02 October 2008

A Space for Grace or a vacuum of liberal clemency?

Contributed by Hugh Alford

When Jesus went cruising down by the quayside among those rough and hunky fisherman to groom for disciples he only came across men. This fact however clearly tells us little about our Lord’s choice of recruitment assessment centre, his preferred psychometric job profiling methodology or the gender selection imperatives of the person profile for his new priesthood.

Try as I might, I have just “not got it” when it comes to why a woman called to the priesthood is not to be respected , loved ,protected and where necessary obeyed.. For those are the duties of care we laity must give to our priests.

There is not total equality for women in the world of work but there are at least laws to fight corporate prejudice against women and gay people – thank God. Yet misogyny and homophobia are endorsed in the immunity granted the Church of England in their recruitment.

Some may feel the last five years we have been treading water but if that is the case we have not noticed the tide has been against our swimming strokes. We have been under the illusion of progress. To the observers outside the Church on land, we look as if we are going backwards. This is not say that Inclusive Church has in any way failed but maybe it is time to be more direct. The road shows are evidence of this but maybe we need to be more radical.

I know Bishop Gene Robinson told us to trust and keep holding onto hope a few weeks ago at St Mary’s Putney but consider what has happened over the last five years from a lay person’s perspective?.

Priests who wanted to be open about their relationships through a civil partnership have been sacked from the London Diocese. An Openly Gay Bishop was not invited to the Lambeth Conference hardly the actions of an inclusive church. Some appalling homophobic attacks have continued to take place with bishops just sitting on their hands.

Talented women priests continually encounter an employment ceiling of impenetrable Episcopal misogyny.

Bishops bless luxury cruise liners, pets. but can’t find it within themselves to offer Christian love to bless God’s created Gay peoples or women priests and reward talent. God’s superfluity of diversity is not considered to be holy it seems..