Yes, I am entering the discussion on women bishops, and I bet this will be far from the first blog you will read about it but I hope that you get something new out of it.
For a long time I haven’t been all that interested in the way the Church of England governs and works. Back home, my father is a Catholic and I went with my mother to a Baptist church so I guess I thought it didn’t affect me. I heard the Archbishop of Canterbury get quoted every so often and understood there was a certain importance the C of E had in this country as the national church. But I guess I thought that essentially they were a more liberal and slightly more in touch version of the Catholic church (except they didn’t believe in transubstantiation). I do want to point out this is mainly because of my lack of interest in finding anything out, rather than that being the image all C of E churches give.
This started to change when I went to my college Christian Union friend’s baptism at her (C of E) church and realised that it was a lot more engaging and relaxed in structure than I expected. I also found out that that church did a “café church” service about once a month and went along and really enjoyed it. The perception was broken. I also understood that Holy Trinity Brompton (the birthplace of the Alpha Course and various other initiatives) was an Anglican church and was really on the edge of engaging with people and making the gospel relevant to them. I began realising that quite a few churches that I’d heard of as being centres of Christian youth and sometimes famously charismatic churches were in fact Anglican. When I was at New Wine this year I discovered that was a C of E movement and that Soul Survivor was born out of that. I think that was when my perceptions were completely smashed. Well, almost. The image I had of the Anglican church does exist, it’s just on the other end of the spectrum from churches like HTB and actually I was happy to know that i wasn’t completely wrong. You see, I think the Church of England’s best unique aspect is that it ranges from traditional and conservative to modern, liberal and charismatic. If you are at church to meet with God and you engage with Him through it, the style really doesn’t matter so I appreciate this variety and love it. Since coming to university I have started attending a New Wine Anglican church because it was where it felt God was leading me and because it felt like the congregation was all there to meet with Him. That’s a church I want to be at.
Anyway the point I’m getting at that’s relevant is that a church with so much variety, and yet a rigid top-down leadership system, has a huge problem when it wants to agree on changing something. This is different from, for example, the Baptist church (at least how it is in the UK) where each church pretty much governs itself while being associated with the Baptist Union and its doctrine. So when you have to decide whether to allow women bishops I can see where the difficulty is in getting everyone united.
Although I feel it should have no bearing on the issue (having been at a C of E church for less than two months) I will explain my position. I believe that women should be allowed to preach in church and serve in leadership. I believe that is the correct interpretation of what is in the Bible (or rather I agree with much cleverer and wiser people who hold to that interpretation). I also believe that although there can only be one true interpretation there is more than one valid one that could be true. Let me be clear, this can’t be anything that you can twist scripture into, but I won’t arrogantly say that the interpretation that I believe fits best with what I know about God and the Bible is definitely true. Other well-reasoned arguments from scripture could also be correct. I think that this is one of the matters that this issue applies to.
I am passionate about Christian unity. I don’t mean belief in the exact same details of doctrine or a single church. I mean different Christians working together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and showing His love to as many people as possible. Each of these groups may have different valid views on various issues and many parts of doctrine but are united in their love for Jesus. This is why one of the Church of England’s greatest strengths (a single church with great variety) becomes a weakness. Because of their wide spectrum, views will differ and changing the “official” goalposts can alienate some groups; both ways. Clearly a larger group wanted this change to go through and the fact that it failed by only 6 votes in the House of Laity (unordained members of the church) highlights this.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping it was going to be a yes. Part of this is that after allowing women priests quite a while ago, it makes very little sense not to allow women bishops; it’s inconsistent. If you believe women cannot preach or hold positions of leadership in church then either can certainly not be allowed. Meanwhile if you believe that they can it doesn’t make sense to only allow one level of leadership to women. I don’t see an interpretation that can allow this “in between” position. I also think that the C of E needs to continue to show it is moving with the times – not copying the world view, but re-examining issues without older cultural ideas clouding judgement as they may have done in the past.
But the overriding message I have heard from the traditional camp that support the no verdict is not “we’re right and you’re wrong and we don’t want it to change”, rather that they weren’t happy with the form the measure was in because they didn’t want to alienate part of the church. They were (and still are) looking to come to a compromise where women bishops will be allowed, but those churchgoers with whom this didn’t fit with their biblically-based ideas, would have provision. It sounds complicated but they are looking to hold the fantastic unity of the church together, not damage it or the image of the church to the outside world. I realise this isn’t the view of everyone on this side of the fence but it is certainly what has actually been coming through. I think this motivation is most certainly noble and think that those who were looking for a yes may not fully understand this. Despite this I do share in their disappointment when the vote was so close.
For a simpler outlook I would point you to fellow student Joel’s blog who has emphasised the need for not squabbling over each other’s doctrine, especially when those not part of the C of E have been expressing their opinions on the matter and getting into arguments, a sentiment I second very strongly!
