To cry foul, having gone ahead with the debate yesterday, knowing there was a very strong possibility if not a likelihood of defeat, and having admitted previously that the terms of the measure were flawed and well-nigh impossible for opponents to accept, calls into question not simply their basic management skills but their very fitness for the office they hold. One doesn't question either their integrity or their goodwill, simply the complete lack of that 'sureness of touch' necessary to guide the Church through turbulent waters.
Now the media is full of fevered speculation and wild comment (including a gratuitous and dangerous intervention from the Prime Minister - 'in a personal capacity,' of course') * about parliamentary incursions into the life of the Church and the possible removal of exemptions accorded to the Church of England under equalities legislation.
Thank God for disestablishment!
Comment here from a (Roman) Catholic perspective by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith at the Catholic Herald. In the light of this morning's absurd posturing about the Church's supposed lack of credibility in the eyes of wider (that is, secular) society, it becomes more and more hard to disagree with either his analysis or his conclusions. To assume unthinkingly that in order to have influence (or, that double-edged word again: 'credibility') the Church must be conformed to the world is a rather dangerous route to go down...
"...But if those who oppose women bishops on theological grounds think that this represents a turning point, I very much doubt that this is the case. Female ordination is now part of the Anglican landscape. This last year more women were ordained than men in the Church of England, and in the not too distant future the Anglican ministry may become predominantly female. And the funny thing is that no one really minds. Those of us who oppose female ordination – and yes, I am certainly one that holds it to be an impossibility (if I did not, I would be an Anglican) – are the sort of people who the BBC and others look upon as a vocal minority: professional pains in the neck, who really ought not to be allowed to ruin the harmony of the overwhelming consensus mentioned above.* Most previous Prime Ministers, of all parties, not as obsessed with the 'equality agenda' as the present occupant of 10, Downing Street (and probably having enough political nous, and an awareness of their own lack of expertise in this area, to know when to keep quiet) would have preserved the constitutional niceties and conventions and refused to be drawn at the dispatch box into a row over the internal decisions of the Church of England. It is a truly disturbing development that this Prime Minister (and other politicians who probably last darkened the doors of a church at their baptism - if then) should not feel so constrained. These are strange times, and those who hold to Christian orthodoxy from all traditions and communions should begin to be very worried indeed about the future.
I seem to remember, years ago, back in the late 1980s, Margaret Thatcher saying something along the lines of “Women make wonderful dentists and doctors, why shouldn’t they make wonderful priests as well?” As in other matters, Mrs Thatcher spoke for so many when she uttered those words. For most of the United Kingdom, that is what the priesthood is – it is one of the caring professions, a form of social work, something that women can plainly do very well. So why shouldn’t they?
But my view of the priesthood is rather different from Mrs Thatcher’s. The priesthood is not a caring profession as such; it is a rather different line of work. In fact it is not work or a job at all. The priest exists for one thing and one thing only; all his other activities are icing on the cake; the priest is there to climb Mount Calvary and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He is there to say hoc est enim corpus meum (“This is my body”). That is his one purpose, though he may fulfil many others as well. But amid the multitude of tasks, the centrality of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must not be lost sight of. But try to explain this to people who mutter about equality legislation being brought to bear, and it will seem to them to be antiquated nonsense.
Women priests seem perfectly natural to many Anglicans (and many liberal Roman Catholics too) because to them a priest is not really what, let us say, the Council of Trent had in mind. But I hold to the classical view of the priesthood, as exemplified by Trent and the Catholic tradition. As to the brave minority in the Synod, perhaps they may agree with me, in which case, their place is here, where I stand, on this riverbank, Tiber, not Thames."