Three more short observations on the General Synod debacle:
On the relationship between Church and State
Some people are arguing that the State has no jurisdiction over the Church, which is answerable to God. This is nonsense. It is nonsense because both Church and State are answerable to God. It is nonsense because our Scriptures tell us that those who exercise stately power are appointed by God, and that we are to submit to their God-given authority to discipline us when we are at fault – and this was written in the context of the Roman Empire – resisting only where they usurp that authority and claim for themselves what rightfully belongs to God. This would include demanding that we worship the head of state as saviour. It would not include complying with equality law. As the position of the Church of England has since the 1970s been that there are no doctrinal grounds to discriminate against women in regards to position within the Church – in this we were way ahead of State law - and we have simply failed to find a way to implement our own belief (for reasons that are honourable but perhaps misguided), there is no way in which we can plead special privilege on the grounds of religion.
On how we relate to one another
Following the vote, I wrote this:
“The issue is not whether women can be bishops [this has already been decided, in 2006]. Anyone who wants to be a bishop ought not to be one, and the ministry of anyone called upon to be one is greatly constrained. The issue is whether we assume the worst, or assume the best, of those with whom we disagree. And on this issue all of us – those who urged a Yes vote and those who urged a No vote - have a long way yet to go...”
This is perhaps the most sobering aspect of all. Lord, have mercy.
This present moment has been, and will for some time continue to be, a rough patch for two flawed but beautiful British institutions, the BBC and the Church of England. Both are in need of continual renewal. Institutions are not bad per se, but containers of the good gifts God entrusts to us as those made to reflect his glory. Though institutions do not last forever, without them God’s blessings cannot be stewarded for others. When we see them shaking, we are seeing them undergoing discipline. And discipline is never pleasant at the time, but leads to more-godly character. As lack of godly character is the primary reason why institutions abuse their position in society, that God should be shaking them would indicate to me that he has not given up on either the BBC or the Church of England yet...