Friday, 5 October 2012

WATCH and wait

I've really been too busy recently to follow the developments over Clause 5 of the Draft Measure. I did have a quick look at thing this evening and discovered that Reform is not happy and will vote against the "Appleby amendment" , while WATCH says its members are divided between those who can accept it in the hope that it will offer a way to compromise and move on and those who feel that Clause 5 is still  "too discriminatory", and should be removed.

I've got a few things to say about this:

1. I don't think there is much point in anyone within the Church of England pretending it is not  a discriminatory institution. The Church is exempt from sections of the Equality Act and it is able to discriminate, in particular against women and gay people. The Church IS discriminatory, that is the main reason I cannot call myself a full member of it. If you are going to stay within the Church at any level, you need to accept that it discriminates in ways that would be considered unjust and offensive and which are actually illegal within secular society and the secular workplace.

2. With or without Clause 5, the Draft Measure is discriminatory. Churches are going to be able to opt out from the authority of a female bishop whether she "delegates" that authority or not. Now, you can take the view that this is outrageous- it wouldn't be sanctioned in the "real" world- or you can agree with the Church that those who agree with the ordination of women and those opposed, are "both loyal Anglicans." Alternatively you may think that the prejudices of those" loyal Anglicans" still shouldn't be pandered to, but you have to accept that the Church's understanding is  is that some sort of provision should be made to allow for the theological belief of loyal Anglicans who are opposed.

3. Some people feel that, when being asked to "respect" theological beliefs opposed to women's ministry, they are being asked to respect discrimination. Would we agree to "respect" racism for example?  Those opposed would say that they are NOT sexist or discriminatory.  I am not sure "respecting" a belief means agreeing with it, or pretending you don't think it is wrong. It is possible to argue that you can respect the fact that someone genuinely sees their beliefs as rooted in theology and not in sexism or discrimination, even when you feel their belief is offensive and misguided. It is a difficult line and too tenuous for some people though.

4. Part of the problem, if we are honest, is the sheer level of bitterness the debate has engendered. There has to be a place for some sort of grace, healing or living together in the future but it is difficult for people to know if the measure will provide that in any kind or simply prove a focus for more bitterness and division.
That is the dilemma facing WATCH and it is seen is this paragraph:

The Amendment appears attractive because it may provide a form of wording that is vague enough to keep all sides happy. However the wording has not been subject to any sustained scrutiny and does nothing to resolve the fundamental disagreements at issue, As such it may serve to prolong the struggle to achieve equal treatment of women in the Church. The Act of Synod has often been used as a springboard for separatism and any ambiguity in the Measue which now effectively goes futher than the Act of Synod will again be used to shore up practices that are damaging for women and for the Church in further years.

Well, yes, sure it will!  So, where do we go from here? Fortunately it isn't my problem! If it was, I don't know how I would square it with myself. I think I would compromise. I would have grave doubts about doing so yet I would know that the alternative could be stalemate and more and more delays.
Can those who want women as bishops bear any longer to watch and wait?


  1. I think it is another case of "highlighter pen" biblical hermeneutics by many of the more "conservative" voices in the church. You'll never hear them comdemn corporate greed or the arms industry, but women in church leadership, gay rights & abortion is all they want bleat on about. They have selected "hot button issues" that they want to opine upon but are rather silent on other issues. I respect people's right to disagree with one another but on one hand to lag 50 years behind the rest of society & on the other hand then to complain that society marginalises them is a bit rich.

  2. Mmmmmmmm, I am trying to be charitable but I keep thinking the same. There is a danger though that we reach a point where we see those opposed as no longer our brother (or sometimes sister) in Christ. I don't want to reach that point.