Writing about agenda item GS 1708D feels risky, because anyone raising the issue in the last week has been on the receiving end of a right old mix of derision and opprobrium.
It’s curious that although to an extent we are learning in the 21st Century to treat minorities with respect, the trend doesn’t always seem to extend to those who profess a religious faith. On the whole it’s open season to dismiss organised religion as irrelevant or to blame it as the source of the world’s worst atrocities, now and through the last twenty centuries. The fact is that religion is a fallible and flawed human construct which will inevitably get a lot wrong, but which is mainly populated by ordinary people trying to understand whether there’s a God, and if so, what that means both in general and for how they live their lives day-to-day.
So anyway, clearly the majority of the Church of England agree it’s time to take seriously the notion of a different sort of bishop. Last week’s measure was rejected because the arrangements for those who can’t accept the new bishops on theological grounds were deemed insufficient, not (entirely) because those voting against wanted to throw out the whole idea. However, as our Bishop has pointed out in his ‘Ad clerum et laicum’ letter, after years of debating the options any new alternative can only look rather similar to the one voted down last week. In the end it may turn out to be one of those cases where if everyone’s equally unhappy, that may be the right answer.
Jesus made a point of spending time with society’s outcasts, and treated men and women as equals. The earthly organisation which grew from his teachings subsequently gave itself unhelpful limitations in line with a human interpretation of what God had in mind. Presumably the present muddle is not what she meant at all.