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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CofE lays another curate's egg

Bette Midler once said, "When it's 3 o'clock in New York, it's still 1938 in London."

That was proven never more true than the recent action taken by the House of Bishops in the Church of England regarding women in the Episcopacy.

I don't pretend to understand it fully. However, I take comfort in the fact that Ruth Gledhill (AKA "Our Ruthy"), religion editor for the (London) Times and herself, the daughter of a priest in the Church of England, wrote that the press release written by the good bishops on the matter was "the worst written since the Reformation."

It sounds a bit worse than the traditional "Curate's Egg" often served up by Mother Church. It's partially good and partially bad but this one may or may not be entirely spoiled, depending on your perspective. 

I don't know. I can't be sure. I haven't tasted the thing yet - and thankfully, won't ever need to - although some say the whole thing is rotten. That's certainly the way it looks from across the Pond.

The Rev'd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, a priest in the CofE, blogged on it this morning in a post entitled "The Battered Bride of Christ".  Comparing the amendments to domestic abuse, she wrote:
So, the question for women priests today is: do we stay with this abusive institution? Do we stay, hoping it will get better? Do we stay, because we feel called by God to be in this marriage? Do we stay, thinking we can continue to try to change it from the inside? Or do we flee to the nearest refuge (let's ignore the fact for now that they rarely exist) - leaving home, family, community, and our dreams behind?
Here's how I understand what's happened thus far. Apparently, Synod voted during its last session to approve the idea of women in the episcopacy, sending it on to the House of Bishops (of which not all bishops are members, apparently, which seems odd to me, but I digress).  Synod asked the House not to make substantial amendments to the Measure, but didn't rule out tweaking just a bit. 

Finding it irresistible not to spoil the bed once it was made, the bishops apparently had to lie down in it and put their "smells" and "markings" on it with two amendments.  And this, as I understand it, is the rub which has become such an irritant to so many.

What do these two amendments propose to do? Again, it depends on your perspective. I thought I understood Bishop Alan's explanation in his post, "Swimmin' with the Wimmin Part 94". It sounds as if it's a rather pathetic attempt by Les Bishops to keep their manly pride intact if the wimmin were going to be allowed on their purple playing field.

Sort of a canonical jock strap, as it were.

Then, I read Bishop Pete's blog "Women Bishops - what the House of Bishops amendments mean". To hear him describe it, the primary concern was "the congregation" and the delegation of a bishop who shares the theological principles of the parish that is asking for delegated ministry.

It also says that the delegation of a bishop doesn't divest a diocesan bishop of his/her authority or functions. The intent, as I gather, is to  "preserve the integrity of the ministry of women" who are bishops. 

It's sort of like "flying bishops" but without the airplane.

The Rev'd Rachel Weir, chair of WATCH (Women and the Church - a bit like The Episcopal Women's Caucus) - said,
"They (the House of Bishops) have failed to listen to the voice of ordained women and those who support their ministry and been swayed by those who are opposed into making concessions that can only undermine the ministry of women in future years.

“The House of Bishops’ intervention will be an enormous blow to the morale of women clergy who were looking to their bishops for clear affirmation of their ministry as a welcome gift to the Church.”
Isn't that just like a woman? (sigh and ugh!) ....emotional.

Look (says she, tongue firmly implanted in the side of her cheek), the bishops were only concerned about the congregations. And, after all, they were also concerned about "preserving the integrity of the ministry of women". They were being proper gentlemen and there you are, whimpering on about the "morale of women"!

I always get nervous when men with great power and authority think they need to take steps to "preserve the integrity of the ministry of women". What that usually means is that they are protecting themselves.

See also: canonical jock strap. 

In any event , it now all depends on "Les Six" (you know it's bad when an English person describes something in French) - a group of six people (one woman and five men) who will look over the two amendments to the vote and decide whether or not it is 'legal enough' to move forward to Synod.

Synod, as near as I can figure, is a bit of a mixture of our Executive Council and General Convention. It will be held in York in June.

