The Church of England is in Crisis


The Church of England is in crisis” says Robert McCrum in an article for the Observer. “Its position on women bishops and gay marriage has alienated much of society”. Writing about the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England in York earlier this month he says: “once upon a time, it was all gas and gaiters, but now, when the delegates debate the issues of the moment – women bishops and same-sex marriage – they find themselves trapped in a hell of their own making”. So far so good I thought but then it is down hill all the way:

   “On 21 November 2012, on a motion to allow women to become bishops, the House of Laity, opposing the ordained clergy, staged a revolt. Its 64% vote for women bishops fell just six votes short of the required majority, a narrow but decisive defeat.

The traditionalists were jubilant. Among the bishops and clergy there was shock, disbelief, anger and despair at a historic wrong turn. Andrew Brown, the Guardian’s editor of Cif Belief wrote: “I have just watched the Church of England commit suicide.””

‘Revolt’ and ‘jubilant’? I don’t think so, certainly not as I saw it. ‘Shock, disbelief, anger and despair’? Of course. That sums up the feelings of the majority when thy fail to get their own way regardless of democratically agreed procedures. The gulf between us is clear:

   “Perhaps no amount of political finesse could disguise the reality of an established church that, after the 2012 vote, seems either fatally wounded or hopelessly irrelevant. The Reverend Lucy Winkett, who might have been expected to become a woman bishop, wrote that the Synod was “detonating its credibility with contemporary Britain”. Just below the headlines, that credibility is already threadbare. Behind the debate on women bishops, there are unresolved questions about the ministry of gay priests and the infinitely more difficult issue of same-sex marriage. Canon Giles Goddard of St John’s Waterloo says that “people oppose women bishops because they know gay marriage will be next”. At the York Synod, to the despair of reformers, Welby appeared to renew his opposition to same-sex unions. 

Goddard, whose partner sings in the church choir, is one of a handful of avowedly gay priests who says he feels “hampered by a perception of the church – misogynistic and homophobic – that trumps all the other good stuff we are trying to do”. Goddard believes that these are “justice issues. I don’t think Archbishop Welby has realised how important these issues are to the way in which the church is perceived.””

Why does a lost vote make the Church of England ‘either fatally wounded or hopelessly irrelevant’? The answer is given in the Reverend Lucy Winkett’s comment: that the Synod was “detonating its credibility with contemporary Britain”. Is how the church is perceived by people in ‘contemporary Britain’ the only thing that matters in the Church of England? Generally people in ‘contemporary Britain’ couldn’t care less, a position well illustrated by some of the comments in response to the article and by the ignorance displayed by the author when he refers to “the Reverend Grylls” and “Rev Lording”, a habit that has become so commonplace that it suggests that for most critics, their only interest in the church can be measured in column inches.
The implication is that the Church of England is in crisis because, rather than adapt the church to become relevant to contemporary Britain, some of her members still hold to the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In reality this paragraph sums up why the church is in crisis:

The irony of the present crisis is that the two groups – gays and women – that seem particularly alert to the needs of the church and extremely well suited to promote such a  mission are currently excluded from the hierarchy. Giles Goddard, speaking for the gays in the church, places the blame on the Synod as a whole. He says: “We have been poorly led by the bishops who are afraid of losing the support of conservative parishes, with all the financial implications of such a move.”Yet on the ground, in the shires and cities, it seems to be gay clerics and women priests who are keeping the Church of England alive, and in touch with society, from day to day.” If ‘gay clerics and women priests are “keeping the Church of England alive” ‘, for whom? Themselves and the like minded? They constantly spin their own versions of faith as career persons adapting religion to suit their own ends and lifestyles. Love is all has come to mean just as you please evidenced by the fact that most have now left the church and others are being driven out if they they don’t toe the line. So much for brotherly person love. The whole article can be read here.