mirrorshard: (Blue flower tea)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
From the BBC yet again - more moves towards schism in the Church of England.

One suggestion from the group working on a potential Covenant has been for churches departing from tradition to have "diminished status" within the Communion.


Oh, dear, they're at it again... normally, I'd immediately dismiss this as a Caesar's-truce, an apparent concession offered in order to provoke your enemy beyond endurance and get them to attack you or just to waste time.

However, this is the Church of England we're talking about. It's not at all outside the bounds of possibility that either

  1. the traditionalists really believe that they're in the majority and have enough RIGHT on their side that they can get this accepted, or
  2. the progressives are actually prepared to accept a stupid, insulting result like this in order to preserve their precious communion.


Said communion, of course, is growing more nominal and indeed risible by the day, and over what's effectively a non-issue that will probably end up resolved in the most traditional manner of all, by a handful of earth on a coffin lid.

The scriptural argument against women bishops rests on three legs. Take any one of them away, and the whole thing falls over.

  • The letter of Scripture is correct and immutable. Well, there's not really much to say on this one, except that if you believe it then you are under an absolute obligation to make it completely clear which version and/or translation you consider Correct, and which bits overrule which other bits. For instance, it's commonly accepted that a vision Paul had in Ephesus overrules what the Boss said, The Law is the Law - which really would seem to affirm in itself that Leviticus holds true for Christians.
  • Everything that is written in the Bible is the considered opinion of God, rather than an artifact of the time and culture in which it was written down and/or translated. So, yeah. Show me all the other first-century (CE or BCE, I don't mind which, and Jewish or any other religion or secular) texts that give equal positions to men and women, and which mention bisexuality or homosexuality without condemning them. If you can't produce credible evidence that these behaviours and mores were not pervasive, but instead were decreed by God, then it seems a reasonable assumption that Himself was content to let people get on with things their way till they decided otherwise.
  • There is a fundamental and unchangeable difference between men and women - they are incapable of nurturing and guiding in the same way, and women cannot perform episcopal duties. The episcopal duties in question seem basically to come in two parts; managerial and pastoral care of the priests in her diocese, and the transmission and exercise of apostolic magic. The first, really, is a no-brainer. The second would depend, pretty much, on the nature of apostolic magic, which of course I'm not qualified to pronounce on. And which NOBODY CARES ABOUT except a few theology-wonks.


Speaking of theology-wonks, I propose a brief suggested guide to finding and avoiding them. If you meet people who habitually say "Jesus" rather than "God", you're probably in the company of people who care more about shibboleths, magic words, and their own tight-knit community than about doing good in the world and actually doing what Himself recommended. Counterexamples and questions are welcome.

Date: 2008-08-03 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
You already know that I'm with you on most of this...

But wrt stool-leg three, is there an issue here about women and magic and attitudes towards them?

*needs [livejournal.com profile] libellum, because she actually knows about this stuff*

Date: 2008-08-03 10:05 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (byzantium)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
Consider the name of the greatest church of Orthodoxy.

Hagia Sophia.

Holy Wisdom.

Date: 2008-08-03 10:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
Hm, good idea.

That's a really interesting question - I don't think we can avoid that issue. My basic understanding of the women-and-magic question (which is, admittedly, basic indeed) is that there are three basic strands.

1. Don't be silly, everyone knows women aren't magic.
2. Women have their own kind of magic which is nothing like men's, and I'm sure they do all sorts of useful things with it, like, er, cooking and looking after babies and so on.
3. Women are wonderfully important to the living tradition of magic - they hold and transmit the sacred power, which men receive from them to wield.

Date: 2008-08-03 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
I also get the impression that there is:

4. Women and magic are SCARY! OMG, get the women AWAY FROM THE MAGIC! BURN THEM!!!!!


But this impression may well come entirely from hysterical Wiccans who wouldn't know rigorous historical process if it came up to them and bit them hard on the spinal column.

(As opposed to sensible eclectic pagans like me. ;-))


See, this is why I need [livejournal.com profile] libellum. As I say, she *knows* about this stuff...

