The Anglican Church, Bishops and Buggery

17th Aug 2003 (see update 26 Feb 2005 down the page)
The confusion that is evident at the moment in religious circles is a perfect example of the current state of society in what we call the Western World, caused by the removal of traditional sources of authority from their privileged position and status. This is the result of the inevitable opening up of horizons and opportunities in those countries that have benefited from the half century of peace and prosperity and democratic government. This has allowed a level of financial security (supposed, but in most cases not as real or sustainable as is supposed) to a majority of the population which has given them the courage to challenge the orthodoxy that governs their profession, their business, their education, their culture and, yes, their religion.

It is not a good or bad thing, it is just a FACT. Responsibility for decisions that affect the future of humanity was always bound to be progressively shared by a wider public with the passage of time. However, at the critical juncture where these challenges are taking place we have also had the development of media and multimedia and huge piles of cash which have been associated, as a result, with 'clelebrity', due to the commercial value of images and data that can reach billions of the purchasing public. The major media coporations now have the power to expose any authority to the judgement of the market place of public opinion. They also have the power, in an age where education in philosophy, citizenship and ethics has to some extent passed by a large part of the community, to inform that opinion. That is a situation that is wide open for any movement that wants to make a sensational bid for a cultural revolution to take it on the flood tide.

That is why a controversial issue that has been ignored for ages has now come to the boil. Those who believe that homosexuality, which has been known to exist amongst members of the clergy just as it does amongst the rest of the population, should not be a barrier to the highest offices of the church believe that they can take their case to the public, through the media. By using the commonly held theory that tolerance and forgiveness are the fundamentals of Christianity, and that discrimination against homosexuals is now uncceptable, they believe that their case is solid.

What they are overlooking is that selection for high office in any voluntary organisation (and the Anglican Church is such) is always based on right and proper descrimination. The attributes required are not those that are applied to ordinary members. Those chosen must be exceptional and one quality is essential: they should be acceptable to almost all of the members. While no members are opposed to heterosexual bishops, a great many are oposed to homosexual bishops on the grounds that they think that buggery is a perversion of natural sexual instincts which puts at risk the stability and security of normal relationships between male adults and, more significantly, between male adults and male children.

There is no need to decide at this point if this is right or wrong, it is sufficient to realise that many members of the Anglican Communion hold this view, not least because it has been held for two thousand years by the Christian churches and for even longer by most other religions. So, even if we now think differently there is no need to choose bishops from any minority or even majority sexual persuasion if they are fundamentally unacceptable to a great many members on a matter of principle. In the Anglican Communion, there is no objection to heterosexual bishops at all. On the other hand anyone making a career in the clergy must have known from the outset that they would not become an openly homosexual bishop without splitting their church. A man who puts his career before the church is not, in most people's eyes, bishop material.There are plenty of other jobs a man can do, and plenty of more modest positions in the church they can serve, without giving offence. Who needs these prima donnas?

There is no need to have any particular religious belief to reach the above conclusion, it is just a matter of logic and the science of management.

UPDATE FEB 26th 2005
Anglican leaders have asked the US and Canadian Churches to withdraw from a key council temporarily because of their stance on homosexuality.
They want the North American Churches to "consider their place within the Anglican Communion", a statement said.

The decision now taken by the Anglican Communion is also to create a separate forum within which church leaders can discuss the arguments which up till now have taken place largely via the media, by the prima donnas rather than the serious theologians. To keep the Anglican Communion united, each side has to understand the other. At the moment they are far from this position.

Those who are against the ordaining of practising homosexuals base their case on precedent, on tradition, on their interpretation of scripture. All of the above could be set aside if there was a good reason, but they are unable to find a convincing one They accept homosexuality as a fact, they do  not condemn, but they do not see an openly practising homosexual as someone who has the qualifications as a senior and trusted mentor in ethics, morals and customs for the children of Christian heterosexuals. They could be wrong, of course, but those who are so dependent on homosexual behaviour as to have to indulge openly and advocate it are unlikely to appeal to parents who are perhaps hoping their children would not be taken down that road. Since homosexuals will not be having children of their own (I am taking them at their word that this is a medical condition not an arbitrary choice) they will not be concerned about the fate of the next generation in the same personal way. They may even consider it an option they might recommend. This issue has become more acute due to recent revelations about child abuse, where it has not been so much a question of the recommendation of options as the abuse of the innocent and unwilling. The fact that there have been homosexuals amongst the clergy who did not practise as adults or abuse.children is not an argument against, but for the status quo in an era where abuse is less easily concealed.

This would seem to indicate that there will have to be a church in most places for those who, while in no way condemning homosexuals, do not want them as important role models or mentors for the young any more than they would want an alcoholic GP, however charming, intelligent or medically qualified he might be.

On the other side we appear to have an Anglican culture where gays have found their home rather as in the theatre. They clearly have their own needs to be loved and between them have built up a community of clergy of the same ilk, where it is the careers of those within the church that take precedent.

Personally I think it is better to split, so that the Christian public can have the option of choice, and the future will decide if one or both are successful and if at a later date the split is resolved. In the meantime, the points I have raised above can be discussed seriously by educated and compassionate church leaders in private, away from the oxygen of publicity that feeds the the theatrical performers. Peronally I have always though that since genuine homosexuals, now free to be such, do not have children, the future is none of their business as long as they are treated with respect, if they deserve it, in the present.