Sunday, 25 January 2015

Libby Lane and the theology of taint

It really is good news that the Reverend Libby Lane will become Britain's first female bishop tomorrow and I think that it is a really positive move for the whole church and for so many men and women, but particularly women, who have waited so long for this.I feel a bit guilty that there is a conspicuous lack of detail on my blog about the politics and events in the Church of England, it is just that I have simply lost interest. Back in November 2012 I took some time out to think about where I was going in terms of all Church related things. I decided to pull out of some of the activities I had been involved in, such as representing groups at Synod, not just because I was appalled at the impasse over women bishops but also because I could not see much hope for the inclusion of gay Christians, given the global nature of the Anglican communion and some of the tensions seen there.
I'd also become increasingly disillusioned with what institution does to religion. It is a terrible cliche to say you don't believe in institutionalised religion, I would prefer to say that I rejoice in the way that grace, the Church's best kept secret, manages to do its work despite the strangle hold of institution. From a personal point of view, the decision to bow out was absolutely the right one and , although it was precipitated by the vote of Synod, I had reached that point well before and it had been a long time coming.
Anyhow, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle (predictably) because Philip North, who holds traditional Anglo-Catholic views on the ordination of women, will be consecrated in February and Sentamu has said that he will exercise "gracious restraint" and not lay hands on the said Father North because Sentamu will have laid hands on Libby Lane and Sentamu's hands may not now be able to impart the real McCoy in terms of making North a real, genuine, no-kidding bishop in the tradition of male, apostolic succession (or some rubbish like that, I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention...)

 I suppose I should be outraged at the theology of taint or something like that but it is possibly a mark of how completely I have disengaged that I am not feeling terribly exercised over it all. It is, of course, the theology of taint, and it seems to me to be the complete opposite of what we learn from Jesus, who would touch anyone. I also think that those who believe in this sort of "pure blood bishops" stuff are a bunch of weird crazies- having said this,religions are generally full of weird crazies, it attracts them. So what did you expect? The best thing about indifference is that it lends you a wonderful objectivity and an amused shrug of the shoulders is much better for your blood pressure than getting worked up.

But indifference, rather than internal difference of opinion, is the Church's real problem at this moment in time. With increased secularisation, the British public lost touch with its faith decades ago and we now see the working out of this in falling numbers and emptying pews. The tragedy of this is that when people stop looking to and listening to the Church, they no longer hear the message of the gospel. Perhaps the Church should think harder about the fact that those it needs to reach are largely ignorant of, rather then indifferent to, the good news it has to share.


  1. My hope is found in some parts of the wider Anglican Communion, particularly in the part I now inhabit (a move in part inspired by the events of November 2012) - The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) didn't make provision for those who were against the Ordination of Women, and though painful it is now a distant memory and we have Women exercising their full vocation within the Church - though most would admit not enough women Bishops! Likewise on matters of sexuality there is a broadly inclusive view, and here in the Diocese of BC we are free to offer a blessing to same gender couples.

    The current debate on opening up Marriage to all is a slightly more contentious issue, but we are working through it!

    Far from being the pariahs that I was led to believe The Episcopal Church and ACC are, there is a sense of life and vibrancy within these parts of the Communion which goes hand in hand with inclusion and acceptance of all. Deo Gratias!

  2. It is a massive step forwards and I cannot understand why the clergy who support Fr North can "square the circle" of believing that the Anglican and Roman churches are heading to some reunification and want, in effect a separate communion. I accept that a selective reading of scripture will lead to some weird ideas about "headship" but it is all very unseemly: a shouting man in York Minster and odd comments from the usual suspects. I think we need to remember that secular organisations are are just as bad in several ways, though.