Saturday, February 09, 2013


What Is the Point of the Church of England?

What an unfortunate week for former oil baron and newly unelected baron Justin Welby to become the last Archbishop of Canterbury. The week he screamed ‘Gays! Know your place!’ and ‘Ex-kings! Know your place!’ The week that the Church of England looked more like a useless and vindictive relic than any week since, oh, the last one (‘Women! Know your place!’). With the established church wielding vast power and money but refusing to do its few jobs as a minor nationalised industry – births, marriages, deaths – how long before the country says ‘We know your place – the scrapheap’?

I don’t imagine that unelected Lord Welby will be any worse than his predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury, that hypocritical, canting bigot-fancier Rowan Williams, but he faces a church in an even worse state of decay. Church attendance continues to decline, while the only issues on which the Church of England speaks with passion – or shrill desperation – and consistency are as the BNP’s vicars on Earth.

The Church of England – Moral Evil Moderated Only By Love of Money and Power

The Church of England is on the wrong side of history, but still screams with privilege – not to mention power and the love of money. The only thing the establishment of the established screams louder about than upholding vicious evil bigotry is upholding its holdings. The less influence it has on society and the less interest anyone has in it, the more they hold onto their unearned goodies.

No-one votes for their bishops, who must on pain of death never be women or gays, but they get to sit in their palaces and in our Lords to literally lord it over the rest of us.

Major church decisions are made not on theology or faith, but on what will get through Parliament and retain their cash and comfy red leather benches.

While other churches without all the state money and power can choose who they perform services for, the established church is meant to be the nationalised industry that has to do the cheap and cheerful ceremonies for anyone who asks. But though their talk is cheap, can anyone call them cheerful? Not when they put up snobby block after snobby block to prevent people they disapprove of from calling on their increasingly narrow ‘love’.

This isn’t just a lazy bunch of pampered bigots trying to get out of doing any work for their power, wealth and prestige. It’s shrivelling the pitiful excuse for a moral sense that the established church still pretends to, their very establishment nature gnawing away daily at Christianity in this country while they blame everyone else for it.

Does anyone – does even any bishop saying it – not cringe as they bear false witness about their vicious campaigns of hate?
When thirty seconds’ online search on Hansard proves the bigot bishops liars who screamed against and voted against every liberal move on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights that they now mendaciously claim they always supported, just no further? That they now ‘support’ the civil partnerships that they warned were the end of the world?

No wonder they screamed so much about civil registrars not having to perform civil partnerships – the ones they loathe and fear but feel compelled to lie about now approving, and which they made sure had nothing to do with religion? They protect evil bigots who want to take all the money but not do the job. Can anyone be surprised, when that’s exactly what the Church of England itself does, writ large? Has anyone on Earth previously had a special law passed in order to ‘protect’ themselves from doing the only job they’re meant to do?

And does anyone think for a moment that anything will get easier for them?

Two Predictions For Within the Next Ten Years – More Marriage, Fewer Lords

More ‘redefining’ marriage:
An elected ‘House of Lords’:
The Monarchy – An Embarrassment to the Church of England (or vice versa)

Many of the bigot bishops will surely be praying for a swift end to the monarchy. Not only is it a constant reminder to everyone in the country to point and laugh at the church founded on the one holy aim of Henry VIII having a divorce (and more) explicitly forbidden by the same Jesus who never mentioned gays pretending that their never, ever redefining marriage is the pretext for their bigotry, but it’s only a matter of time before we have a gay or bi heir to the throne who wants to marry their same-sex partner.

With the monarchy falling in public esteem at a far slower rate than the crash-diving established church, there would be no faffing about with abdication next time. Imagine the public outrage if the Church of England tried to insist that the princess or prince could not marry and could not become monarch because of the bishops’ bigotry. No; once again, the reality of money and power would collide with the Church of England and it would suddenly find that it could accommodate a change in the law when the alternative is having to take a vow of poverty and political impotence.

The bigot bishops might, with straight faces, say that all is needed is a special exceptional law, so that the Queen or King can marry someone of the same sex but no-one else can. Oh, sorry, I apologise. I’m being too cynical. That would be like the Church of England having a woman Supreme Governor but saying that, at the next rung down, women bishops were icky and silly flibbertigibbets that no right-thinking man could tolerate. No, wait – bad example.

This week, of course, Richard III’s body was dug up in Leicester. He was a Catholic King, whose power base was at York and who wanted to be buried in York Minster. Obviously, the only question should be whether to honour his spiritual or his temporal wishes, and bury him either in a currently Catholic cathedral or in York Minster, with a possible outside bet of Westminster Abbey to honour a monarch. Equally obviously, the Church of England insist that he’s theirs to do with as they wish, that they refuse to have him at York, and that he’s to be kept in Leicester. Where he was dragged by the Tudor usurper with a slim claim to the throne whose son founded their usurper church with a slim claim to Christian tradition. No wonder the Church of England want to keep him as close to under the car park as they can.