Methinks it may well be time to call in the Queen. She is, after all, 'The Defender of the Faith'. Seems to me that the faith of the Church of England is in great peril and needs to be defended.

When we do call the Queen, we may want to consider playing the song that won an Oscar nomination in 1938 (the year in which Midler thinks England is stuck) for the film 'Carefree'. It was sung by Fred Astaire and made #1 in the Billboard Charts for 8 weeks. It was called, "Change Partners":
Must you dance every dance
With the same fortunate man?
You have danced with him since the music began.
Won't you change partners and dance with me?

Ask him to sit this one out
And while you're alone,
I'll tell the waiter to tell him
He's wanted on the telephone.

You've been locked in his arms
Ever since heaven knows when.
Oh, won't you change partners, and then...
You may never want to change partners again.
Here's what my Grandmother would say about a Curate's Egg or anything one might even suspect may be spoiled: Better to throw the whole thing out and be minus one egg than make even one person sick.

Here's what I think: You can dress up discrimination in a cope and mitre, even put a Shepherd's crook in its hand and stamp it with all the power and authority of The Church, but it's still discrimination.

If 'Les Six' determine that these two amendments are within good canonical boundaries, that doesn't make them any less discriminatory.

I understand. We're all only looking for the classic Anglican Via Media. We just want to make room for everyone at the table.

Well, if you are allowing bigotry disguised as "pastoral sensitivity" and "preserving the integrity of the ministry of women", at the Lord's Table, you are neither pastoral nor sensitive. The only thing you are preserving is discrimination, in which there is no integrity, nothing pastoral, and nothing sensitive.

If these two amendments pass, how can anyone look at the Church of England and see a shred of integrity, much less anything that has anything to do with the Body of Christ?

This is no time to be a 'timid curate' and dare not complain about the quality of an inedible egg that would ordinarily be immediately rejected.

Frederick Douglass once wisely cautioned that "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." He said:
”If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both......"
Here's what I say: Spit out the curate's egg and demand another.

Enough is enough! Time to change partners and rejoin the dance of liberation and freedom promised in the Gospel. 

They eyes of the world are watching and waiting.

It's the year of our Lord 2012 - not 1938. Time to get a grip on reality, m'Lords.

Time to cook up another egg. And, get it right, this time. Which means, get the male bishops out of the church kitchen.

Clearly, they don't even know how to boil an egg!


Anonymous said...


I can't say how much I long for the Church of England to have women bishops, and openly gay ones for that matter.

But I have to say (and you will expect this of me) that the House of Bishop's amendments represent one last attempt to hold the our church together over this issue.

I have worked hard personally to try to achieve this but since arriving in my new post I am not a member of General Synod anymore.

It maybe that Les Six will rule this out of court, it may be that the proponents of women bishops will not support it in synod, it maybe that traditionalists will not think its enough for them to stay: However, its my prayer that all those maybe's will come good and we will have found a way through a really painful episode for our church.

With love from Rochester (UK)


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I understand your position, Mark. What I don't understand is what good the church will be if it enshrines discrimination in its canons.

Y'all are in my prayers.

Matthew said...

I don't know much about the proposal as to specifics so cannot say much but how would this be different than DEPO?

Kevin Scott said...

Thank you for this Elizabeth.

It's not easy over here for anyone in the C of E, not least women. At the local level it has meant us facing hard decisions (and their consequences) with colleagues and friends.

Just for the record, my own Diocesan Synod (Southwark) sent this back with a specific request to the House of Bishops that they should make no amendments, as did a number of other Dioceses ...

MarkBrunson said...

It will be no good at all, and these people aren't "together" - it's simple fantasy to say they ever were. There is no ecclesial communion between the two factions.

Lapinbizarre said...

In its final, 1992 issue, Punch reprinted the "Curate's egg" cartoon with a new caption - "This f***ing egg's off!". A far more appropriate comment on this week's archiepiscopal shell game.