Tuesday, January 27, 2015

About the Consecration of Libby Lane - and of Philip North

I have said very little about the consecration of Libby Lane as the first woman bishop of the Church of England.  Unlike Paul Williamson, I am just not that worked up about it.  I can certainly think of any number of male bishops who are far more objectionable.

But seeing I am from the fire-breathing, gun-carrying Texas Anglican wing of the Holy Catholic Church, I suppose a few might want to know of my views so . . .

It may surprise that I do not personally find women bishops a communion breaker.  But I understand those who do.  I, too, consider breaking 2000 years of church tradition problematic at best.  Without going into details, I would prefer not to have women bishops over me, although I would much prefer an orthodox woman to an apostate man.

But that is part of the problem.  There may be robustly orthodox women bishops out there somewhere, but I cannot recall a one.  I can, however, recall any number of apostate women “bishops” who have done great harm to the church. (I should add here that Libby Lane seems more sensible than these.)  And that experience nudges me to think there is more to the church tradition of a male priesthood and episcopate than most give it credit for.  Perhaps women who lack compunction about this aspect of church tradition tend to be prone to disregard the rest of Tradition as well.  Perhaps such departure from apostolic tradition displeases the Lord and forfeits his blessing more than we think.  I do not presume to know, but I look upon recent church history and tremble.

But my biggest concern is how long will there be a place in the Church of England for those traditionalists and conservative evangelicals who wish to hold on more tightly to tradition, who object to women priests and bishops?  I am afraid not long at all.  I suspect the prevailing attitude is “We will tolerate those misogynist bigots out of our wonderful tolerant niceness . . . for now.”  This seems typical:

What, though, should we make of the consecration that will follow a week later, of a man who will not be touched by any hands that have treated a woman as if she were a real bishop. This seems an extraordinary concession towards a view of women, and of authority, that the vast majority of churchgoers regard as immoral and unchristian. Is it the chivalrous treatment of a defeated enemy, or a concession to the misogynist bigotry that has done so much to disfigure Christianity? Mr. [Philip] North may not have been responsible for these arrangements. An important point is that he is clearly going to make a good bishop, whatever his views on women. He has spent most of his career working among poor people in unfashionable places. If men of his views are to be promoted at all – as both archbishops have promised they will be – then he is clearly a well-qualified example, and may be almost as good at the job as many of the women who will follow Libby Lane. In the generous and joyful spirit that should attend her consecration, we will welcome his, as well. But mostly hers.

Methinks there will not be many more bishops like Philip North.  And that is what bothers me greatly.

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