Is the Church of England a "threat" to the nation's morals?

Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson
Bishop of Buckingham
As some readers will know and others will not I used to be a very active member of the Church of England. In fact I have a degree in Theology and went a far as selection as a priest but did not complete the training. Since then I have drifted away like many and I do not attend church at all. I consider myself an agnostic and at last two of my children say they are atheists. My sister actually is an ordained Church of England priest.

So when the Church of England is discussed I can at least to some extent see it from both the inside where I used to be and the outside where I am now.

I think there are many people of goodwill involved the Church and for many people their day to day contact with the church will be positive. Not for all though as many have a different experience. I still remember the reaction I had when my request to have my newly born son baptised was met not with welcome. But recently I attended a funeral and the priest there was sensitive and allowed the family to make the funeral what the person who died would have wanted.

Those who know me will be aware that I had long lamented the fact that the Church far from leading the way on ethical issues has lagged behind civil society and even tried to stop advancement. One of the most obvious examples is in its attitude to homosexuality.

Over time society has become more and more accepting that homosexuality and homosexual relationships should be treated in the same was as heterosexual relationships. Far from leading the way on this the Church has:

(a) refused to appoint Bishops due to their sexuality and the fact they are in stable relationships with a person of the same sex
(b) insisted on being exempted from legislation to allow it to discriminate in employment matters against homosexuals
(c) opposed the proposed change to the law to allow homosexuals to get married

It is an understatement to say that I have a hard time dealing with this. It is worse than that. I could not in all conscience be a member of an organisation that behaves in such a discriminatory manner towards people based on their sexuality.

And I am sure I am not alone. Bishop Alan Wilson, a junior Bishop in Oxford diocese wrote recently on his blog:
Yesterday, for the third time this year, someone expressed to me genuine concern about involving the Church in a project because they feared that dealing with a discriminatory organisation would compromise their moral integrity. The C of E used to be the guardian of the nation’s morals, but is increasingly perceived as irrelevant, or even a threat to them.
He goes on to consider how this has happened:
At first sight this is amazing, because the people I meet in Church are usually kind, upright and morally aware. The nation’s moral instinct has changed, however. The Church in its own bubble has become, at best the guardian of the value system of the nation’s grandparents, and at worst a den of religious anoraks defined by defensiveness, esoteric logic and discrimination.
Yes that is the Bishop talking not me! Today an opinion piece in the Guardian has picked this up and is an interesting read on the question of the challenges facing the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury's successor.

This prompted a tweet from former St Paul's Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser who resigned from his post in protest at the way the church authorities dealt with the Occupy protests.

This is a reminder of another failure by the Church of England to seize the opportunity to show support for the Occupy movement to be allowed to protest and perhaps regain some legitimacy as the "moral conscience" of the country.

So would I re-join a church that supported Occupy (or at least its right to protest), had appointed Jeffrey John as a Bishop and led the campaign for homosexual marriage? Not sure. But I would certainly be more inclined to consider it.

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