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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Losing One's Rag

Woody Allen's classic movie, 'Annie Hall', opens with these words, spoken by Alvy Singer, who looks directly into the camera and says,
There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life - full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly. The... the other important joke, for me, is one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud's "Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious," and it goes like this - I'm paraphrasing - um, "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.
I think Rowan Williams is Alvy Singer.

I've been following - well, sort of - all the goings on Across the Pond. The portrait of +++Himself that is emerging is one of a very intelligent man with a highly neurotic relationship with life and women.

Just like Alvy Singer.

I can't find the direct link and I don't 'tweet' (don't ask me) but Thinking Anglicans reports that Ruth Gledhill of The Times 'tweeted' that Rowan 'lost his rag' over the leak by "someone" on the Crown Nomination Commission.

The leaked information was that Dr. Jeffrey John, a self-described partnered but celibate gay man, was on the shortlist of candidates for Bishop of Southwark.

"Lost his rag" is British for "furious." Were Rowan in Parliament, he might have "flipped his wig." In America, this might be called being "royally pissed off" - which would be confusing to the Brits for whom "pissed" means "drunk" (As in, "I got quite pissed last night.").

Unless, of course, a Brit is telling someone to "piss off" which means to "leave, go away (As in, "They've pissed off and left us quite in the lurch.").

In the southern part of these United States, he would have had a "conniption fit" - which is not to be confused with having "a case of the vapors."

Rowan, apparently, "lost his rag". Never mind that a 'rag' to an American, is a vulgar slang having to do with a kind of feminine hygiene product.

Actually, who could blame him, poor lamb? First of all, the Crown Nomination Commission - like most nomination committees, but especially ones at this level and in these times - is sworn to confidentiality. Someone obviously and deliberately leaked the information.

The implications of this disclosure go even further. Once more, Dr. Jeffrey John had to endure his name, his ministry, his credentials, and the most intimate details of his life being dragged through intense media scrutiny.

And, for what? The Evangelicals will never accept a homosexual person as a child of God, much less a bishop. Listen to what Jon Snow reports that Canon Chris Sugden – Executive Secretary of something called Anglican Mainstream – said about the proposed appointment. Sugden
". . . described an active homosexual, who had now become celibate, as akin to “someone entering the Cabinet having once fiddled his expenses”. The climax to the Canon’s wrath was that his fellow Canon had “never apologised” for his journey from active homosexuality to celibacy…

Interesting, isn't it, that those who claim sole ownership of the moral high ground often behave in scandalously unethical - indeed, un-Christian - ways.

Rowan, however, consistently caves into these religious hooligans. Jeffrey John is, reportedly, a friend of Rowan Williams. Even so, John was forced to rescind ("stand down" in British-speak) from his nomination as Bishop of Reading in 2003 because of his sexual orientation.

In my kindest moments for Rowan's position (which are, admittedly, few and far between), I can only imagine that part of his fury, causing him to 'lose his rag', was the embarrassment this would cause his friend all over again, only for John to lose the nomination.

Alas, poor Rowan! Life serves you up such lousy meals, and the portions are so small.

You will find an excellent summary of the whole sordid affair at Thinking Anglicans and Episcopal Cafe.

Tune in this week, folks, for another episode of "As the Anglican World Turns". In this week's series, the Church of England meets in Synod to deliberate on women in the Episcopacy.

A very bright bloke named Justin Brett has written A Lesson concerning the Debating of Women Bishops on his Blog "The Dodgy Liberal". (Translation: "Dodgy" is British for "tricky, questionable or suspicious". The only kind of liberal I really trust.)

I'm not sure I understand it all, but it is quite good, I think.

According to Brett, the debate will most likely center around the second of eleven proposed clauses.
"Clause 2 is where things get more intricate. There are two attempts here to re-write it entirely. The first one - 512 on the Order Paper - would set up alternative traditionalist dioceses. This idea has been ruled out already as essentially legislating for schism, so it probably won't get far. The second - 513 - sets up transferred arrangements for traditionalists. No, that's not the same as the Draft Measure. Yes, it does sound the same, but there is a big difference. In the Measure as it stands, parishes have to ask the Diocesan Bishop for special arrangements, and he/she appoints someone to look after them. If this went through, the transfer would be as of right. Supporters of women bishops don't like this option because you could see it as creating 'second class bishops' by enabling traditionalists to act as if their diocesan bishop didn't actually exist. Again, these proposals have already been rejected, and they probably won't get through this time. They are not enough for the hard-line traditionalists, and a step too far for the reformers. The third major amendment is the one proposed by the two archbishops. It tries to bridge the gap between the idea of transfer and what is in the measure as it stands. Given that most of the usual suspects - sorry, I mean campaigning organisations of one sort or other - don't seem to like it, it probably won't get through. However, with both Archbishops backing it, you never know. The rest of the amendments to Clause 2 are essentially tinkering at the edges.
The dodgy-est (in the worst sense of that word) argument against women in the episcopacy in the Church of England goes to David Waller, a prominent member of Forward in Faith, which I found in The Guardian.
Forward in Faith has 7,500 members, roughly 1,000 of whom are clergy, and is the second largest membership organisation in the Church of England after the Mothers' Union. Its argument against ordaining women is, put simply, this: Jesus chose 12 male apostles and gave them authority to minister; those apostles then passed on that authority to a new generation of (male) church leaders, and so on. Women were not included in the process and so should not be now. "It seems arrogant," says Waller affably, "but it's the exact opposite: we simply do not have the right or the authority to change these things."
Cue Annie Hall's line: "La-di-da, la-di-da, la la."

