The General Synod of the Church of England (20 months ago I was a cleric in that church, at some point in the future I may well become one again) is continuing to debate how the C of E should live with women bishops. They have already committed to the fact that women should become bishops - the process is slowly grinding on, and the arguments are now about what happens to people, lay and ordained, who don't like the idea.
Outside the church, society would prosecute under discrimination law for this sort of behaviour. The Equality Act 2010 has an exemption for religious organisations that allows them to disciminate on grounds of belief or sexual orientation - but not gender! Interesting - I hadn't really hoisted that on board!
How do the churches play this game?
There some who like debates about churches being places that define counter-culteral positions - Jesus came and contradicted the existing unjust structures of his day, didn't he? So it's the job of the church to take that same ground. And that means rejecting women/LGBT/... delete as applicable.
But if the counter-cultural position that the church takes is only counter-cultural because society has moved on and has a more developed view of what human justice ACTUALLY is - on gender, sexual orientation etc. - is not the church merely hanging onto a conservative, reactionary point of view?
What appears next? 'But the bible says...'
It says a lot of things. It has things that were oral traditions gathered around campfires over 3000 years ago, it has polished histories of an occupied people 2500 years ago, it has grumpy letters to badly behaved churches, it has love poetry, it has books of pithy maxims. It is a glorious human edifice, filled with God-inspired wisdom - and also filled with dozens of cultural contexts.
The culture that surrounds our churches, whether resisted or accepted or embraced, is a vital part of how a church relates to people and relates to God. And culture formed scripture, tradition and our view of reason.
The church in which I am now a cleric, the Scottish Episcopal Church, has already fully accepted women bishops. But we have never had one. In fact, I'm not even sure there's been a woman dean or provost (I'm sure someone will correct me if there has been one). Hmm. The hot issue, in the SEC view on the wider Anglican Covenant-related debate, is on sexual orientation and the episcopate.
And I would observe that Scotland, as a nation, is advancing faster than our neighbours in the UK on removing the final inequalities for sexual orientation. Legalisation (but not compulsion) of same-sex marriage in church is high on the Scottish government agenda.
Where is all this rant going? Where would Jesus be with all this? This first century Jew, in the occupied territories known as Israel/Palestine - what would he make of all these heated, sometime vitriolic debates on who/what is right and wrong? I suspect he would crouch down and draw with his finger in the dust, maybe humming a little tune to himself, before coming up with something along the lines of,
"Let you who is without sin cast the first stone..."
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