Is the Church of England serious in wanting women bishops? The majority in favour is a large one. Support outside of the church is just as large, if not greater. The only problem that lies in the way of this glorious modern revolution seems to be a technical one, to make proper provision for the minority who cannot in conscience accept the innovation. How difficult could that be?
As we pointed out last month, so small a task did it seem to the powers-that-be that a group of four bishops in a time span of six months was regarded as sufficient to come up with the solution; all this without any discussion with those for whom the proposals were being designed. As we know from the February Synod, they failed.
Did the House of Bishops learn from their mistake? Apparently not. Are serious efforts being made to come up with a solution in time for the next Synod meeting? Hardly. We can be sure that the Bishops of Guildford and Gloucester are working as hard as they can; they are both honourable men. But two bishops, working together in their spare time, that is not a serious attempt at a serious structural solution!
Our lead article this month, from a priest and lawyer, shows that there are more questions that have yet to be asked, let alone answered, than there are days left before the July Synod. Any reasonable person must begin to doubt whether even the revised timetable can be met.
Does this mean that the majority of the House of Bishops are no longer serious in seeking a proper solution? Is it a convenient smoke screen for endless delay? If a majority of bishops now believe that they were wrong about wanting women in their house, it would be helpful if they were to say so.
The importance of the whole exercise cannot be exaggerated. By rejecting the theological option (proper discussion of the Rochester Report etc) Synod, and the CofE at large, must now come to understand what is involved by the seemingly indirect route of discussion about the provision for the minority opposition.
Women bishops in the CofE is not a matter of justice. That truth has been proclaimed, if not yet fully learned, by Synod’s emphatic rejection of a single clause measure. If it were a matter of justice, there should be no provision whatever (not even a code of practice) for those who are wrong.
The Church of England is now learning about the sacred nature of the episcopacy, and its essential part in the whole structure of Christ’s Church, by the discussions that surround the provision for a minority of no more than 10%. Strange but true.
Therefore, every question is important. Each one must continue to be asked until a full and satisfactory answer is given. Only then will the confident majority learn what is a bishop, and what road it is they hope to journey on.
With all the oxygen of free publicity from an enthralling court case alleging plagiarism, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s best-seller is about to burst upon us with a star cast, as a blockbuster movie. Despite, or perhaps because of, a not-so-glowing mention in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Sermon, it is bound to be a sell-out. Do we care? The answer must surely be No.
Conspiracy theories about the Faith are now so commonplace, fantasy having replaced scholarship in so many quarters, that scarcely anything remains to surprise, titillate or outrage. Satire and reality walk hand in hand.
New Directions takes its hat off to Mr Brown, who has put to practical use the dubious scholarship and wild imagination of a generation of New Testament exegetes, and turned a nearly honest penny from it. He will lead few astray, for the simple reason that few of his readers care a fig about the truth.
What matters surely, far more than Brown’s musings and borrowings, are the books and articles (equally the products of fertile fantasy) which now pass as scholarship. There are books about ‘women in the New Testament’ which should most certainly be catalogued as fiction, lecturers in our ancient universities who teach undergraduates unsupportable nonsense about the role of women in the early Church, and claims being made about the ‘overall trajectory of Scripture’ which reveal more about the prejudices of their authors than they do about the patterning of Holy Writ.
Why is the Archbishop wasting his time on Dan Brown, when there are so many worthier targets so much closer to home? The Da Vinci Code, to be sure, has gained a remarkable ubiquity (it is scarcely possible to make a tube journey without seeing someone reading it); but the cod-scholarship with which it is surrounded and by which it is rendered credible is the more damaging. There is, after all, a serious danger that the Church of England will fatally destroy its claims to catholicity on the strength of it.