The quote of the week, however, goes to the Rev'd Rose Hudson-Wilken, the Jamaican-born vicar of All Saints Haggerston, as reported in an article, "Should Women Ever Be Bishops?":
"If we are constantly at war," says Hudson-Wilkin, "we are taking our eyes off the main business, which is proclaiming good news." She bristles once more. "It wasn't the right time when we ordained women as deacons, it wasn't the right time when we ordained women as priests, and it will not be the right time when we consecrate women as bishops. It will never be the right time for those who are intrinsically opposed to women in leadership within the church."
Well, Rowan, all I can say is that it's really hard to think about membership in any organization that would accept you as a member.

Christina Rees, immediate past President of WATCH (Women and The Church) and member of General Synod, has written a detailed response to the Archbishops' Ammendments which can be found at Thinking Anglicans.
She concludes: To submit these amendments, which have not been discussed before by the Revision Committee, is to take them out of the careful process and puts the Synod in the position of voting on something that has not been subject to the same degree of scrutiny that all the other submissions have been subject to. As several people have observed, this is reminiscent of the process surrounding the passing of the Act of Synod in November 1993, when General Synod was presented with proposals it had not had time to debate before in Synod or in the dioceses. The Act of Synod was presented as a solution by the bishops and General Synod was put under immense pressure to pass it. If nothing else, we should have learned from that experience, that if something does not make theological sense, don’t do it.

Cheeky bird, that one. Imagine, a mere lay woman supposing to tell two Doctors of Theology in the church "If something does not make theological sense, don't do it."

Which brings us to the Anglican Covenant which, I understand, will also be put forth for discussion and adoption during Synod.

It's enough to make a body "lose one's rag".

Even so, I've pulled up a chair rings side and will be checking in, from time to time, to see what our sisters and brothers on the Other Side of The Pond are doing. Most of it will be rather like watching paint dry - not unlike our own General Convention - but the sound bites are apt to be worth the wait.

I'm reminded of a scene from Annie Hall where they are standing in line (or "queue" in British), waiting to purchase tickets at a movie theater.

Some guy behind them is going on and on about Fellini and Marshall Mcluhan while Alvy and Annie are engaged in yet another tense conversation about their sexual relationship. Alvy, in complete frustration, throws up his hands, moves forward and says, "What I wouldn't give for a large sack with horse manure in it."

Actually, the final scene of that movie, I think, says everything I need to say about our neurotic relationship with the World Wide Anglican Communion in general and The Church of England in particular.

Or, as Annie says to the crowd in that movie queue, "Anyone got a Valium?"


Jane R said...

All I keep thinking is how poor Jeffrey John took it upon himself to be celibate. And for what?

Nobody seems to be talking about that. Of course, we shouldn't be and it's none of our business and it just infuriates me that this man (Jeffrey John, not +++Rowan) has had his personal, relational, religious, public, and private life dragged all over the place. What a violation. He must indeed be a saintly and centered person. Most people would have thrown in the towel (or whatever one says in the UK) long ago.

Lapinbizarre said...

I have never before heard the expression "lost his rag" and am wondering if it is not a garbled, misunderstood variation of the US expression that you mention. Which is what immediately came to my mind when I read it. Pretty applicable, if it is.

ROBERTA said...

I so appreciate all the work you do to keep us updated with what's going on in the Anglican/TEC world. The links are wonderful. Annie Hall is still on my top 10 list of best movies ever...and Alvy was so right - it's about the eggs:)

Brian Baker said...

This is brilliant. Thank you for the connections between Annie Hall and our relationship with the CofE. I have been thinking of the Genesis video Land of Confusion in relation to +++Rowan's recent leadership.

Frair John said...

To think that the glorious heritage of Anglicanism is to sold for the pottage of African Donatism.

Bex said...

Wow. Forward in Faith has 7500 members. I'm impressed. Not. And their tired old argument against women's ordination? That one was done and dusted a long time ago.