Conform or Go Away

Conform or Go Away November 28, 2012

Writing about the church of England’s rejection of female bishops in The New Yorker , Jane Kramer notes that “there are already calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England.” She doesn’t see that as a realistic possibility, but does think that there will be consequences: “there is some chance that its bishops will be asked to leave the House of Lords, at least until the Church accepts its obligations under the country’s anti-discrimination laws. The E.U. will certainly complain, because under European law public bodies are ‘called on’ to conform with exceptional effort and attention to public practice.”

I’m not opposed to establishments in principle, but this is a push-comes-to-shove moment. If the CoE cannot retain its special status without genuflecting before the “the country’s anti-discrimination laws,” it’s time to let the special status go.

Kramer also cites “the great” Diarmaid MacCulloch’s explanation of why the church continues to oppose women bishops. When she asked him, “He laughed and called it a piece of theatre, confabulated by men still smarting from the fact that Christ chose two women to witness and announce the Resurrection.”

To MacCulloch, resentment is the best explanation for religious people who stand athwart the trends of the moment: It’s perfectly obvious that Christians couldn’t oppose something so obviously right as women bishops on theological grounds.

One might have expected at least a pretense of historical sympathy from one of our leading church historians.

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