Saturday, 5 January 2013

A good time to bury bad news...?

This seems to be the 'big story' about the the Church of England, bishops and civil partnerships the press is currently running with...
"The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England's approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group's work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate."
This was, of course, tucked away in the summary of the decisions of the House of Bishops published on 20th December 2012. [here

So in that sense, yes,  there is nothing particularly new here, only that large sections of the media, unsurprisingly and with their own exclusive- inclusive agenda to plug, tend to love any controversy involving the Church and homosexuality, particularly where there is likely conflict brewing, and where change can be so easily engineered; and, in terms of contemporary Anglicanism in the west, they are, of course, pushing against an open door.

However, the twentieth of December of any year is undoubtedly a good day to bury potentially bad news, to "take out the trash," as the Americans would say; the very end of 2012 was a particularly good time to do this, as it marked the end of the incumbency of one Archbishop of Canterbury and comes well before the enthronement of his successor.

All this only serves to mask the real issue here, and that is the convenient liberal myth of the 'celibate' civil partnership. This news, if it is news (it is certainly news-worthy), is yet another example of the liberal establishment in the Church continuing to push the envelope - we can expect much more of this as we see the first episcopal appointments * made under the changed discipline.
The candidates are the obvious ones. 

Having said that, it is manifestly a nonsense to allow parish clergy to undertake civil partnerships ('celibate' or 'non-celibate': who is capable of making - or would be willing to make - that kind of judgement about a relationship's continence and sexual activity?) whilst trying to apply another standard to those ordained to the episcopate. As has happened so often, the Church's moral theology has already been changed by stealth and a process of attrition. There is no internal debate or theological reflection going on about the Church's teachings on sexuality that is more than merely cosmetic; we all know that a decision in favour of change (in accordance with the prevailing mores of western society, of course) has already in practice been made, the only real argument now being about exactly how these changes can be sold to the wider Church without frightening the horses too much. 
This is clearly what is worrying Anglicanism's Roman and Orthodox ecumenical partners who, either openly or more discreetly behind the scenes, are rightly accusing us not only of deliberate inconsistency but of a bewildering frivolity and downright dishonesty in our contemporary approach to moral theology and its implications for Christian unity.

As we know, the implementation of the liberal agenda is a one-way street - as irreversible as the decline consequent upon it. 
To change the analogy somewhat, it is achieved 'brick by brick,' as they say elsewhere in a more orthodox context where the phrase refers to a building up rather than a tearing down...

*Not necessarily in the Church of England, as one report today suggests [here]
In fact, given an impending retirement, this could be very close to home indeed...

1 comment:

  1. Well, it's not as if this isn't going to polarise things even more in the CofE, now is it? Orthodox Anglicans won't take seriously for a moment the idea that those in civil partnerships will remain sexually continent (& probably not care if they are); while liberals will see it as yet another form of discrimination that they are asked to be.

    Just more fuel on the fire ...


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