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!