Tuesday 20 November 2012

Two feet in the grave...

Tonight the CofE has done the unthinkable.
Twenty years after it voted for women priests… after years of debate and counter debate…  after pouring over the issue of women bishops ad nauseum… after sending the proposed legislation to dioceses who voted overwhelmingly for it… tonight it has thrown out that legislation to welcome women as bishops for another 5-10 years.

I wrote last night on my blog that the results of voting ‘no’ would be catastrophic - http://benny2010.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/make-or-break.html - and have no desire to change a single word.  Today was a ‘make or break’ day for the CofE, and the House of Laity has chosen to break with the vast majority of church members who have voted for women Bishops in Diocesan and Deanery Synods throughout this land.
They have chosen to break with public opinion and with Government.  Worst of all they have chosen to break with the work that the Holy Spirit has been doing in society by enabling everyone to be seen as equal before God – each person, male and female, made in the equal image of God.

Last night I also wrote on Facebook that I was “praying for the CofE tomorrow as it chooses between the past or the future in its vote on women bishops. A vote for the past will be like putting a second foot in the grave...”
But now it has jumped with both feet into the grave.

My wife’s response to the news was to say… “If I was still a member of the Church of England, I would be leaving now in disgust.”  She tired of CofE discrimination some time ago and when I left parish ministry joined an MCC Church where everyone is welcome.
My 14 year old son was even more direct – “The Church of England is evil” were his words.  Thank God that he has not given up on his Christian faith, and now worships elsewhere too.

Such is the plight of the Church of England.  Out of touch with both God and the people it is called to reach out to, its structures and procedures are outdated and arcane, and it is so anchored to the past that it is increasingly incapable of following Jesus Christ on the road of salvation.
Tonight the Church of England has put two feet in the grave.

My only hope comes from an evangelical author Oz Guinness, who I once heard say,
“Several times in the history of the Christianity, the Church has gone to the dogs!  But each time, it is the dog that has died – not the church!”
As a Christian, I believe in resurrection – and I know that God can bring resurrection to the Church even when the Church seems to prefer death to life!  But that does not excuse the behavior of a Church who insists on presenting an image of God which denies and undermines the Good News of Christ.

While I would not want to second guess what Oz Guinness would think of our present situation, I would like to finish with one more quote from him which resonates with me today.
“Sometimes when I listen to people who say they have lost their faith, I am far less surprised than they expect. If their view of God is what they say, then it is only surprising that they did not reject it much earlier.

Other people have a concept of God so fundamentally false that it would be better for them to doubt than to remain devout. The more devout they are, the uglier their faith will become since it is based on a lie. Doubt in such a case is not only highly understandable, it is even a mark of spiritual and intellectual sensitivity to error, for their picture is not of God but an idol.”
What picture of God has the Church of England painted today?


  1. Why don't you leave the Church of England? I really don't see why they deserve any of your support.

    1. I know what you mean - my only consolation at this moment is that I am no longer employed by the CofE. I now work as a Chaplain for an equal opportunity employer - the Government! In that context my Christian faith and commitment to equality are not in conflict.

      I think it says something about the Church when the Government is living out what the Church should be doing, but is failing to do.

  2. "My wife’s response to the news was to say… “If I was still a member of the Church of England, I would be leaving now in disgust.”  She tired of CofE discrimination some time ago and when I left parish ministry joined an MCC Church where everyone is welcome."

    Benny has left the CofE as stated above and in the blog...

    1. Actually I am still licensed as to minister in the CofE. But I now work as a Chaplain in a context where I can support full equality for everyone.(see above)

  3. I can understand your frustration, as a relative newcomer to the debate, and I can't imagine what it would be like to have been a part of the 'debate' for 20-30 years. However, I have hope that this is not the death of the church of England, it's just a bit more status quo... although better than that, it was actually a resounding vote 'for'... the result though is frustrating, it's angering... but we still get on with what we do, faithful women and men all messed up and broken and doing what we can.

    The kingdom of God is still coming...

  4. I read your blog with immense sympathy, for what you say and for the women who have been denied the logical next step.
    BUT why is the failure of *some* laity 'the death of the church of England'? To my mind the great question mark is not the Church - which has voted at every level a resounding YES to women bishops - but the few [political?] votes which made a 2/3 majority impossible in the House of Laity
    We have ourselves to blame! How much did we question our candidates at the election of Synod reps? what did we know of their views, and what did they know of our views?
    Our Dorset village re-elected the standing Synod rep, without realising that he was implacably anti-women. We had questioned him, and voted for a different candidate - but the village, with a female rector, was pro-women, and there was real shock to discover they'd voted for someone who did NOT represent their views.
    Also - are reps 'obliged' to vote dispassionately? It looks as if many were voting on their preferred standing [and much has been written about political choices being made in who stood as a rep - to vote down the women bishops measure] despite the 42 of 44 Diocese having voted an overwhelmng yes.