Friday 25 June 2010

Mitregate – the aftermath

I’ve been trying to work out what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori did that was so terribly wrong in Southwark Cathedral. Was it that she held her mitre, held it too high, held it but didn’t wear it? – these seem such trivial reasons from which such a messy scenario developed.

Was it instead that Colin Slee or the Archbishop of Canterbury did something wrong? - Colin, by being honest and open and asking Lambeth for formal approval; Lambeth for reacting inappropriately because of poor advice given by the in-house advice team?

As mitregate recedes into history, is it just another tragic chapter in the LGBT/Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion chaos theory inequality story? Commentators were interested in what happened and who was to blame. Can anything more significant be learned from what happened with its many trivial twists and turns?

Bishop Katharine carried her mitre. Was it a deliberate, immature act of provocation? Should she not have carried it at all, even though other visiting TEC bishops, men and women, have worn their mitres? Was the wearing-the-mitre ban an act of stupidity? Should permission for her to preside and preach here have been refused by Lambeth Palace – some Southwark clergy clearly thought so.

Did they object because TEC broke the Windsor moratorium or because she’s a woman bishop, or just because she’s a woman, and therefore not recognised by God as equal? in creation and in the mission and ministry of the church (perhaps we’ll find out the answer to that when Synod votes on the Archbishops’ amendment in York).

Well, not equal with men – that would be just too stupid, wouldn’t it (if you’re a member of Forward in Faith or Reform – or GAFCON or ACNA or Anglican Mainstream (or do they have a divided attitude to the role of women in the church?)). Sorry, there are lots of questions and brackets in this blog – it’s all so silly, isn’t it?

Perhaps Bishop Katharine was wrong just because she’s a North American Anglican – they’re the whipping girls of the Communion, aren’t they? Perhaps it’s because she dared to accept an invitation from naughty Dean Colin Slee to preach in his daringly open and inclusive cathedral in Southwark, just down the road from Lambeth Palace, source of all authority, and across the river from London diocese where all sorts of shocking things never happen because the bishops never see them.

Perhaps it’s because Bishop Katharine, representing the Episcopal Church, disobeyed Windsor deliberately and openly. Yes, that must be the reason, because she’s supportive of LGBT people at every level of church life and because she’s doing something to which her Province is committed, ordaining partnered lesbian and gay people as priests and bishops and blessing gay relationships, when Windsor and God and the Bible say we mustn’t. Yes, that must be the reason why mitregate blew up. Windsor, God and the Bible are right and the majority in the Communion agree.

But it isn’t congruent with Christian witness and teaching – this isn’t what Jesus embodied and Paul taught. Mitregate opts for law against justice, for legalism against mercy for oppressed minorities, it sides with the prejudiced majority who issue judgment against some of God’s children.

That’s why transgressing Windsor in favour of the gospel is the right course of action – isn’t it? Or am I guilty of getting God wrong again, silly me? The core of the Gospel (for those who think I am not just silly but dangerous) is about not offending your neighbour by doing something which distresses, embarrasses or makes life difficult for them. I make the mistake of acting against church rules, which of course trump Jesus and the Gospels every time.

Sad C of E, sad Lambeth, sad Anglican Communion, trapped by systems, structures and bureaucracy and a terrible false myth of what it means to be Christian.
‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13.10

Colin Coward

1 comment:

  1. Mitregate. What about Gardengate? Colin Slee is rapidly becoming the most unpopular man in Southwark with his own congregation. He appears to have a number of battles on his hands, not the least of which has brought him into direct conflict with his own community. He is threatening to demolish an old church (All Hallows on Copperfield Street in Borough SE1) to make way for a private flats’ development that is being opposed by hundreds of local people as it will take away their light and destroy their quality of life. The proposed development – which Colin Slee has publicly admitted will not see a return on investment for 25 years – is being built in the heart of a conservation area. He also appears intent on destroying the adjoining community garden and removing it from community management which it has been in for over 40 years. The fact that he refuses to guarantee continued public access in writing suggests he intends to close the garden off for private use. Colin Slee argues he is legally bound to maximise profits for the church even if that is at the expense of a community. But legal advice secured by campaigners trying to save All Hallows Church and Community Garden says the ‘legal obligations’ Slee describes are open to interpretation. This is the third time he has tried to develop the All Hallows’ site, three times trying to sneak it through without any community consultation. He has been beaten twice by the community who objected en masse to the planning applications. And he has stated publicly that if he doesn’t get planning permission third time around he will just keep on submitting planning applications. No-one has really been able to establish why Colin Slee is so determined to develop this site. More information on his community track record at