Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen: Synod, women bishops, and the enemy theories that conquer us
His Grace is delighted to announce that, in addition to Brother Ivo's regular insightful musings, this august blog of religio-political commentary and analysis is to be joined by the distinguished presence of the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen, who recently retired from his position as rector of St Michael's, Cornhill in the City of London. He formerly wrote for Telegraph Blogs, and his most recent book is The Secular Terrorist (..the slow suicide of Christian Britain). He writes today on the meeting of the General Synod in York:
This weekend the General Synod of the Church of England will turn its attention once again to the matter of women bishops. But can the church be trusted to mind its own business or will Parliament mind it for us?
Earlier this year and disappointed by the vote against women bishops, MPs held a debate by which they attempted to coerce the church to consecrate women – threatening dire penalties should the church refuse. This has the support of nearly all the bishops and the former Archbishop of Canterbury who commented: “The issue must be resolved in the shortest possible time.” But, Dr Williams, that is what the vote was for. If it had gone in favour of the motion, you can be sure there would have been no call for further discussion. We know what will happen – because it happened in the Synod all through the 1980s votes which rejected women priests: the innovators adopted the time-honoured technique of Trotskyists, Entryists and EU politicians and kept on calling for further votes until they had achieved the result they desired. And what is democratic about that?
It was quite astonishing to hear Dr Williams in one of his last public speeches before his retirement say that the church has 'a lot of catching up to do' with regard to prevailing opinions in secular society. As if Our Lord’s command to his disciples had been: “Go ye forth into all the world and set ye up focus groups.”
Given good will and a little of what the church used to advertise as its market leader – charity – the women bishops measure would have gone through. Its opponents among traditional Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals alike had long accepted the consecration of women as a fait accompli. All they asked for was that a conscience clause for those who could not on theological grounds accept the authority of a woman bishop should have their belief recognised by a simple statute. This would have been an eloquent compromise, something in which the church as a whole could take pride. And it would have happened, had not the innovating 'liberal' elite relished the prospect of rubbing the noses of traditionalists in the dirt and entirely to unchurch them.
For 'liberal' read dictatorial.
What we are now hearing is the death-rattle of the English Church, and it is dying of a malady far more serious than women in the Episcopate. The recent vote was only the culmination of a political process which goes back at least as far as the 1840s when, while still an Anglican, John Henry Newman warned that the choice facing the nation is between Christianity and liberalism. By liberalism, he meant secularisation by government edict. And that precisely has been the historical record ever since Newman’s day.
The control of national life, and the determination of the character of this life, has been increasingly dictated by the secular state in accordance with values which have nothing to do with the Christian faith. Back in the 19th century this was exemplified by the government’s abolition of ten bishoprics in Ireland. In 1928, the state again intervened to block the modest and appropriate revision of the Book of Common Prayer. But these suppressions were nothing compared with the state takeover we have experienced in our times.
This is not some paranoid fantasy on my part; the grumbles and sulks of a disaffected traditionalist. Listen instead to the dire warning issued to the Church of England by Frank Field MP.
Frank Field has used a parliamentary device to deny justice to traditional Anglicans who oppose the plan to consecrate women as bishops. He put down an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons which would overrule the Synod vote against women bishops. He said:
“I expect the Women Bishops Measure will be overwhelmingly supported by the dioceses and two thirds of each of the three Houses of Synod. If this measure is then held back from Parliament by some ‘clever’ procedural wrangle in Synod by a disgruntled minority, then some MPs will lobby the government to lift the dispensation that parliament has given to the Church of England to discriminate against women, as the majority of Anglicans will have made known their wish that such discrimination should cease.”On Friday 22nd November last year, Field introduced a one-clause bill in the Commons proposing that the Cof E lose its exemption, going back 37 years, from equality legislation.
Dire penalties were hinted at, such as Disestablishment by which bishops would no longer sit in the House of Lords and the church would lose all its historic privileges. Now that the Synod vote has been cast against the ambition of the modernisers to appoint women bishops, we can expect these threats to be carried out imminently. And, henceforth, religious and theological issues will be settled by the secular state according to so-called secular values. The scandal, the apostasy, lies in the fact that this is being achieved with the connivance of the church’s hierarchy.
The word 'secular' is a euphemism for 'atheistic'. The nostrums and shibboleths by which we are now governed owe nothing to our 1000-year-old Christian history and tradition, but to the Enlightenment rhetoric whose political and practical results became apparent in the French Revolution: principally the cry for Liberty and Equality. There was never much Fraternity – not when Madame Guillotine began to roam the land.
All this goes far beyond a piddling little issue of ecclesiastical niceties about which ordinary people care nothing; a bit of churchy crinoline and old lace. For these last 200 years and more we have been living through a period of revolutionary historical and social upheaval. Our banners now are not led by the cross of Christ – which is the cross of St George – but they are emblazoned by slogans which owe their origin not to the counsels of God but to an increasingly overbearing and dictatorial atheistic state. 'Diversity' has replaced the Ten Commandments.
The revolutionary change from a Christian society to an overbearing secular authority is profound and it will not be reversed – and certainly not by some supposed natural process such as 'the swing of the pendulum'. When we look to discover how this catastrophe has come about, we should turn to the philosopher and poet T.E. Hulme. At the beginning of the 20th century, he wrote:
“We have been beaten because our enemies’ theories have conquered us. We have played with those to our own undoing. Not until we are hardened again by conviction are we likely to do any good. In accepting the theories of the other side, we are merely repeating a well-known historical phenomenon. The Revolution in France came about not so much because the forces which should have resisted were half-hearted in their resistance. They themselves had been conquered intellectually by the theories of the revolutionary side. An institution or a civilisation is beaten only when it has lost faith in itself, when it has been penetrated by the ideas that are working against it.”