Oh, but wait! There's more!
"My own position is quite clear on this, that I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church."Honest to Pete!
"Why, some of my best friends are women. I've even married one."
If someone on the Religious Left (Is there a 'Religious Left'?) said something like, "My position is quite clear on this, that I have supported (insert your own demographic group: People of Color, People with Disabilities, Aged) Bishops in print and in person. . . . but I don't think it's something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church" . .. .
. . . .Well, there would be howls of protest so loud it would rattle the china on the shelves of Lambeth Palace.
And, rightly so.
His statement just drips with anxiety.
With all due respect, put on your man-pants, sir, and get a grip. I can feel my last, poor, tired nerve being pulled. Even now, I've started to clutch for my pearls.
If you don't know N.T. Wright, he's the theological architect of the Evangelical Right's position. He's quite brilliant, actually, and, I understand, a friend of Marcus Borg. He has written scholarly texts, but his popular books, What St Paul Really Said and Simply Christian, and Following Jesus are quite engaging.
He's a bit of a Jack Spong in that way. I don't always agree with all of his theological thinking and reasoning, but he always - always! - makes me think about my own theology. And, his books are never boring - always well written and well edited.
It's also clear that both Jack Spong and Tom Wright love Jesus. Very Much. They just understand his teachings in very different ways. Which is why I love being a member of the Anglican Communion.
He has promoted more traditional views about Jesus' bodily resurrection, and Jesus' Second Coming - which he holds as part of the core beliefs of Christianity - and has been quite clear in his understanding of the biblical condemnation of homosexuality.
He argues that the current understanding of Jesus must be connected with what is known to be true about him from the historical perspective of first-century Judaism and Christianity.
Which is why his statement to the Irish Gazette completely befuddles me - when it doesn't frustrate me, almost to the point of anger.
Jesus was a revisionist and a reformer at his core, constantly challenging the organized religion of his day about firmly held doctrine like The Sabbath and Purity Codes regarding dietary and etiquette customs.
He told stories and parables about the Samaritan, the priest and the Levite. He healed the bent over woman and the woman with the hemorrhage, and answered the prayers of the Canaanite woman. He invited himself to the home of a Tax Collector, and ate with notorious sinners and prostitutes.
He welcomed women and chose to first reveal himself after his resurrection to a woman - a sign many women and men from antiquity to post-modernity have seen as a powerful statement about the intention of his mission in the world.
So, of course, Jesus would welcome women into the corridors of power and the councils of authority in the church today.
Wright knows this. Which is why he has supported the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood. So, why this statement? Why place the mission of Jesus in subordination to the unity of the church?
Well, it's what white, straight, educated men who are entrenched in patriarchy and enamored of their own power and authority within that oppressive structure say and do when they feel their positions are being threatened.
First, Scripture is elevated to the level of near-idolatry. When that doesn't work (and, it couldn't in Wright's case because he's already accepted the ordination of women), you plead before the Altar of Unity.
It's become a very sad, almost predictable sight.
What of the all-embracing, abundant love of God? What of the vocational call of Jesus to do the work of God in the world? What of the movement of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of people to reform the structures built by humankind which do not reflect the love of God and the vocation of Jesus?
Is unity in the church more important that the work of the Triune God?
Wright was also asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed, it is said (and I obviously don't agree) at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said:
"I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative." He said the Communion could not afford to have "the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had".Isn't it interesting how anxiety and fear can block vision and reason?
It seems that Wright has forgotten that Anglicanism is, in its essence and Spirit, a wonderful, holy, unstructured mess.
It would also seem that the good bishop has lived this long and is somehow blissfully unaware - or, perhaps has forgotten - that, at its core, life is messy.
Life, at its best, is chaotic and unpredictable and unstructured because life, at its best, is infused with Love.
I'm reminded of what what St. Paul says about Love in II Corinthians 13:4-8 and what Gibran says in his poem about Love
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God." And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.I suspect that the "issue" of the consecration of women to the episcopacy in the Church of England is yet another manifestation of the unconditional, abundant, embracing, life-changing, transformative, messy Love of God.
No human structure can bind it or contain it. No human impulse, no matter how self-protective or well-intentioned, can make it any less messy.
This will come to pass. It is of God. It is of God's Love. It will have out.
And, it won't take an Anglican Covenant to hold us all together. God has had us in Her hands since the beginning. We have been carried thus far by faith. S/he has not taken us this far just to drop us on our heads.
The good bishop's words belie his desperation and anxiety. He knows only too well of the inevitability of the election (or 'appointment') and consecration of women to the episcopacy.
His words may sound like comfort to some as a "quick fix resolution", but I have to believe that a man of Wright's obvious intelligence understands, at the end of the day, that he has eaten too much of the bread of anxiety.
He knows in his heart of hearts, where he keeps the treasure of Scripture, that interference with God's Love will only end, long term, in disaster.
It always has. It always does. It always will.
So, as we say in the Colonies, 'get a grip', Bishop Wright.
To use your words, "because I don’t think really there’s any alternative."