Jesus is an embarrassment to them, too. He called the Church his Bride and he the Bridegroom; Justin Welby in his private prayers must no doubt scourge himself for those many more than thrice public denials before the cock, every time he insists that he’s only the deity’s civil partner.

Not Today, Not Tomorrow, But, Inevitably, Disestablishment

The only job the Church of England has that most people see in their everyday lives – and even then only at infrequent points in them – is officiating at births, marriages and deaths. And they’re so determined to avoid doing even that tiny thing for the people of England to justify their money and power that they’ve had a special law passed exempting them from their only point.

There’s no point to the Church of England for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.

There’s no point to the Church of England for women generally.

There’s no point to the Church of England for honest believers.

There’s not even any point to the Church of England for the monarchy.

Beyond the point of no return, it’s time to disestablish the Church of England. Obviously.

This is the only point at which I regret that the Liberal Democrats are in coalition with the unstable Tory coalition of half rudderless Cameroons, half ungovernable loonies, and not with the 1980s Conservative Party of Mrs Thatcher. If she were the Prime Minister we were dealing with, then we’d be able to break up the last and most failed of the nationalised industries. The Coalition could disestablish the whole wreck, sell off the vast wealth and use the money to help the people left in the cold by the church’s gold-plated empty words, and let every local believer-franchise decide on its own genuine theology rather than have to present one-lie-fits-all compromises for Parliamentary approval.

Win-win, surely? But, as obviously as it’s time for them to go, the Church of England will no doubt carry on as a zombie establishment on the wrong side of history for another century. How much more harm will it do before it’s put out of our misery?

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Stephen King once wrote that reading articles by Harlan Ellison was like being on the receiving end of an address by Fidel Castro - always assuming that Castro was on top form. Don't know why this comparison came to mind...

Since I can't think of anything useful to say, I'll content myself with applauding until my hands hurt.

As a fellow LD and member of the CofE there's a lot in this post that I disagree with and find offensive and unhelpful, while agreeing that disestablishment is the way forwards for the Church.

The vast majority of us in the CofE (laity, clergy and bishops) want to see and voted for women's ministry extended, many of us are appalled at discrimination against our LGBT friends, speak out against it and earnestly pray and work for change. Characterising the CofE as some kind of homogeneous organisation where all of us hold the same views on every subject is as ludicrous and hurtful as labelling all of us as evil bigots. Suggesting that the CofE is wealthy just goes to show you haven't had a look at a typical parish's annual report and accounts recently!

Thank you, James! It’s a while since I’ve been compared to Fidel Castro, whose record on gay rights shows you don’t have to be religious to be evil, but despite that I was still delighted. What a great quote!

Tim, thank you for your comment, though my response is more complicated. I’d be interested in knowing exactly what you disagree with, though I can spot plenty of the offensive bits and, unsurprisingly, being helpful to the Church of England was not my primary aim.

This is going to go on a bit.
I do in fact have some sympathy with you and your fellow ordinary church members; if you read what I had to say with more care, you’ll note that I was attacking the bishops and the establishment of the established church, not in the main the parishioners (though I’ll come to the laity in a minute). You’ve certainly read only what you want to read and claim victimhood over when you tell me I was “Characterising the CofE as some kind of homogeneous organisation where all of us hold the same views on every subject”. That’s an easier wicker man to attack than what I actually wrote, which is in fact close to the complete opposite of that – throughout, I suggested that the fact of your church being established had a deeply corrupting influence on its leaders, who were my targets, and that establishment prevented your church and its members following what they actually believed. In my penultimate paragraph I directly link disestablishment to enabling a non-homogeneous church to be freed up to believe what it likes, albeit expressed in a mildly satirical manner. You are not, I’m afraid, a victim here, despite the majority of your comment saying how mean I am and that that’s the real crime – or, at least, you are both a spiritual victim and a massive temporal beneficiary of establishment.

My sympathy for your bishops as a group has, however, long sunk below zero. I believe, as I said, that they are a deeply harmful and morally evil force on this country which is mitigated only by their corrupt calculation of ‘How much do I have to pay lip-service against gaybashing so as to keep my unelected, unaccountable seat in the legislature and all the moolah’? No doubt you’ll say that the church is its members, but as far as its impact on public life is concerned, your church is its leaders. I want the Church of England free to believe what it likes, and its members free to get on or not once all those beliefs are out in the open. But I want your bishops to fuck off out of my life, I want to stop paying for them having them in my Parliament and letting them pervert the law of the land to uphold their own bloody privilege and set in legislation that I’m worthless scum who shouldn’t have rights, love or sex.

