Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Equality and the Church of England

"The truth will set you free"
 John 8:32
The Church of England is the state Church in England and has enormous privilege in society and associated wealth. For many people, the Church has been the centre of social gatherings and the centre of faith. Many people (although not everyone) have been baptised in the Church and lived their lives in the sacraments of the Church. The Church contains many 'closeted' gay and lesbian clergy and despite that constituency the Church has often been seen as indifferent to the needs of gay and lesbian worshippers. More recently, the Church has moved away from being vaguely 'indiffferent' and has actively attacked gay and lesbian people in the area of civil marriage. It seems that in response the English people  must now decide what to do about the traditional privilege of an organisation that has failed gay and lesbian people as well as simultaneously intruding into equality issues.

The  idea of the cemetery is, for me, bound up with the concept of ‘wholeness’ where we are all equal under the soil. The eternal certainty of death means that we are collectively brought together again in a sort of community.  Even people with few links are re-united by their burial in the same earth and all this process has been traditionally managed by the Established Church. The influence of the Church had been diminished over time by the provision of secular cemeteries, Dissenter burials and more recently by the appalling behaviour of the Established Church.

Instead of being the traditional centre of the community, the Church of England has begun to see itself not as a national organisation but as the representative of a small faction in society. You may ask what I am talking about. Well, the answer is ‘equal marriage’. In this matter, The Established Church through the actions of former Archbishop Carey has misjudged the British people and chosen to speak out against Civil Marriage equality. In this process, the Church has displayed poor assessment skills and a lack of national judgement and it has strayed from speaking on religious matters and chosen to speak negatively about civil matters.

In choosing to speak out so forcefully against equality, the Established Church and some senior clergy have confirmed one or two previously unproven facts. It was always suspected that the Church hierarchy in England was homophobic and that assertion now seems proven beyond all reasonable doubt. In effect, Christians really do hate gay and lesbian people and have finally chosen to 'come out' in their homophobia. There is now clear and unassailable evidence of an Anglican attempt to de-rail equality. The Church of England has finally nailed its homophobic colours to the mast and that may be the best that can be said for their judgement and bigotry. In the past, we had to imagine what was in the mind of the hierarchy and yet the intention of the Church is now as  clear as crystal. The Established Church really hates gays and lesbians and they especially hate the idea of the people having the opportunity to engage in permanent and lifelong commitments. To this end, the Church of England has associated itself with fringe Evangelicals and others who fight against equality. The Anglicans have even associated themselves with the Roman Catholic hierarchy often seen as a major critic of Anglican holy orders. The wish to deal the death blow to equal civil marriage has created strange bedfellows indeed. The Churches have elected to segregate themselves from the great body of their people and this is sad if not entirely unpredictable.

It seems then that the people must finally re-consider the 500 year old compact between the Church of England and the English people. The Church created through the efforts of Henry Tudor to betray his wife has, in effect, finally turned against  the English people who supported  this transitory organisation. What then to think about a national Church that pours forth venom on individuals who seek equality ? Well, it seems that we must start the process of asking why a Church is ‘Established’ in the first place? Why should we have a Church that uses its privilege against equality in such a poorly judged manner?

The position of the Church of England, as the Established Church has become untenable. It is inconceivable that unity can be encouraged by this diminishing and increasingly factional organisation. The unity so often espoused in the past is now out of the reach of the Church and the Church has become increasingly offensive to many English people.

A declining Christian denomination with few adherents (although with great wealth and resources) seeks to mock the aspirations of hard working people and this is in a country where the people are not particularly religious. The English increasingly seek diversity and equality in all things and it seems inappropriate to have an Established Church in the first place. It is arguably time for a change and  poorly judged Anglican views on equal marriage indicate that it is the correct time for the majority to think about the role of the Church.

I would say that through the homophobic comments of former Archbishop Carey  the Church of England has finally been found out. Let the Church confess its manifest sins against its own people, let them acknowledge how many Bishops and clergy are really Gay or lesbian and then let this relic of a former conflict slip away into history.

The motto of the Church of England is taken from John 8:32 and reads "The truth will set you free" It is time for the British (as a whole) to be at peace with each other in life as well as in death  and be set free from the shackels of all the Churches. Let this process begin with the dis-establishment of the Church of England.

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