I feel like I should come to a conclusion at this point but I honestly haven’t personally come to one so I will just say that I hope I’ve raised some different ideas in your mind over this issue, please post your comments about it below!
EDIT: Check out Krish Kandiah’s blog for explanation of the different beliefs on women in leadership and how we can respect those with views different from our own.
I think that the overall feeling over here in the UK was that we’d like Obama to stick around in the White House for another four years. Many that for a while wanted change joined the Obama camp after Romney decided to insult us all over the Olympics. If we think about only Christians, though, the opinion is more divided. This is very interesting considering Obama is a Christian and Romney is a Mormon. But, of course, it isn’t that simple and it’s great that many people are looking further than how the two candidates would fill out a census.
But over in America some Evangelical pastors who in the past would’ve condemned aligning with a Mormon, endorse him over the Christian candidate (even if not explicitly). Some are even trying to convince their congregations that the end of the world will be brought about by Obama (HuffPost blog here) – of course we know that only the Father knows the day and all the predictions up until now have been incorrect (correct me if I missed the apocalypse). And so many of the listeners probably took them at their word, which saddens me. Politics is a delicate subject to bring to the pulpit – especially endorsing a specific party or candidate – and can be dangerous.
This is because I should not have even said “Christian candidate” above. It simply isn’t true. He is a candidate who is a Christian. His decisions and actions will be influenced by his faith but to expect it to mean that his governing will bring about a truly Christian country is foolish. In the same way Romney would not make America Mormon, although understandably his religious views make many Christians uncomfortable. It is extremely difficult to hold high office and not compromise any Christian principles and I agree with Kurt Willems on redletterchristians.org in this respect. Perhaps there are nations in this world where you could but the United States is not one of them. It is far too secularised and embroiled in wars (both the full-scale ones and the covert ones). Any incoming president couldn’t feasibly be a truly Christian president because he (or she!) would inherit one of the largest and arguably best, militaries in the world and probably within the first 24-48 hours would have to decide on something related to their actions or movements – and the option for them to do nothing wouldn’t be in the mix. I personally believe Obama’s military decisions have been a lot closer to Christian principles than George W. Bush’s (sorry, my youth means I don’t remember a time before him). He hasn’t dawdled on pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, going faster than some generals say is advisable, he was hesitant on military action in Libya and is still holding out on this in Syria. You can debate with me whether he’s doing enough by other methods, but I’m concentrating on military here. I’m also uncomfortable with the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the use of his death to bolster Obama’s campaign. He’s a lot closer, but has way further to go.
You can also point to the election campaigns for evidence of absence of Christian fervour. $2.5 billion has been spent this election between the two candidates. I mean, wow. Surely that’s at least near the amount we need to solve world poverty? (Before you jump on me for that, I know throwing lots of money at poverty won’t solve anything, nonetheless across all the hardworking organisations, money is vital and to be honest I’d rather not all $2.5bn was effective in trying than it going to personal attacks on presidential candidates.) This money went towards a heck of a lot of TV adverts and other forms of advertising that generally said how bad the other candidate was not what the advertiser was going to do. I think Obama came out of this slightly better but there’s not much in it.
Anyway, to the actual subject of this post; why I’m glad Obama did, in fact, win. Well, from what I’ve already said either candidate would only be a lesser of two evils – neither will truly instigate a Christian presidency. The argument for Romney (from a Christian standpoint) is that he is pro-life and anti-gay marriage. So he will ban abortions and gay marriage? Sounds like his intention, but the first point is how likely is it he will be able to? The second and I would say more important point is that banning abortion outright won’t solve problems and will simply lead to a huge rise in backstreet abortions. This is not what we want as Christians as it simply puts women in danger (and certainly doesn’t see a close to elimination of abortions overall). We need to see a bigger picture. Obama isn’t fighting abortion directly but his attempts to drastically change the welfare system may be really fighting the root causes of it which is what is needed to see a real change in the abortion rate (see my opinions on this issue specifically here). Meanwhile gay marriage is on a different scale (it is not a matter of life and death), it isn’t preferable for Christians but the US is a secular country (see First Amendment) and although I’d rather Obama didn’t endorse it, I don’t think he will be active in pushing it. Don’t forget there’s very little that can be done at federal level on this issue.
I mentioned welfare reforms already. Obama’s plans are the very (very very) small first step towards something like the NHS. He wants the poorest to have access to the very basic level of healthcare – not being turned away because they don’t have enough money. It means the rich pay slightly more into their insurance so that all can have the basic level. So what happens? Americans shout “Communist”. This astounds me; that helping poorer people get access to healthcare causes people to believe they’ve become the enemy is crazy. But then I have my suspicions that many didn’t like the idea of paying some more for the benefit of others. Either way, Obama is genuinely working for the good of the people. Danny Webster, parliamentary officer of the Evangelical Alliance (UK-based) talks about looking about looking at the bigger picture instead of a couple of “highly politicised” issues in a recording on Premier Christian Media here.