I do not believe a word they say in mealy-mouthed compromise about LGBT people. There is provably not one single issue on which the establishment of your church has not tried its damnedest to kick us all down until it had to grudgingly, belatedly accept changes in the law, from not being able to kill us, to not being able to imprison us, to not being able to fire us – oh, no, you can still do that – and so on, all the while pretending to be victims because they’re gradually losing their “human right” to order people about and deprive them of everything that makes life worth living. Their gritted-teeth pretence that they’re now protective of LGBT people while digging their beringed fingers into every last cranny of inequality turns my stomach. It is a source of wonder to me that neither congregations nor media regularly confront these odious liars with their own words and tell them to be ashamed of themselves. Again, gross moral evil tempered only by temporal corruption.

In returning to the laity, I notice that you oppose my imaginary homogeneity while claiming your own majorities and manies in defence. Again, you might consider taking the log out of your own eye. It was, after all, the laity that blocked women bishops, wasn’t it? And that was under the vast political and financial pressure of establishment to make the change. I wonder how many in all three houses voting in your decision-making process were swayed not by religious belief, but by practical contrivance? And, again, there’s the rub, and my central argument. You say you disagree with me… But you also support disestablishment. Wasn’t I just speaking the truths that it would be “offensive” for a member of your church to utter?
Establishment suppresses some of the nastier bigotry of the bishops, clergy and laity. So what? I’d rather all churches were able to be as nasty as they like in their beliefs, or as nice, and then people would be able to appraise them honestly. Disestablishing your church would probably split it, uncorking the bottle of evil bigotry but also enabling more liberal believers to end their abusive civil partnership of convenience. And the price all the rest of us pay for corrupting your church’s beliefs, which I believe does none of you any good, is that we all have to give your church temporal power which does none of us any good. We’d be well shot of you, and you would be well shot of the bribery and political thrones that corrupt your hierarchy.

As to the church’s wealth… Again, you’ll find that my target was less the individual parishes but the grandiose palaces, but such things are relative, aren’t they? I tried not to put too many Biblical allusions into my piece, as I was making a temporal rather than theological case and actually measuring the Church of England against Christianity too often felt like kicking it when it’s down, but what do you think Jesus and the early Church, for example, would make of the organisation with the country’s second-richest property portfolio after the Crown pleading that no-one could possibly think it was wealthy?

Previous posts concerned readers may like to revisit include my submission on equal marriage which (gasp) suggested equal marriage that was actually equal, not the two-tier laws as a sop to the established church, and religious freedom, not religious tyranny to protect the monopolies of the established church. Other discussions of churches’ anti-gay vileness can be found here, here and here, among many.
Yes, I posted that and then had second thoughts about the Castro comparison. Glad not to have offended.
Not at all. I realised you weren't comparing me to Castro - though Ellison's terrifying ;)

Many years ago, I had Marxist (Grouch) comedy slippers with faces, glasses & cigars which I wore in crash at LDYS conferences. Comrades always referred to them as Fidel and Fidel.
Oh, Ellison's a bloody force of nature. I've got the limited edition book of his original script for City on the Edge of Forever, which comes with a 60 page introduction describing everything Gene Roddenberry ever did to annoy him.

There's a man who knows how to hold a grudge.
Someone I know calls him "Hurling Everything". But I'd better not say who, in case of lawsuits and deathrays.

To think I first heard of him in cantankerous intros to dodgy US editions of Doctor Who books...

Back on topic for a moment, musing on this post over food, I think the immediate effect of disestablishment would be the Church of England veering in a sharply more homophobic and misogynist direction, with all the political and economic pressures to be seen as less evil suddenly lifted (and in the medium term, almost certainly split as a result). But on the other hand it would be 'just another church', losing all its established power, so it would matter much less how virulently hateful it was, and the rest of us would no longer be shoring it up without consent. So, far from unmixed news for the gays, but much better news for church members and non-members alike. Only the rich bishops would be big losers.
I suspect you're right. The more powerful elements in the church would feel that they had been betrayed for, as they would see it, having the courage to speak the truth and would not feel compelled to play down their feelings. I suspect you'd end up with a larger, more moderate church and a small hard core which would dwindle over time. Just as a side note, my second ex-wife, who is a devout churchgoer, has a swear box in the house and is looking to give the proceeds to any organisation that's working to get a sexually active lesbian made Archbishop of Canturbury.
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