Saturday, 5 January 2013

Bishops

I may through my time and place of birth be part of Western Christian Culture, but I wouldn't say that I was a Christian, even though I have many personal standards that are not greatly different from those a Christian would stand by.

The often conflicting dogma of competing faiths is really hard to understand, and very offputting. I can readily see why some look for their own direct connection with God, or their own version of spirituality, and stay away from conventionally-organised religion.

I also see why, despite private reservations on the detail, it is a very human thing to come together and share a moment reflecting on a higher realm quite separate from everyday life. Occasionally I want that kind of company. But usually I want to be alone when I go into a holy place. Sometimes I light a candle in a cathedral, and think of my parents, if I do no more. I could light a similar candle at home; but somehow in a church or cathedral I feel that my thoughts will travel immeasurably further.

Despite my very secular position as an outsider, I do care about the Anglican Church's internal arguments about bishops. The Church is still a major force in British society, at least in so far as people look to it to set a moral standard. I want it to be relevant and inspirational, something even I can come to, leading and inspiring society with a focus on love and harmony and charity and justice and spiritual advancement. And not divided in a damaging war between what looks awfully like the old and dusty and hidebound versus the new and bright and freethinking. A war that may cripple the status and effectiveness of an important and stabilising national institution. That's my concern: the weakening of things that cement our society together.

As for the dispute itself, some questions now that I can't see the answer to. First, am I right to suppose that if the Bible said explicitly that both male and female bishops (and archbishops) were approved of by God, and that He didn't care about sexual orientation, the argument would then simplify to who in particular had the best qualifications for the job? It looks however as if the Bible doesn't say that at all.

All right then. Second, third and fourth questions: should ancient Biblical words matter more than the insights of serious religious thinkers in more recent centuries, including our own? Does the accumulated experience of two thousand years really count for nothing? And how is it that some people can be disqualified by chance events during their conception and embryonic development? Surely God, if you believe in Him, did not intend that.

I certainly do want to see women bishops and archbishops, and I don't mind at all what any candidate's sexual orientation is, so long as they are people I'd respect, and have the right qualities for the job.

5 comments:

  1. First of all Lucy there is no salvation without Christ Jesus and without having the Holy Spirit there is no connection with God. Going to a church building will not make anyone's thoughts travel further and neither does lighting a candle make any difference. God knows your thoughts before you think them but if you've no relationship with Him He does not hear you. The early Church recognised that fact by the Word of God, the Old Testament, as the New Testament had not been written. Many of the early members saw Jesus first hand and the things he did and saw the fulfilment of the Old Testament before their very eyes. They were taught from the Old Testament and knew it well for they were Jews. When the first apostles and disciples taught them it was from the Old Testament with admonition through the likes of Paul by his letters to the church groups scattered around the eastern Mediterranean (see letters to Corinthians, Ephesians etc). As Christians we must obey the word of God otherwise we make a mockery of His word, this is why it is important to follow the teachings in Scripture without turning to the right or to the left or being persuaded from outsiders (secularists, atheists and so on) to oblige them in their agendas. This is why the Church is struggling because it is wandering from the truth. The word of God is the same as it always was and is not subject to the whims and fancies of a modern society. Changing the word of God to suit the times makes a mockery of it. The truth will always be the truth.
    People are not excluded from the Kingdom of God, provided they accept Jesus as their Saviour and reject the sins of the flesh and that is the crunch isn't it? God indeed did not intend that we should be the way we are, sin came into the world and remains in the world until Christ Jesus returns. I believe in God but do not seek to influence His way of doing things. Can the pot dictate what the potter does?
    The last sentence in your post I assume is rhetorical for it has to be from someone outside of the Church.

    Shirley Anne x

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  2. Well yes, I am outside of any Church, hence the questions.

    This is a topic of major public interest, and all people can take a view on it. I honestly can't see any good reason why women (gay, bi or straight) and certain men (gay or bi) can't serve their faith at a high level, provided they have the ability and deserve to be appointed.