Date: 2008-08-04 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
Women have their own kind of magic which is nothing like men's, and I'm sure they do all sorts of useful things with it, like, er, cooking and looking after babies and so on.

Personally I'm with you, and think it's very unlikely there are any fundamental differences between men and women, but I have heard this argument made respectfully and non-patronisingly, and I think it's a valid one. By caricaturing it the way you do, you're in danger of making it look as though you don't think that things women have traditionally done, including cooking and bringing up children, are less important than things men have traditionally done.

Date: 2008-08-04 10:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
[Yo]ou're in danger of making it look as though...

If I gave you the impression I took that argument I made seriously, I do apologise. I don't. If any other actual person, rather than a hypothetical construct, got that impression, I'll apologise to them too.

Thinking about it, yes, you're right, people (many of them female) have made that one seriously.

And for the avoidance of doubt, I'm well aware that the "traditional men's work" of going out, stabbing something, and dragging it home is less valuable than the "traditional women's work" (everything else, and historically not as gendered as it is today).

Date: 2008-08-04 08:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alextiefling.livejournal.com
I think the caricature is valid because that, explicitly or implicitly, is the form the argument usually takes in Anglicanism. In Roman Catholicism, where the status of Mary is so much higher, the argument is a bit more sincere. And in Wicca, even if the argument itself remains silly/wrong, it's meant in deadly earnest.

Date: 2008-08-04 09:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I'm not sure that it is silly/wrong in a Wiccan context - if you want to buy in to the whole mythology, and it explicitly is a buy-in situation, you're more or less accepting that within the magic circle things are like this.

In other contexts, of course, I'll happily point and laugh at the idea that gender is either a biological, social, or magical hard binary.

Date: 2008-08-04 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alextiefling.livejournal.com
*nods* I didn't express myself well. I intended to refer to the idea's transferability. Of course a gender-binary approach is normal and sensible in a Wiccan context - it goes with the turf.

Date: 2008-08-05 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
it goes with the turf.

... and is one reason why I'm more of an eclectic pagan than a Wiccan. ;-)

Date: 2008-08-04 09:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
Most of the Anglicans I know think Mary rocks, but I appreciate we might not be typical!

Date: 2008-08-04 09:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
But wrt stool-leg three, is there an issue here about women and magic and attitudes towards them?

Yes, I certainly know people who disagree with women's ordination because they think that ordination is about giving a small number of men something like the powers that all women have automatically.

Date: 2008-08-04 09:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
However, this is the Church of England we're talking about.

I don't think it is, I think it's the Anglican Communion, which is vastly different, your typical member of the Anglican Communion being a woman living in a village in rural Africa.

Are you suggesting that the traditionalists aren't in the majority? I don't think I've seen that argued before, or at least only in a patronising 'well, if Africans had been educated properly they'd agree with us' sort of way?


the progressives are actually prepared to accept a stupid, insulting result like this in order to preserve their precious communion

I think the main problem is the progressives feel uncomfortable about being a powerful, rich, white, privileged minority imposing their opinions on an underprivileged, poor, non-white majority, and I have a lot of sympathy with that. Of course, if God is calling women to be priests then we probably just have to get on with obeying him even if it means being evil colonialists, but I don't think it's right to feel comfortable with doing so.

Date: 2008-08-04 09:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
I think it's the Anglican Communion, which is vastly different, your typical member of the Anglican Communion being a woman living in a village in rural Africa

No, [livejournal.com profile] mirrorshard has it right. The Anglican Communion is the Church of England and those churches internationally which are in union with the CofE. To say that the typical member is a rural-dwelling African woman would be grossly inaccurate; the Episcopalian Church in the US is part of the AC, as are the Scottish Escopalians. There are over 77 million Anglicans worldwide. There is a complete list of all Anglican provinces here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Communion#Provinces_of_the_Anglican_Communion); the African churches are by no means in the majority.

