I return from a very busy week hosting Indian visitors, among other wonderful experiences too absorbing to allow time for blogging, to find great convulvulus in the Blogosphere over what some are already calling Mitregate.
Now that the Murdoch paywall has, tragically, cut Ruth Gledhill out of the conversation, the best source of information is Maggi Dawn.
This bizarre story indicates, as has been told, that unlike previous visiting female bishops from the US, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was banned from wearing a Mitre in Southwark Cathedral. Forrest Gump’s mum used to say, stoopid is as stoopid does, and the whole mentality of such a request, if it was ever made, is profoundly stoopid. The whole thing smacks of hypocrisy. It bears the fingerprints of blind officialdom rather than the Archbishop himself.
I’m an optimist, however, and can see positive learning from such loonery:
- The C of E has a lot of getting real and growing up to do. Seeing the problem presented in a stark form presents a good opportunity to recognise it and resolve to do better in future.
- All God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ, who taught his disciples to say yes or no. Anything else comes from the evil one. The Spirit has always called the church to a form of ministry that was real within the sociology of the world we serve. Therefore we respond to the Spirit’s call obediently, not half-heartedly. The Puritans used to talk about the “Devil’s Martyrs” — people who lost out all round, because they messed with Mr In-Between, depriving themselves of the advantages of being Puritans, or Libertines. Simply framing the Spirit’s call to ordain women in terms of the problems it raises is boring, weedy and faithless, as well as hypocritical.
- We’ve been reading recently in Church about Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee. We all have an inner self-important Scribe or Pharisee, and by his fruits ye will know him. Some exceptional people, however, manage on occasion to walk through the inner ring of Scribes and Pharisees with deftness and charity. It’s by doing this, ex opere operato, that such people demonstrate an important theological truth. Although the Church’s outer (institutional) form is rotting away, says St Paul, its inner being is constantly renewed by the spirit. The grace of God makes such things possible, and thus gives hope. What we have to ask ourselves is who, in this admittedly trivial but symbolically loaded tale, has acted in a Christlike way, and how? What do we learn from it?
- As a bishop I learn that, loaded with creative potential and myth as my job can be, when all is said and done I am just a driver of the Lord’s Number 49 bus, and the more I can rememeber it’s his bus not mine, saints preserve me, the less likely I am to get too far up myself. This makes me easier to live with, and learning it daily is worth a day of anybody’s wages…