    This isn't a problem of our times only: human beings have always shown variation in gender and sexuality. Only a willingness to examine the matter seriously is new.

    Lucy

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  3. I agree but God demands that those who follow Him repent of their sins endeavouring not to continue in them. This is why the Anglican Church is not forbidding gay men to be appointed. However it is naive of them to believe that all gay men will conform. Remember it is God we serve and not ourselves.

    Shirley Anne x

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  4. Hi Lucy and Shirley. Thanks Shirley for 'pinging' my article on your site. I will comment on there as well.

    I have read both your pieces with great interest and you both have very relevant points. I wonder if I can throw in a few additional points?

    Firstly, I think it important for us to recognise that there are 15000 other tribes out there, all of whom have some way of accessing God, as societies have since time immemorial. If it works, who are we to say that 'our way' is the only way to God? That we posses the only 'true' way to God? Would it no be right to assume that, no matter what we call God or perceive God to be, it is exactly the same 'essence', energy, power that all are trying to access?

    Secondly, is it not also true that the society that Christ was born into was very different to what it is now (and the same can be said for the Old Testament) and as a result (as Lucy comments), times have moved on? If God is everything, the air we breathe, the earth we walk on and indeed exists in every person we meet, then the essence of God is also the very progress we are making. Sure, we are making a lot of mistakes, but, hey ho, isn't that life? Isn't that what makes it all interesting?

    There have always been gay people and there always will be. Do you really think, if it is part of his creation, that God would spurn them?

    The great limitation of the Church (and by that I refer to all persuasions) is that they are run by people, and people are influenced by power and politics. Thus through history, those leading the churches, no matter how deeply spiritual they may have been, have had to 'lean' towards the pressures and perceptions of the day. Of course we could argue that this is exactly what is happening now, but it is also what happened then. The trouble is, these perceptions somehow become weaved into spirituality so cleverly that they become one and the same, and that is where the church (encapsulating all) becomes stuck. As I suggested in my article (blog),surely spirituality is the individual and very personal relationship that we each have with God, whether we are Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, Christian, new age or any of the others? As Ghandi said, 'In Heaven there is no religion, thank God' (hence the title of my blog). If we separate ourselves and take a helicopter view of the whole world’s spirituality, it suddenly all make sense.

    My point is really to suggest that if the Church wishes to survive and flourish, it should return to its core which is its spirituality, rather than to hang onto the sometimes very outdated perceptions of what is right or what is wrong. That is why there is so much conflict between religions. All of them should do the same. Perhaps now is exactly the right time to do so and it needs people like us to debate it and allow others the opportunity to think on it as well.

    Salaams,

    James

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  5. Hello James and thank you for posting a comment here on my blog but more importantly on Lucy’s blog as it is her post. I appreciate your comments though I do not agree with what you’ve said for these reasons. In the past, that is before Christ, people were judged by God under the Law (of God). This remains the case for those who have not heard the Gospel or know Jesus Christ. However God says that there is no salvation other than that which is through Jesus for
    Acts 4:11-13
    New International Version – UK
    11 Jesus is
    ‘“the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”
    12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’

    Those who reject that message having heard the Gospel therefore are condemning themselves. God says there is no other way to reach Him, not through other faiths or religions, not through works or anything else. To say otherwise is putting the created before the Creator. God isn’t the air we breathe or in everyone we meet but we are His workmanship. Sadly and because of sin in our lives it is impossible for Him to dwell in our hearts but thanks be to our Father He has made it possible through Jesus Christ and he alone. No-one is separated from God when they repent and turn to Jesus.
    The Church doesn’t need to be ‘popular’ or to ‘flourish’ but just be representative of the truth, which is God’s word. Gandhi was right, there is no religion in Heaven but you have to get there first.
    There is no point in debate if God has already given us the truth, that is Jesus is the only way.

    Shirley Anne x

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Lucy Melford