But then we had a significant number of Bishops coming out and criticising their own statement with a kind of passive-aggressive, pseudo-spiritual language that is actually very disingenuous. Oh yes, they don’t overtly reject the statement per se – it’s just the way it came out, the timing of it, the wording that was used – as though introducing a few swirly flower motifs in the margins, changing the font from ‘Times New Roman’ to ‘Comic Sans’, and sending the whole thing out in a gift-wrapped presentation box with a free Parker pen was all that was required to satisfy them.
But this doesn’t fool anyone, does it? We all know that what many, probably most, of these objecting Bishops really mean is, ‘We don’t support that statement.’ In other words, they disagree with their own church’s teaching (not to mention that of most other denominations also). And thus the scene was set for a reportedly somewhat ‘lively’ meeting of the College of Bishops last week.
Out of that came a second statement – about the first statement – in which the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologised for any ‘hurt caused’. The words used were of such wonderfully ambiguous Anglican-speak that the Church of England media office apparently had to spend most of its time and energy making it clear to media outlets that, no, they were not retracting their original statement, and, no, nothing had changed. Except whatever it was that had. Or hadn’t. Or something.
I scarcely need to spell out what this does for the morale of many clergy on the ground. And heaven help our watching parishioners. So what are we to do? The New Testament would seem to recommend expelling those who contradict established church teaching on moral issues (1 Corinthians 5). But this somehow seems to have been supplanted in recent years by Justin Welby’s assertion that ‘we don’t chuck out those we disagree with’. It’s a lovely sentiment, redolent of the touchy-feely era in which we live. But I can’t really relate this to apostolic teaching on church discipline at all.
A polite request to C of E bishops: Please stop traumatising your clergy https://t.co/jwKusulRg4
— David Ayshford Baker (@Baker_David_A) February 3, 2020