Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Integrities

I have been following fairly loosely the saga of the Church of England attempting to find a way out of the maze it is in because it failed in 1992 to commit itself to a single measure in which women would be permitted to be ordained priest and bishop. I do understand the politics of the situation at the time drove the church to tackle one step rather than two. But now it is seeking to take the second step and the church faces questions of integrity or integrities. The former referring to whether or not the way the decisions were made in the early 90s committed the church to always providing for two integrities around the ordination of women; the latter referring to the possibility that, whatever those decisions might now mean, nevertheless the church might live with two integrities about bishops. One would be unconcerned about the gender of its bishops; the other would be concerned, and that concern would itself have two groupings!

If my understanding is correct, in one of those groupings there might be no particular concern about the hands of a women bishop (ordination being a mere administration action) but great concern about her voice (it would not be permitted in the pulpit to teach); in the other grouping the concerns would be the opposite!

Can the Church of England live with two integrities? Should it live with two integrities? We await answers, most likely to be confirmed at its next session of General Synod in July this year.

Of course questions of two integrities arise in other ways for other Anglican churches in the Communion. Today, taking stock of all kinds of signs and signals (including ongoing debates on my Hermeneutics and Human Dignity blog), my assessment is that little is shifting between two integrities on homosexuality. One integrity is that a man or a woman in a faithful, permanent, stable, loving same sex partnership is living a holy life (at least in respect of the expression of their sexuality) and thus nothing about such a relationship is an impediment to leadership in the church. The other integrity is that a person in such a relationship is not living a holy life and thus there is an impediment to leadership in the church.

Is there a way forward in which two integrities exist within one church (or one diocese or one parish)?

I am no more rushing into print with an answer to that question re homosexuality than I am hastening to give the C of E advice!

PS One reason why I remain conservative about homosexuality and the questions for which different answers are sought from the church than have been traditionally given is the difficult, shifty nature of justifying arguments brought forward in defence of different answers. Thus I draw your attention to Kendall Harmon's thoughtful spotlight being cast on an attempt to redefine 'chaste' in relation to TEC's recent consecration.

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