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Tuesday, 15 July 2003

Please make hard decisions for me

Yesterday's Times tabloid section, T2, had a cover story on what they call could be the "start of a battle for the soul of the Church of England".

Briefly, for those who haven't been following the story, Dr. Jeffrey John (revealed to be a non-practising homosexual) was due to be consecrated as Bishop of Reading on the 9th October, but the decision to appoint him resulted in an outcry from prominent members of the church. Dr. John subsequently withdrew his acceptance of the post in an effort to placate the two sides of the debate.

The point of the Times' story was to examine how the debate of Dr. John's non-appointment had affected ordinary churchgoers, but the impression that I gathered from the article from those opposed to the appointment wasn't particularly positive or flattering, and not just for the reason that they were against the appointment of a homosexual bishop:

"We have all been taken aback by this," says Roger Bourne, visiting the parish for the weekend. "They say John is a non-practising homosexual, so why mention it? There may be plenty of priests out there who lust after other peopleís wives, but they don't go around saying they are non-practising adulterers, do they? "I wish he hadnít come out and challenged the Church in this way . . . he has left a lot of us feeling confused about where we stand on this one." [my emphasis]

I hope I'm not entirely missing the point, but the phrase in italics is just crying out "There's a hard decision to be made here, and I don't want to have to make it. It's confusing to me, and I wish someone would tell me what to do so I don't have to deal with it."

Well, tough. The world's not like that, and sometimes you can't just defer to someone else to make a decision for you.

"What anyone does behind closed doors is up to them," says Sandra Williams, a regular churchgoer. "As Christians we are taught to forgive and accept. But there are limits; if we accept everything, there are no guidelines, and the whole point of the Church is to provide a moral framework in which we live. I am sure that Jeffrey John is a good vicar. But if everybody lived within the Ten Commandments we would all live happier lives."

Is the whole point of the Church to provide a moral framework? I'm asking for clarification here, but I'm sure that the Church exists for slightly more than that. And anyway, surely the point of a moral framework is to help people make hard decisions and not to have to defer?

I'm sorry, I'm in a bad mood and the combination of organised religion and intolerance just got to me.

2 comments and trackbacks

The concept of church as an institution can be tricky. People are going to let you down in all walks of life, but because you expect the church to be above certain things, it comes out as all the more surprising. I don't think you'll find many devout people who'll disagree that you can be faithful and believe and be good without a church. That's fine and you can lead a very relgious life all by yourself. But having a church to go to has its good points. An organization can get together and do more for the needy than individuals can do on their own. And having a community with which to share faith helps keep a lot of people going. I think that organized religion will always be *potentially* a good thing for these reasons. But, of course, people on their high horses can cause a lot of damage, too. Especially when they speak for God.

Posted by: Dave on July 15, 2003 01:12 PM

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