(This article needs to be read in conjunction with my earlier post here.)
It was in the period immediately after the 20th November defeat of the Measure to introduce women bishops in the Church of England that I had something of an epiphany.
During this time, I was trying to fathom out what possible good could come of the whole situation. One thing, I concluded, was an outbreak of honesty. Before the vote, there were many people telling the ‘traditionalists’ that they were ‘valued’, that they should be ‘enabled to flourish’, ‘respect’ and so on.
You may, for example, have seen the videos on the website of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself to this effect. We were all going to ‘journey together’ into the future, and so on.
Unfortunately, when the vote went the ‘wrong’ way, what we saw was not an acknowledgement that the flourishing of traditionalists would have to be sought another way, but an outbreak of something little short of rage and the heaping of opprobrium on those, especially those evangelicals, who had dared to mess things up.
The vote of ‘no confidence’ in Philip Giddings, the chair of the House of Laity, is just one example. Another is the member of the House of Laity who wrote that the doctrine of ‘headship’, which lies at the heart of the evangelical objection,
... is to be seen alongside a number of similar major historical issues where prejudice and discrimination have been justified by selected biblical references. These include slavery, national socialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Male headship has its roots in the same soil of prejudice and discrimination. (Gavin Oldham, email to members of the House of Laity)
Would that he had been so clear in his understanding in the run up to the vote! But then if he had, it might presumably have added to the pressure to vote against the Measure.
Yet such sentiments led to my epiphany, which was the realization that whereas I regard supporters of the ordination and consecration of women as largely mistaken, they regard me, and those who share my views, as immoral.
And immorality in the Church is something which cannot be tolerated.
This is why we must also be so cautious when someone like Steve Chalke (and there are many like Steve Chalke) suggests that his views in favour of accepting same-sex practice and the position of those who are opposed can both coexist. In his own words, which I have quoted here, he says that,
Amongst the hallmarks of any and every healthy community must be the ability for reasoned and gracious debate, a willingness to listen to others, an openness to change and a respect for diversity. I write this paper in that spirit, recognising that various friends and leaders whom I respect have views which differ from mine.
So here we have a ‘Rodney King’ approach, with a plea for us all to ‘get along’ despite our differences. And would that we could!
But elsewhere Chalke is quoted saying that the result of the traditionalist view is that “those who seek to enter an exclusive, same-sex relationship have found themselves stigmatised and excluded by the Church”, adding that “this is an injustice and out of step with God’s character as seen through Christ.”
And here is the problem, for injustice, like immorality, cannot be tolerated – or at least, not if we can do anything about it. And Chalke has concluded that we can – indeed public legislation is already ahead of him – in affirming and blessing sexually active same-sex relationships.
Unfortunately, however, this means that despite his expressed desire that diversity should be respected, this cannot be something which ultimately he can either intend or tolerate. For surely he does not mean that there should continue to be some churches where the person in a sexually active same-sex relationship is ‘stigmatised and excluded’ in any sense? He surely does not intend that this version of Christianity should flourish alongside that which he now affirms as truly ‘in line with God’s character’?
Doubtless he genuinely hopes for a temporary truce – a period during which old friends can get along on the basis of their old friendship, even while they disagree vehemently on the nature of justice and Christian lifestyle, rather like former comrades on opposite sides in a civil war. But this cannot – or certainly, if he means what he says, ought not – to be envisaged as a permanent state of affairs.
This is the difficulty with elevating a point of view to a matter of ‘justice’. Of course some things are just such matters. But we should be careful not to attach the plea for ‘justice’ to our position, unless we recognize that by doing so we exclude the contrary view from the Christian church – as indeed we ought to exclude it from civilized society.
And this is also why, sadly, the ‘liberalism’ of liberals cannot be trusted, even when the ‘liberal’ himself affirms those who hold the contrary view. For the liberal who extends liberality to those with whom he disagrees on an issue of justice is either deceiving himself (which is perfectly possible) or seeking to deceive others.
Much to be preferred is the liberalism displayed daily on the Thinking Anglicans website. There, as the comments often make clear, the hatred for conservative evangelicals, traditionalists and other ‘low lifes’ is quite open.
Gavin Oldham’s opinion closely parallel theirs when he says that ‘headship’ “is another elitist creed which ... has no place in the Church of England, nor indeed in the Christian faith.”
Quite. And it would be foolish to think otherwise. But so many think they do. And many others are willing to believe them.Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend: