Anarchy in the U.K.: The Anglican Crackup Continues

I’ve written before about the ongoing schism within the Episcopal church, but those posts only concerned the goings-on in America. Now that battle has spread across the Atlantic and into the heart of Anglicanism, and it’s looking more and more likely that the church will be cloven in two at its roots. As reported by the Telegraph, the Anglican General Synod has rejected a last-ditch compromise brokered by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and nominal head of the Anglican church, to prevent conservative members from breaking away.

Conservative and evangelical Anglican sects have been growing increasingly angered by the appointment of women and gay men to be bishops. They exerted their muscle last week to block the promotion of Jeffrey John, a gay man, to the post of Bishop of Southwark. But the conservatives weren’t satisfied with that victory – in fact, as is usual with the religious right, it only led them to make further demands.

The conservative faction of Anglicans don’t like women serving as bishops, and they especially don’t like being subordinate to women bishops. What they wanted was, in effect, religious apartheid – a certain number of bishop positions reserved for men, with the assurance that conservative congregations wouldn’t have to report to or deal with a female bishop if they didn’t want to. Rowan Williams backed the proposal – though a liberal himself, he’s apparently willing to compromise with bigots, as is also shown by his revolting remarks on sharia law. But the larger Anglican Communion wouldn’t go along with the deal, and in a shock vote, Williams’ proposal was defeated by a narrow margin.

What’s next? The likely result of the vote is that hundreds of conservative clergy and parishes will split off from the Anglican Communion, defecting to the Roman Catholic church, which has offered to accept them and their prejudices with open arms (no surprise there). Personally, I don’t see why the liberal Anglicans are going to such effort to keep them. Why would you want to share a church with a bunch of bigots?

If I were a liberal Anglican, I’d not only be welcoming the conservatives’ exit, I’d be encouraging them. Yes, they’ll diminish the church’s numbers and prestige; yes, the money they contributed will be lost. But are those the most important things? This ridiculous effort to preserve unity at any cost, even if it means coddling the feelings of homophobes and misogynists, suggests that the Anglicans aren’t ready to move into the 21st century after all. I say to them, kick the bigots out and move on with your lives! Show the world that you really value justice and equality. And while you’re at it, you might want to consider reevaluating that book that gave them those ideas in the first place. Get rid of that, and you’d really have a religion worth believing in!

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Eurekus

    I actually have a lot of respect for the Anglican Church. At least many there are trying their best to show love and compassion to those once treated badly by religion. Good on them.

    The liberals will soon realise they’re better without the conservatives. They’ve shown rationality before and they will again.

  • Deo Vacuus

    I can think of a reason they don’t want the conservatives to leave…$ I don’t know how big a group they are but presumably having them leave would present a considerable financial loss.

  • NoAstronomer

    ‘A plague on both your houses!’

  • Jormungund

    If I were a liberal Anglican, I’d not only be welcoming the conservatives’ exit, I’d be encouraging them.

    If you were a protestant you would intentionally give the Catholic church more followers? The Catholic church is too big and too rich as it is. Giving them a new wave of first world converts isn’t helping.
    I don’t know how this will all work out, but I hope it doesn’t result in a more powerful Catholic church.

  • http://www.ceetar.com Ceetar

    If you were a protestant you would intentionally give the Catholic church more followers? The Catholic church is too big and too rich as it is. Giving them a new wave of first world converts isn’t helping.
    I don’t know how this will all work out, but I hope it doesn’t result in a more powerful Catholic church.

    Isn’t this the reasoning behind untold number of wars? “so and so religion is too powerful! And they’re wrong!”

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Personally, I don’t think picking up a few thousand new followers is going to offset Rome’s ongoing scandal, and I don’t think conservative Anglicans will feel out of place in their new home.

    The whole thing just goes to show that religion is not a tool of enlightenment, but rather control.

  • Andrew G.

    Only some of the Anglican conservatives (if any) will join the Catholics – the conservative Anglican faction is part Anglo-Catholic and part Evangelical, and the latter wouldn’t touch the Roman church with a bargepole.

  • Steve Bowen

    To join the catholics a lot of married anglican priests will have a position to justify. It might actually lead to a weakening of Catholicism in the west ultimately.

  • XPK

    I believe the Presbyterians in America voted to allow persons in same-sex committed relationships to serve as clergy, but voted against redefining marriage to include same-sex committed relationships. At least all the conservative bigots will be easier to identify based on their religious affiliations if and when any splits take place.

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_15479110

  • 2-D Man

    …and the latter wouldn’t touch the Roman church with a bargepole.

    Oh, they’d touch it… violently.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    If you were a protestant you would intentionally give the Catholic church more followers? The Catholic church is too big and too rich as it is. Giving them a new wave of first world converts isn’t helping.

    That’s a fair point, but I suspect that most of the Anglicans threatening to defect are exactly the kind of people the Catholic church already has plenty of: elderly white men. I doubt they’re going to add much vitality to a church that’s dwindling and graying, nor are they likely to do much to stem the decline. Besides, there’s something to be said for having all the bigots in one church – it makes it easier for us to keep an eye on them!

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    But remember, Christianity isn’t misogynistic. Nope. Not at all.

  • Zietlos

    Well of course it isn’t, 1086. Xian law, like Sharia law, includes women in many of its laws and just like with men, makes clear what they can and cannot do. Next you’re going to compare Japan’s women-only train cars (to protect from sexism) with blacks-only train cars (to protect from racism), aren’t you? Just can’t be satisfied, you darn “moral” people. Always wanting more. Bah. :p

    I believe the offer for the priests allowed a special exemption for married ones, as both churches are hurting for members and will take whatever clergy they can get. There is a lot of animosity between the Montagues and Capulets in western Europe, but both know that they will lose their cash flow and lifestyle if the churches die out, and the smarter, or shrewder, ones will move across to make one MegaChurch Inc, (incorporated to protect popes from lawsuits), in order to continue to lead the flock… to the shearing bin, and make fleece! Ironically, the more “thought they were doing the right thing” nice group would likely stay with their own books and die out while the insincere live on…


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