settlement under which hard-line traditionalists might have accepted the appointment of women bishops. The proposals would have provided for a “complementary” male bishop with independent powers, working alongside a woman bishop, to minister to traditionalists unwilling to accept a woman as the head of their diocese.
Talk about “separate but unequal”. Yikes.
There is an inherent freedom one feels when writing on one’s own blog. I feel it now. It’s an immense privilege and it comes with an equal responsibility. That’s how I feel about it, anyway. I’m sure lots of other bloggers give not a nanosecond of thought about being restrained and toning down the hyperbole.
OK. Nanosecond’s up.
Actually, I’ve given it several minutes of thought. Here goes.
In my view, the Archbishop’s proposal itself undermines the dignity of women. It exemplifies the continued subjugation of women that occurs worldwide. I couldn’t help but link this proposal and its rejection to the adultery case in Iran. She still is under the threat of being stoned to death. Or the South African soccer player who happened to be a lesbian who was brutally murdered simply for being gay.
Remember “driving while black” or “walking while gay”? Now it’s “breathing while being a woman”.
It may seem extreme to compare the Church of England’s internal squabbles to the above cases. That might be true if it were not the case that as a religious institution the Church has an obligation to be a sign of God’s grace and love in the world. The Church’s “compromise” is just that: a compromise made on the backs of women. In this instance these women represent the least of these, they are the oppressed, on the one hand (see Isaiah 58), and on the other hand are some of the last in a long line of followers of Jesus who have been belittled and worse (see Matthew 25). Thus, they are the very ones who deserve more, not less, justice. And yes, I’m very much aware that it is precisely because it is a religious institution we’re dealing with that discrimination and ignorance tend to be intractable and therefore tend to reign supreme. But one can dream, can’t one?
In a way it is quite painful to see that the conservatives wouldn’t even go along with the ridiculous compromise. What are these people? The Taliban of the Thames? But let’s be realistic. They are hardliners and, hey, that’s just how they roll. However, I mostly believe the conservatives have given the rest of us a great gift by rejecting the compromise. They have helped a draw nice, broad, neon line that articulates the positions of the two sides. Take your pick of metaphors, my friends. The fissures are increasing. I think it’s about time to say “hasta la bye-bye” to this communion.