Why is it that when you glance over at organised religion you find yourself in the middle of an argument? Take the Anglicans at their Lambeth Bishops’ conference. Isn’t it a bit confusing to be led to think Christians are in it for the chance to meet God in person, only to discover the leadership is completely preoccupied with organising who’s having sex with whom? They’ll say it’s a serious concern for God’s intentions for human relationships, about right and wrong. But if God’s so bothered, why doesn’t someone cut to the chase and ask him what he thinks? Now it seems these bishops have been asking and have received a very clear message from God which they can now reveal to the world.
The only problem is, the clear message conflicts with itself, depending on exactly which Bishop was listening carefully. Back in the real world, we would just draw an analogy here with democracy, and get on with it. But the bishops, it seems, just can’t get on with each other any more. One side, in refusing to take disgust seriously, is breaking with a venerable tradition of finding certain things abominable and having nothing to do with them. The other side, in taking disgust very seriously, can’t make any distinction between ethics (good or bad) and mores (usual or unusual), except when it comes to rock badgers (look them up). One side is threatening to boycott the conference and perhaps even split the church. The other side is threatening to let it happen.
If the church does split there will probably have to be a new name. ‘Anglicans who aren’t gay and don’t even like gays’ may not have been taken, and may be apposite, especially given its connotation of repressed homophilia. But no doubt we’ll have to put up with some self-serving nonsense like Confessing Anglicans, Real Anglicans or True Anglicans. The other lot will probably carry on being plain old Anglicans, except where they’re plain old Episcopalians (the distinctions here are probably enough to start another argument, so let’s not ask).
Clearly it doesn’t have much to do with God – unless God’s perfections stretch to perfect pedantry.
When these kinds of arguments take place it makes it very clear that the church is not primarily about religion, as claimed and as commonly understood, but about whether homosexuals, women and other ‘minorities’ should be discriminated against. In other words, the church is an arena for the continuation of debates that should have ended a long time ago, and elsewhere have.
So will the arguing be good for Truth with a capital T?