As the old line goes—“This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”
The Synod of the Church of England had before it a long debated proposal to authorize the election of women as bishops. For those of us on the American side of the pond you might think—about time. And the bishops and clergy in the Church of England thought so too so they voted in their respective orders to approve the measure. It was supported publicly by the Prime Minister and both the outgoing and the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury.
So imagine the consternation when the measure fails by six votes in the Laity order at the Synod sending the entire matter back to the drawing boards. The Prime Minister seemed to sum up the general feeling that the church should get its act together and fix this problem. But that appears to be easier said than done given the tortured process the church follows in deciding such matters.
I will spare you a discussion of the politics of the matter as you know it.
Let me say this, at a time when the steady decline of church membership, participation and pledging continues we are reminded that these nagging issues are getting in the way of more existential threats to the future of the church.
The people are voting with their feet telling us that the politics and rigid beliefs of the church are not keeping up with contemporary societal values that include making a place in the life of the church for fifty percent of the population who do not happen to be men!
The people are voting with their feet because they see the church just like our political process polarized by these political issues in which, in the case of the Synod it was the Laity that sabotaged the measure because it was dominated by those who felt more strongly against the measure and showed up to vote than those who favored it and did not. Sounds just like our 2012 presidential election doesn’t it? Leadership matters and the people think the church appears to lack it.
The people are voting with their feet because they have concluded that they no longer need to tolerate the politics and rigidity of the established church in order to have a personal spiritual relationship with God and His son. The risk to the church as measured in its steady decline is that the respect for the teaching authority of the church is diminished when the people no longer see the church as faithful to their REAL CHRISTIAN VALUES as proclaimed in their Baptismal covenant and in the Creed and in the Body of Christ itself.
By rejecting the common sense recognition of the evolving role of women in the church, the Laity Order in the Synod set themselves up just like the Pharisees substituting their narrow views for the common good and real values Jesus taught us. The early church rejected the Pharisees and the real church today will reject this hijacking of the process as politics not faith.
The action of the Synod laity order diminishes the entire church, it sullies the Archbishops of Canterbury and reduces the moral authority of the church at a time when it is most needed.
There is one more thing, aren’t you glad the Episcopal Church of the US rejected the Anglican Covenant and proclaimed our faith in the lessons Jesus taught us himself?
We should all pray for the Church, but we should pray harder that we have the courage to stay true to the Word made flesh even when it is hard.