Date: 2008-08-04 10:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
My most immediate source is Canon Gregory Cameron, who in this lecture (http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/files/hellins_postdelivery.doc) said:

"The average Anglican is a black woman under the age of 30, who earns two dollars a day, has a family of at least three children, has lost two close relatives to AIDS, and who will walk four miles to Church for a three hour service on a Sunday."

He also said that of the 77 million, 20 million are in Nigeria, 10 million in Uganda, 5 million in Kenya and 4.5 million in Sudan. I've had a quick google to see whether anyone seems to think this is incorrect, but I can't find anything suggesting it's even vaguely controversial.

If you have any evidence that his statistics are "grossly inaccurate" I'm more than open to hearing it though...

Date: 2008-08-04 10:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
This might sound harsh, but I'm not counting congregation members, I'm counting bishops. The C. of E. (and therefore the Anglican Communion) has always been very much a top-down organisation, in which the bishops tell you what to think. I don't know what their voting rules are, but I suspect it's closer to "one bishop, one vote" than voting by number and size of congregations.

So, yes, I'm asserting that the traditionalists are in the minority - the Jerusalem Tendency broke off about one-third of the bishops who would have been at Lambeth, and some conservatives stayed back to talk (as I feel they all should have, but it's their choice). The traditionalists are also generally older than the progressives, which is not a bad thing in itself but does lead to the same kind of progress metric as in the sciences.

Basically, I like and approve of poor non-white people having voices, but they can do what we did and Nonconform. I also like and approve of schisms.

Of course, if God is calling women to be priests then we probably just have to get on with obeying him even if it means being evil colonialists, but I don't think it's right to feel comfortable with doing so.

Bishops, not priests - arguing over women priests, by this point, is like fighting over Dublin instead of Belfast.

I'm dubious about the whole "priest" thing to start with, but as I expressed originally framing the whole debate in terms of What God Wants is a big part of the problem. Homophobia and misogyny is, sadly, far too common in Africa overall, so it's not something that can be considered in religious isolation. (I hate saying things like that, because of the Western-white-privilege, but it's true.) Historically, Scripture has always been used as an excuse to keep down women and minorities, and I can't see this as any different.

Date: 2008-08-04 10:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
I think that not having a number of bishops approximately proportional to the number of congregation members is one of the many ways in which the Anglican Communion oppresses its poorest members, and I'm inclined to think that the way it oppresses Africa is a bigger problem than the way it oppresses rich British and American women and LGBT people. This is both because it's happening on a bigger scale, affecting more people, and because the African people being denied a voice are more vulnerable.

I'm never one to get all idealistic about democracy, but I can't think of a better way of doing things, and I certainly think it's superior to the top down 'white people know best' model we currently have.

Officially, the ABC is just the first among equals. I think we should make that true in practice, and move to a system whereby all bishops represent an approximately equal number of people. Britain and America can always split from the Anglican mainstream if we think consecrating women and ordaining gay people is that important.

Date: 2008-08-04 10:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I think that not having a number of bishops approximately proportional to the number of congregation members is one of the many ways in which the Anglican Communion oppresses its poorest members

Certainly no disagreement there. On the other hand, it's not going to change, sadly, because it would mean taking power and authority away from a small number of individuals and giving it to rather more of them, and that's historically Very Hard.

If bishops are actually going to represent people, however, I hope they'll be holding surgeries and polls and focus groups to see what message they should be taking to Lambeth. What we have at the moment is effectively oligarchy, not democracy, and I can't get myself worked up about people having less of a voice than others when there's a bishop telling them what to say when they do.

It'd certainly be nice to see the progressives going it alone, I admit. On the other hand, it's not a case of

Prog.: Why won't you consecrate women and married gays? You must do this because we say that it is the Word of God,

it's more a case of

Trad.: You must censure them, they did something Wrong, and if you don't we're taking our toys and going home.

They've been threatening to stomp out of the door themselves, so "no, no, we'll go instead" would be a bit odd. If in the finest tradition of the Church of England.

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