Monday, 26 November 2012

36 reasons to avoid debating female bishops

Yesterday there was only one question on the television programme The Big Questions (should that be Question), should Parliament force the Church of England to appoint women bishops? However the question was hardly discussed as most of the time we heard something about the recent vote at Synod that rejected women bishops and we heard a lot of insults. I counted 36 examples of rudeness, insults, derogatory jokes and generally unchristian attitudes and emotions but there could easily have been more and the programme only lasted 43 minutes.

Christina Rees, a lay member of the General Synod was extremely upset (1) this week and feels that the Church looks "appalling"(2).  Bishops, clergy and laity have all been betrayed (3) by the House of Laity. She, and those who agreed with her "walked the extra mile" to accommodate those who disagreed but still they didn't get the result they wanted. It seems that nothing (4) will satisfy those who want to keep the status quo.

There is a problem with toxic (5) conservatives (the c is small because it belongs to members of the Church) who are defining the Church by what they despise (6), and according to the Rev George Pitcher this includes homosexuals, women and people who aren't it (conservatives). When one commentator felt that these conservatives needed protection from being pushed out (if there were women bishops) Christina felt that the use of the word protected was offensive (7). Peter Hitchens called this a furious dogmatic rage (8). I wouldn't quite use those terms but certainly the debate was heated (9). Christina told Peter that he was absolutely wrong (10), so I suppose that makes Peter right. He went on to criticise the use of the word toxic as he sees reasonable arguments from both sides of the debate.

Christina asked the conservatives how they would compromise, but her own position was clear. She wants women bishops who are not second class(11). Christina refused to accept that she is a purist and told us that this label should go to those who oppose her views (12). Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin felt that "there would never ever be anything good enough for them (13)" - the opposition. "That's a fact" she added. Not only is this opposition toxic, offensive, purist with no intention of compromise, all these are matters of fact(14) and do not need debating. She wants a new vote which is simple and asks for women bishops. If other members of the Church don't like it then Nicky Campbell suggested they should leave but Rose answered by saying they should behave like adults and accept the decision.

According to Rose, nothing was sorted out 20 years ago when women were ordained to the priesthood. It was a silly fudge (15). Others were calling it compromise. Women remain as second class and she added "that's a fact" - end of debate (16). Rev Pitcher came back with a "how dare you suggest"(17) when referring to apostolic mission and Sacred tradition. I don't think he was trying to cause offence but he was having a good go.  Ben Bradshaw MP reckons that Parliament could well act in the next few months if nothing changes. This is because there is a unique relationship with the Church of England which allows it to make decisions about Sacred tradition.

Rose spoke about a biblical illiteracy(18) within the Church referring to those who did not agree with women priests. "What on earth (19) are you (these people) doing on the General Synod?" The situation is ridiculous (20). "It - does - not - make - sense"(21). Peter recognized that what was just said showed no tolerance at all (22). Rose dismissed her opponents with contempt (23). According to Peter this is the source of the problem. Ruth Gledhill from The Times thought that Peter's view should be dismissed because this was the pot calling the kettle black (24). She was saying ignore Peter's views because he is not worthy of holding any.

Peter was speaking again when Christina kept interrupting (25) and when challenged she told Peter that he kept talking nonsense (26). Shortly after this she tried to interrupt another speaker (27). She did manage to speak again and quoted Rowan Williams by saying that her opponents did not show trust in the Church (28) and if you do not trust someone what do you say next to them. I had thought the Church in its wisdom had kept the status quo and so this is where trust should lie and it is Christina who needs to show trust.

Ruth spoke about the flying bishops who care for Anglicans opposed to female clergy. The aside from Rev Pitcher was "or the flying bigots (29) as we sometimes call them". Shortly afterwards George asked Ruth to wait a minute (30), to which he received the reply "no you wait a minute"(31). It didn't sound very pleasant. One had been talking for a great deal of time (31) while the other had monopolised (32) this debate. Well done the two of you because that is quite a feat in a chat show, or it could be that they were just arguing on air.

Peter saw rudeness (33) towards the conservative wing of the Anglican Church over and over again, and as if to prove the point Rose told him that this was madness (34). At this point he did manage a "there you go again" (35). Christina added that the House of Laity was holding the rest of the Church to ransom (36).

In the last five minutes of the programme a member of the audience spoke about her ambivalence towards women bishops. She has a point. Christians must think that God must be wondering how rude his supporters can get. Rudeness, insults and derogatory jokes even if you find them funny are not a basis for Christians to debate the role of women as Anglican bishops.

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