I also believe that Obama is a lot more thoughtful, considers the consequences of his actions across the board and is invested in changing the image of America being the intrusive military power it has been in the past (eg taking a backseat in Libya). In our current economic climate I think this is what we’re more in need of, while not forgetting the importance of consistency in it as well.
So all in all I would choose Obama, not explicitly for his faith (admittedly it plays a small part), but because looking at the wider picture, he will serve the American people best (I’m sure Americans will say I don’t have to right to say that – maybe they’re right, but it’s still what I believe), his social reforms being central in my opinion. Being a second term president he won’t need to worry about re-election anymore and maybe won’t be as worried about upsetting some people for the sake of everyone. I expect great things. But I don’t expect a perfect Christian presidency. He is still the lesser of two evils – but then this will be the situation in any election.
Meanwhile when Vicky Beeching, a Christian Social Media consultant (among other things) tweeted she was pleased that Obama was re-elected she was met with abuse. I can’t understand why, she was simply giving her opinion on the matter, for her to lose followers and fans makes no sense and makes me wonder what Romney supporters are like. Last night I saw Obama congratulating Romney and his volunteers on their campaign and he seemed truly genuine with a smile on his face. Romney seemed to be speaking through gritted teeth in his speech after hearing the result, congratulating the President. That isn’t all that surprising but are these attitudes reflected directly in their supporters? I feel Obama inspires hope, even now while Romney just inspires… I’m not even sure – and that’s not a good sign.
If you think this is all too complicated a much easier (and in many ways more biblical) answer is what my fellow Christian student Joel Le Poidevin posted earlier today – God is in control and that is all that matters. I like to delve deeper but ultimately this is certainly true.
Please feel free to disagree with me on anything I have said but please do it respectfully in the way I have tried to write this. God bless.
So about a week ago, for the first time since freshers’ week I agreed to go out. Our flat had won a competition on Facebook by getting the most “likes” on our guestlist and we would get £250 VIP package at a particular club’s student night. Most people were going so I felt it was the time to make an appearance to show I’m interested in socialising with my flatmates. I also knew people would be getting pretty drunk (the package involved free vodka and other discounted drinks) and I thought I could do my best to keep an eye on people so that they get back in one piece.
I got reminded about what clubbing seems to be about. Lots of people in a relatively small space with incredibly loud music with the alcohol flowing. Then the girls are wearing very little and the guys aren’t complaining. I saw one couple whose mouths were stuck together for at least 40 minutes and let’s just say the guy wasn’t keeping his hands to himself. I’m avoiding making assumptions on how well they knew each other but it was just one example of what I could see all around; people going too far just because its acceptable (and to some degree expected) in that setting and the fact they were drunk to varying degrees prevented them from thinking through the consequences.
I realise that’s not what everyone is there for. I mean, I wasn’t and I full well know other Christians go out clubbing with their friends. And of course many non-Christians just want to have a fun night out. Contrary to many (generally older) Christians belief I don’t think the setting is incompatible with having clean fun without alcohol and sexual undertones. Altogether I enjoyed myself for about 10/15 minutes during my three hours at the club, but I think if I hadn’t dedicated myself to regularly checking on the people who were a little worse for wear I may have a little more. On the other hand it’s not really my scene so who knows? But I can certainly understand why it can be enjoyed, and cleanly.
I find it sad that so many people pin their hopes of finding intimacy (and unfortunately, romance) on a situation where most people will do things they wouldn’t usually do and go further than they maybe would sober. I realise that’s exactly what certain people are looking but that’s a different issue. Still I’m not saying it’s a place you can’t find romance. But wouldn’t it work so much better if it was somewhere to meet someone, get chatting, exchange numbers, dance a bit and meet again, minus the alcohol? And perhaps plus full clothing? Thereby building a normal relationship without rushing it before it’s even started. But now I’m getting into relationships and that wasn’t really the idea.
Oh and after getting back to my flat, my flatmate and myself ordered in pizza at 2:30 in the morning, I mean, why not? Now that part was fun!
So clubbing could be great way to socialise with people, if only it was a little less… alcohol fuelled and sexualised? Well it’s definitely possible to go without submitting to that and maybe if more people did we could make an impact. It’s very normal for Christians (me included) to avoid going out because we don’t want to be around what happens. But if we are confident we can stick to our beliefs and principles (and limits), I think it we need to be there. To show our friends there’s another way to enjoy ourselves; and if there’s enough of us doing it, perhaps shift the standard? It’s a high target but just saying there’s no chance isn’t going to get us anywhere.
What do you think? If you’re a Christian do you go out with your non-Christian friends? Do you feel the atmosphere pressures you into acting in a certain way? Do you enjoy it because/in spite of it? If you don’t are you worried of being led astray? Or just not your cup of tea?