Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Monstrous Regiment of Christians

BBC News - Church of England synod vote 'paves way' for female bishops

In a nice example of the "you'll keep voting till you get it right!" approach to democracy, the General Synod of the Church of England, which a year ago voted against allowing the ordination of women bishops, was today told to try again, and managed to get it right - and by a substantial margin of 378 to 8.

Well, not quite. There is still some work to do but they have 'paved the way'.

We claim that this package is designed to enable all to flourish, yet I and my church can only flourish when we deny our theological convictions and accept a woman as our chief pastor.

Susie Leafe, Director of Reform, a conservative evangelical group
To people brought up in a world in which those who fulminated against the "Monstrous Regiment of Women" © John Calvin are regarded as leading theological philosophers, these are difficult and confusing times. What caused this sudden and overwhelming change of mind, and overwhelming conviction that Jesus, St Paul, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and all the preceding generations of clerics whose interpretations of the sacred word of an inerrant god was that women should not be priests because of Eve's wickedness in causing poor Adam to sin, all got their theology wrong?

Now hush children. We don't talk about that sort of thing in polite society!

It had nothing at all to do with the stark warning the General Synod was given yesterday that the CofE could well be on it's last legs anyway and that bishops could soon be looking after parishes with no congregations, empty churches and idle vicars. Got that!? It was all an ecumenical matter and decided on sound theological argument. "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." - Samuel Johnson

We should not open the champagne bottles or whatever drink we regard as celebratory because we need to agree to work together until the end.

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
The compromise which clinched the deal was apparently allowing parishes (i.e. the vicar, or whatever small clique is pulling his strings) to reject a woman bishop and refuse to accept her authority. However, an ombudsman will be appointed to rule on such disputes and a truculent vicar whose no doubt theologically-sound misogyny prevents him from cooperating could be disciplined. Quite how an ombudsman can rule that a vicar has accepted a woman bishop when he hasn't or that his misogyny was indeed justified in this or that special occassion was not spelled out. No doubt this is the sort of thing yet to be settled.

(I don't know if the rest of the world has ombudsmen - forgive me if you do - but it's a loan word from Swedish for someone who has authority and power to rule on disputes. We have a lot of them in the UK, usually to moderate between government or government agencies like the NHS and the public.)

People will have voted in favour of this to continue the process who may or may not vote in favour of the package at the end of the day. So it is not over and that is a reality.

James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester
To me, the fascinating thing here is how the CofE is lagging so far behind the rest of society in struggling to accept that misogyny is quite simply wrong and yet it still assumes it has the right to be consulted on all matters of ethics and morality. It got into the same muddle over equal rights regardless of sexuality and , in earlier times, over issues like votes for women, rape and assault within marriage, the right of married women to own property and a husband's entitlement to the unquestioning obedience of his wife.

The problem is that the Bible is unambiguously misogynistic and yet misogyny is unambiguously wrong. This sets up dreadful cognitive dissonance in people who believe a Bronze-Age book is a god-given guide to morality. How can the Bible be an inerrant guide to morality and yet be wrong at the same time?

To cope with this problem, the church, ever mindful that it has much to do to keep from looking even more ridiculous and reactionary to normal people, this has to be handled very carefully and all sorts of compromises have to be offered to win the confused round and convince them that black really is white when looked at in the right light.

To normal people of course, there is no problem here. If Jesus, St Paul, Martin Luther and John Calvin were misogynists then Jesus, St Paul, Martin Luther and John Calvin were wrong. Normal people can open the Bible or read the noxious bile coming from Martin Luther or John Calvin, and be horror-struck at the things people used to believe before they knew any better and at the suffering and injustice that their ignorant bigotry caused.

It takes a special form of psychopathy to believe that you need to look morality up in a book and that it matters not when the book was written or the form of society in which the writers lived. It takes a special form of hypocrisy to tell other people that that's what they should be doing then to decide to ignore the book yourself because the 'morality' in it isn't suitable for today and is losing the church members and income.






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