I’m not an Anglican, of course; I’m a Catholic. I therefore have a Eucharistic theology which means that the Priest at Mass needs to be in the person of the Bridegroom at His nuptial feast, a task for which maleness is something of a requisite.
And it does seem to me that if the Anglican Eucharistic theology is a different one, in which that personhood is not as important, so that you can accept women as Priests, then you have no theological reason why women should not be Bishops. The incompatibility with a Catholic theology came 20 years ago; it might have been more honest to say so clearly at the time, rather than continue with two decades of fudge and fumble over it all.
But the reaction to the vote from politicians has been a wonderful example of political opportunism and hypocrisy.
Let’s take the exchange between Conservative MPs Eleanor Laing, and her fellow Conservative Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
“When the decision-making body of the established church deliberately sets itself against the general principles of the society which it represents then its position as the established church must be called into question”, opined Ms Laing; to which Sir Tony agreed: “If the Church of England wants to be a national church, then it has to reflect the values of the nation.”
So there we have it. In the opinion of these politicians the C of E clearly should be based on the structures of capitalism, rather than all this claptrap about the poor; it should support military involvement in wars on behalf of the Americans (and anyone mentioning a Prince of Peace or things like ‘just war principles’ should be placed outside the established Church). It shouldn’t care too much about God – after all, we “don’t do God” in the laws or habits of society, do we?
Virgin birth? Come off it. You don’t get virgins (or not for long) given our society’s habits. Resurrection? Surely not; in our society’s laws, if you’re dead you’re dead. Self-giving love and sacrifice? Not while we redefine marriage on the basis that love is just a fuzzy feeling. Forgiveness of sins? Doesn’t sound ‘tough on crime’, the parrot call of every ingoing prime minster for many years.
This is clearly a far more credible way forward for the C of E. Drop all that religion stuff, and do what parliament wants instead.
Of course, that is just what the politicians actually want. A nice, tame, State-fearing church. One in which clergy don’t actually believe in awkward stuff like virgin birth and resurrection (as, of course many Anglican clergy don’t, especially the women among them). If the C of E believes in things which reflect on the value of the individual and the good of the soul, but don’t support a growth economy based on selfishness and the power of capital, then it needs to be brought to heel.
For this isn’t about women; if it was, Sir Tony might have worn something other than his Garrick Club tie to the debate – the Garrick doesn’t let women in, let alone put them in senior positions.
It’s about taming an inconvenient religion, which might otherwise call politicians, society and the wealthy to account, and remind it of the more fundamental aspects of human nature. Places like China have had the same sort of idea.
Of course, some Anglican might describe the original move to the ordination of women Priests in the same terms.