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Sunday, December 16, 2007
More about bishops

A few days ago – well, 10th December to be precise – I was bemoaning the fact that Fresno had elected to secede from the Episcopalian church on the grounds that the established church was too tolerant of homosexuality. Well, Rowan Williams is standing firm, at last. This is from The Grauniad
The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican communion, yesterday condemned attempts by conservative church leaders to undermine the US Episcopal Church for its support for gay rights and effectively refused calls to disinvite American bishops from next year's Lambeth conference of all the church's bishops.

In a long-anticipated Advent message to the 38 primates of the communion, the Very Rev Rowan Williams criticised African and other church leaders who have consecrated their own American bishops and offered to look after the small number of dioceses whose conservative American bishops have said they wish to separate from the US church and seek oversight from foreign provinces.
I have often argued that those who oppose progress are inconsistent in that they no longer, for example, permit the selling of family members into slavery (Exodus 21:7), or make slaves of citizens bought from neighbouring countries (Leviticus 25:4), or even kill people who work on The Sabbath (Exodus 35:2). If it's possible to dump some previously acceptable practices, going against biblical teaching, why all the fuss about homosexuality? It isn't as though being gay is implicitly (or explicitly, come to that) mandated for church membership. The bigots are not expected to be gay themselves, merely to accept it in others.

Apparently, the ordination of women presents further difficulty. Well, if we can let men box, then women should be allowed to do so, too. Similarly, if men are allowed to become bishops, then so should women; they should be eligible for the position of pope, too. Mind you, I'm not sure that I approve of popes and bishops per se but it's only when you've removed the sex restriction that one should think of a ban.

It is surprising that it has taken so long for this split to come about. Rowan Williams first tried very hard to persuade the liberals to back down. He's now on a loser in confronting the secessionists; he'd be better off kicking them out and controlling the schism that way. In fact, he should have done it years ago. None of his fence-mending has worked. All we've had is the sorry spectacle of the Archbishop persuading a gay, but celibate, applicant to refuse the offered position of Bishop of Reading. Here's what Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford wrote about the incident earlier this year. This extract is from Harries' article in The Grauniad dated 8th April 2007.
…the pivotal point was [Rowan Williams'] refusal to go ahead with the consecration of Jeffrey John, whom I had nominated as Bishop of Reading. In retrospect, the archbishop and I could have handled things differently … the Anglican Communion was already dividing on the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in the United States, and opponents, quite wrongly in my view, put Jeffrey John in the same category (because Jeffrey had been celibate for a considerable period of time)
Clearly Harries believed, along with the rest of the sensible Episcopalians, that this would have been a corner worth fighting at the time. By delaying, Williams has made a mess of his hand. By attempting to appease the bigots, he has antagonised both them and the more moderate wing of the C of E. The church will now fall apart more messily than it could have done.

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