Friday, 7 June 2013

Throwing in the towel...?

Two statements over the last few days: the first [here] from the ( CofE) Lords Spiritual which many have interpreted as giving up the struggle against the Government's same-sex marriage bill. 
At the very best, it displays an essential confusion between necessary parliamentary tactics as the bill proceeds* and maintaining a coherent theological opposition. At the worst - in its seeming acceptance of "marriage as newly defined" (see below) it could well signal the beginning of a shift towards the stance the political establishment so vociferously demands from what  it regards (with some historical justification) as its 'house' Church....

The second, shorter, statement, from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales [here], while maintaining its theological and philosophical opposition, also speaks of the need to amend the bill to ensure effective protections to hold the Government to its promises "to provide for schools, religious organisations and individuals."  What their statement does not do is make the mistaken assumption that this legislative redefinition has any essential validity for those whose allegiance is to a higher authority.

What this latest episode proves beyond doubt is that we are heading rapidly in Britain towards  the creation of a post-Christian secular State, albeit one - temporarily - haunted by its religious past. We must indeed, in the Prime Minister's tritely arrogant phrase, 'get with the programme;'  however, if we are to survive at all, 'the programme' has to be that of the pre-Constantinian Church in the milieu of an essentially pagan culture. We must become 'apologetic' in a somewhat different sense....

[* "For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned. The Bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children. If this Bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace..."]


  1. joseph Golightly8 June 2013 at 14:42

    Has Forward in Faith thrown in the towel? Latest edition of New Deflections strange especially the new director who seems to want to have a relationship with all anglican "catholics" What's going on there - is it leading its membership into a "same sex marriage" with Affirming catholics?

    1. It's not really the subject of the post, but having read very carefully Dr Podmore's article in New Directions, I've only picked up his extreme (and healthy) scepticism about the new organisation, 'Anglican Catholic Future,' and its methods and objectives. Am I missing something here...?

  2. joseph Golightly9 June 2013 at 21:15

    Its the latest in what appears to be a significant change in FIF. They want to be friends, they want to stay whatever crumbs are dropped from the Synod table. They welcome a bishop who ordains women etc. etc. Dr Podmore knew exactly what he was going into so why kid people. An establishment figure who cannot bear the thought of not being part of the establishment!

  3. Yes, the situation is more than worrying, and the lack of a publicly-declared vision (no one expects to know detailed strategy in horse-trading of this nature) for a changed situation even more so. However, Dr Podmore won't be the first 'establishment figure' who has been radicalised by the reality he faced... I thought his article gave out all the right signals in that regard.

  4. Joseph Golightly10 June 2013 at 10:15

    The new leaders seem to be the Society. First question - what have they been doing for the past 20 years. Second question - are the going to give up their lifestyles when it gets tough or will they stay despite whatever might happen. Thirdly why no news - their website has an item from November 201(sic) and the previous December 2011 - thats pretty awful for those who are signed up to this initiative. Many more questions but don't want to hog.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel but it does seem to be a train. Is it finished, is the Newman legacy over? As Philip North has commented, if you stay you have to accept whatever the CoE has on offer. If that isn't throwing in the towel I would like to know what it is!

  5. Is it over? I don't know, but, yes, you are not the only one to be asking these kinds of questions, either publicly or privately. The lack of any kind of news is certainly worrying, even to an observer this side of Offa's Dyke.
    As for Fr North's reported comments, they were a bit more nuanced than that; however, I'm not sure he's right - or about the necessity of playing a full part in the life of a province which purports to ordain women to all three orders of the Sacred Ministry - or even whether, post-Whitby, he would still be of the same opinion.


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