You might remember that the vicar in my parents' village is one of those Church of England clergymen who styles himself "Father", opposes the ordination of women and likes to hold confession in his (Anglican) church. Catholicism without the Pope, in other words. Whereas Catholics believe that the bread and wine actually turns into the body of Christ at communion, it is C of E policy to believe that the host at communion only symbollically changes. Father Gary, needless to say, officially subscribes to the C of E view, although "let's just say that if I spilt some, I'd have to burn the carpet...". Yeah. He's one of those.
He's also a member of "Forward in Faith", a bunch of Church of England clerics who want to take their toys (and their wives and, apparently, their churches and parishoners too) and rush back to the welcoming bosom of the Catholic Church where they'll be safe from the unthinkable prospect of women in the church doing things other than cleaning the church and arranging the flowers.
An idiot, in other words...,.
Anyway, we were visiting my folks this weekend, and as I sat drinking my cup of coffee after my run on Sunday morning, I happened to notice the latest copy of the Parish newsletter. Naturally, I was unable to resist picking it up and having a good old read.
The main thrust of the editorial is a farewell to the local bishop, who is moving on. After a general "thank you and goodbye", Father Gary quickly moves on to the real heart of the issue:
"I regret, especially, that the synodical structures of the Church, dominated as they have been by a liberal mindet that has set itself against compromise, have brought about the situation that talented and prayerful folk have felt they no longer have a home. The General Synod (the Church of England's Governing Body) voting against the express wishes of the two archbishops in July will have proven the straw that broke the camel's back."
By "set against compromise", the weasel is referring to this vote, where the General Synod rejected a plan put forward by the archbishops of Canterbury and York. They proposed that a female bishop would have full authority in her diocese but "in practice refrain from exercising" certain functions in a parish which objected to her. A "complementary bishop" would be appointed with independent powers, and the powers of the two bishops would "co-ordinate".
In other words, in an attempt to hold the Church of England together, the Archbishops were prepared to undermine the authority of any female bishops by allowing anyone who objected to them to have an alternative bishop in the same area they could follow instead. Nonsense. If you're going to have female bishops - and why shouldn't you? - then they have to be exactly the same as any other bishop, don't they? If people don't like equal opportunities meaning that they might have a coloured boss, they don't get to have a parallel white boss they can report to, do they?
And by "liberal mindset that has set itself against compromise", you mean that these liberals steadfastly refuse to come round to your peculiar point of view? Whereas, obviously, you've been as flexible as you possibly can be, yeah? Idiot.
"Meanwhile my vocation remains unchanged and undimmed: to try to live out the faith of the apostles and the undivided church of the first millennium, as the Church of England has received it, and to proclaim afresh to this generation the Good News of the Kingdom. We have worked hard at this together and it is imperative that we continue this work."
Right, so you're basically saying that you're happy to be in the Church of England as long as it's like it was in the days before the Reformation - i.e. Catholic. More specifically, as long as there are no women. Anywhere. Looking at him at the annual village wine tasting on Friday night, I don't think he has a great deal to worry about from women as I can't imagine any would want to go near him.
I'm atheist, so really this has nothing to do with me at all, but it still annoys me that people like this can so glibly alienate members of their parish - like my mum - who enjoy the community of the church and who don't really see what would be so terribly wrong about female clergy. The last thing they need is some self-styled "High Church" vicar with a public contempt for women and a desire to railroad his small rural parish with Catholic rituals. It also annoys me specifically because I have a friend who is in the clergy and who is intelligent, capable -- far, far more capable than a self-satisified, self-righteous prat like "Father" Gary -- and who would, no doubt, make an excellent bishop. The fact that she is a woman should have nothing to do with it whatsoever.
My dad, on the other hand, laps this shit up.