Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Bishops and Establishment

The established church has reserved seats in our legislature and the Church of England currently reserves these places for men.

Some churches claim that episcopal authority can only come through men (because the apostles were men).  Such churches also take a literal even fundamental view of the Bible – but they are not a part of our legislature.

The Church of England seems to be spending all its time trying to maintain internal unity – an unfitting way for the established church to behave.  Yet the “unity”  seems to be increasingly fake.

If you have a women vicar, people can refuse to take communion from her and bishops can refuse to recognise her orders.  The proposal just rejected allowed for some parishes to reject the authority of a (female) bishop.  Part of the definition of an episcopal church is the acceptance of the authority of bishops – if you can pick and choose you are not an episcopal church, and if you reject a bishop you are surely rejecting the church they represent.

The proposal just rejected was a short-term fudge to try and maintain unity.  Its rejection is in danger of making the church a laughing-stock, but its acceptance would also eventually make the church look ridiculous and even more irrelevant.

Why is “unity” so valued when people within the church are so intent on pulling in different directions?  Why not split?  Have one church that is literal and fundamental (and possibly misogynistic and homophobic) and another that interprets ancient texts in a modern context and is relevent to the ministry of an established church (and which complies with the legislation of the legislature of which it is a member)?  Each can then concentrate on its ministry without being distracted by internal navel-gazing (or worse).  They may even find that when they concentrate on ministry they find areas on which they want to co-operate (just as the existing Church of England co-operates with the Methodists etc. without trying to square numerous internal circles).

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One thought on “Bishops and Establishment

  1. Pingback: Is the CoE Episcopal? | Outside the marginals

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