And another thing…
The archbishops and bishops of the Church of England are holy men. They have to be holy in order to make the grade. Their eyes have to be fixed on ‘another country, [whose] ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace‘. This makes them qualified to run the Kingdom of Heaven. It does not, unfortunately, make them necessarily fit to run the very human institution of the Church of England. The reason that all those jokes about the bishop and the actress are funny is because of the unworldliness of the archetypal bishop.
Here is the statement of an apparently very holy, but very unworldly bishop. In his diocesan letter for June, the Bishop of Ely writes:
I was party to the decision of the House of Bishops to make two amendments to the draft legislation to enable women to be ordained as bishops in the Church of God. I wholly supported the clarification about the derivation of episcopal authority from ordination. I am sure that the intention of the other amendment was to provide more secure clarification of the terms on which a male bishop would be chosen by a diocesan bishop to serve parishes asking for such extended care. This may now make it possible for some more conservative members of the General Synod to vote for the legislation if it advances that far.
I fully appreciate, however, that there is a difference between intention and effect. The draft legislation was already a compromise and enshrined further discrimination against women. The amendment has created great hurt among many [although it has given hope to others].
Any army officer, politician, teacher or manager would throw up their hands in horror at this naïvety. If you hope to ‘manage’ measures through General Synod and eventually Parliament, it simply will not do to say that you did not take the likely effects of your action into account. If I have not been offensive enough already, let me put it even more simply: those amending the measure, drafted with exquisite care to enable as many as possible to sign up to it, without properly considering whether their intervention was likely to be helpful, must be stupid, wicked or intent or destroying the measure. One bishop may be wicked, but I cannot believe that they could have taken a collectively wicked decision. So the unanswered question is whether they are stupid (unworldly, if you prefer the more polite term) or bent on destroying the measure. Every member of the Church of England will have to decide the answer to this for him- or herself.
In the face of this ‘unworldliness’, a measure of worldly wisdom would seem to be the only chance of escape from perdition. Let us look back to classical times for our inspiration. What we need is Ulysses, a master of strategy, and his Trojan Horse, defined neatly in Wikipedia as ”any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space.” It is interesting to me that Tiepolo must have had the present situation in mind when he painted my illustration: the men are all pushing the horse into Troy for all they are worth, pulled by the few women bishops that have already been appointed. Every school boy and girl knows what happens next – under cover of dark, swarms of women bishops emerge from the belly of the beast to ensconce themselves in the citadel.
What worries me is that women already in leadership positions in the Church are showing signs, not just of holiness, but also of unworldliness. Principled, noble, high-minded, yes. Prepared to sully their hands and stoop to low cunning to win the day? Possibly not.
“Say not the struggle naught availeth, the labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth, and as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; it may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers, and, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making, comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only, when daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly! But westward, look, the land is bright!”