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Monday, December 10, 2007
Episcopalianism starts to fray

There used to be a special place in my heart for Fresno CA. Sometimes referred to as the worst place in the US, partly because of its very hot summers, cold winters and accompanying fogs, I nevertheless found it pleasant there. I spent New Year at an anonymous motel, completely alone there, some twenty years ago. I can't remember much of the detail, except that it was cold and foggy but it was 'nice'.

I was therefore rather disappointed to find the following piece, relating to Fresno, in The Grauniad
The conservative Diocese of San Joaquin voted Saturday to split from the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church, becoming the first full diocese to secede from the denomination in the debate over the Bible and homosexuality.

Clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted 173-22 at their annual convention to remove all references to the national church from the diocese's constitution, said the Rev. Van McCalister, a diocesan spokesman.

The diocese, based in Fresno, plans to align with the like-minded Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, based in South America.

The decision is almost certain to spark a court fight over control of the diocese's multimillion-dollar real estate holdings and other assets.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. member of the global Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member fellowship that traces its roots to the Church of England.
I hold no brief for religion/faith of any sort. I have often rejoiced at the number of bishops sacked or refused official confirmation, not at the homophobia relevant to the decisions, but because bishops, Richard Harries excepted, are 'a bad thing'. Anything that undermines religion, that places the bishopric under siege, is 'a good thing'.

It is therefore with mixed feelings that I express my disappointment at the split reported. I am content to see the C of E falling apart, but I am sad about the cause and the reasoning. I see absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality; it's not for me but that's no reason to refrain from criticism of institutions that use biblical references to endorse their prejudices. If we were all literalist about the bible, we'd still be selling women into slavery – see Exodus 21:7. [What's that: we still do?]

Yesterday, I argued that boxing was a bad thing. That was based on incontrovertible evidence that the 'sport' causes brain damage. I didn't do it because of some dubious piece of bronze-age writing, allegedly about a vicious psychopath called 'God', but because it made sense. We have legislated on crash helmets and safety belts in the interests of people's safety. We should legislate about boxing according to the same principle, unpopular though such a move might be.

Citing scripture as authority is dubious, particularly when it comes to matters that are strictly personal. It isn't as though homosexuality does any harm. And if people have a predisposition towards falling for people of the same sex, why should we try to stop them doing so?

Fresno, I'll not feel quite as favourably disposed to you as I used to.

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