The 'unsavoury things' are descriptions of 'the other side' which at best make the other look bad and at worst make the other look demonic. In short, I am reading things which unfairly characterise what that other side to the Tweeter/blogger/punditocrat is saying. It is not ecclesiastical rocket science to recognise that ++Justin Welby's strategy of working with 'good disagreement' (on which, see Bosco Peters) will not work if we cannot accurately and fairly represent other people's views.
One of the things which particularly concerns me is a kind of snide attitude towards the CofE retaining and supporting that wing which does not support the ordination of women, let alone women being ordained as bishops. "How can the church maintain 'patriarchal authoritarianism' within it?" some are grizzling into their latte cups.
Put like that, how can it?! There is nothing more awful for men as well as women to have authoritarian patriarchs running amok!
But what if we discipline ourselves to speak justly of one another, to render each other's views accurately and to engage empathetically with the general view of the church being espoused? Might we then find that we do not have authoritarian patriarchs running around let alone running amok?
A case in point is a sermon preached just before the GS by Cranmer's Curate. It is as good and clear a statement of a sincerely held belief that women ought not to be ordained priests or bishops as you will find around Anglican blogs today.
As I have reflected on the sermon over the past couple of non-blogging-because-travelling days I find what is fair and true about the sermon and what is promoted within it is a view about the way God orders the church and the world. In this ordering of the world, the sun rises every day, if I step off a cliff I fall to the ground below, men teach mix congregations and women do not, and the All Blacks win nearly every game they play. An associated point is that the Bible is particularly clear on the one point which is not necessarily obvious from observations about the ordering of the world re nature and athletic supremacy.
Our appreciation of this point of view lies in recognising that what is being advanced is not authoritarian patriarchalism but an understanding of God's plan for the world. The commitment to advancing this understanding is fuelled by a desire to honour God. That is why both women and men support this teaching. And, if Anglicanism is not duplicitous, if it is honest and has integrity when it says we are inclusive of diversity, then a way should be found to allow this understanding of God's ordering of the world since it is an understanding with a history in our tradition as we have read Scripture. (To be clear, in some speech by Anglicans, some similar sentiments are expressed which sound for all the world like a rubbishy, misogynistic, authoritarian patriarchalism ... nothing said here is appreciating or supporting such deprecation of women as part of our diversity).
But the converse is true in respect of Anglican diversity. Holders of views expressed along the lines of Cranmer's Curate should be able to appreciate alternative views which teach a different understanding of the ordering of the world and of the church, also fuelled by a desire to honour God. In this understanding the world is not quite so rigidly ordered in each dimension. The sun rises everyday and jumping off cliffs is not advised but the weather is not so ordered and the All Blacks lose more knock out games at World Cups than general statistics would predict. In particular, the ordering of the church along gender lines is not a clear teaching from New Testament scriptures which offer a fluid picture of leadership development in the context of a new appreciation of humanity 'in Christ' in a 'new creation' called into being by the undoing of the reign of sin through the cross.
Of course there is an unfortunate smattering of talk in support of women bishops which seems to owe more to United Nations' charters or postmodern social democratic chatter about glass ceilings than to Scripture. But we should be no more put off affirming the decision made by the CofE as part of Anglican diversity than we would expect people to be put off the views of Cranmer's Curate by reading rubbishy patriarchalism elsewhere in the blogosphere.
(As an aside, further, the association of the decision with the 'agenda' to foster further change down the line re homosexuality is not a reason to resist women bishops. It has always seemed unfortunate to me that the affirmation of women in leadership might be imperilled by concerns about what men do together.)
Can we avoid demonizing each other as we explore what 'good disagreement' might mean?
As a postscript, another concern in these debates can be our relationship as Anglicans with Rome. Writing about the CofE decision, Damian Thompson makes an astute point about the response of Pope Francis in his own acerbic, take-no-prisoners way:
"How will Pope Francis react? Some Anglicans suspect that he’s secretly pleased: they see him as a fellow liberal who would be open to ordaining women if only John Paul II hadn’t declared it to be a theological impossibility. They’re wrong. Francis talks about expanding the ‘ministry’ of women, but when he’s pressed on the subject he makes jokes about bossy priests’ housekeepers and Adam’s rib. There’s definitely a streak of old-fashioned Latin American misogyny in the Holy Father.
On the other hand, the Pope won’t lose any sleep over this, since he doesn’t believe that Catholics and Protestants should waste time debating irreconcilable doctrinal differences. His message to the CofE’s new women bishops will be: join me in spreading the Gospel." (my bold)