24 November 2010

Message to Rowan: you're all clear kid, now let's blow this thing and go home

Apparently the Anglican church faces "piecemeal dissolution".

As an interested bystander my response is: Bring it on.

Who cares if the Anglican communion splits? Basically it'd be a great day for democracy and localisation. Better to have honesty than unity IMHO. Let the reactionaries, misogynists and homophobes walk out. (or alternatively, let the woolly liberals walk out - who cares who's left holding the baby that is the established church?)

Otherwise you end up with the monstrosity that is the Roman Catholic church, unified only in the sense that Stalin's USSR was unified. About 95% of Catholics I talk to don't agree with anything the Pope says. That's no basis for a unified church. You can't have a unified religious movement where people don't agree on the major issues - unless you start to conduct a whole load of lobotomies. So why live a lie?

Rather like Robert Fripp's reaction to the music industry dinosaurs of the mid-1970s, I see the Christian Church's future in terms of "small, mobile, intelligent units".

I'm looking forward to the days when the local village priest can say not, "I am a mannered automaton controlled by the General Synod/Vatican", but instead, "I am a unit."

Meanwhile, I'm considering joining the Quakers. Who look like a much more mellow outfit.


Chris Brooke said...

"small, mobile, intelligent units".

Well, yes indeed, but you can't really get there from here, esp. since the C of E does have a rather fantastic property portfolio, as well as dibs on a number of seats in the House of Lords and control of a few dozen Oxbridge chaplaincies / fellowships. Even if it's a crock of shit as a *church*, they'll be fighting over who gets to control the real estate.

giroscoper said...

Sure Chris, but all that should be abolished or sold off anyway. Although if they did break it up I guess they could allocate it pro-rata.

Ken said...

Just a few thoughts:

The C of E has been on the brink of collapse since the middle of the sixteenth century. All this hot air and "piecemeal dissoluion" is nothing new whatsoever. And yet still it is here.(It's also worth bearing in mind when thinking of the decline of the church that nearly all forms of corporate or traditional sources of authority are diminishing - if you think the church attendance is bad just at the numbers of people in political parties, the distribution figures for newspapers etc etc).

Can you get to "small mobile intelligent units" from here? - well some would say it is already happening and it is called the Fresh Expression movement. (Not convinced about this myself but it is an argument some would employ)

I was interested that at one point we read that 95% of catholics don't agree with the Pope but also an implication that local priests are automatons controlled by the general synod/vatican. Not sure you can have it both ways. Either people are deferring their own capacity to make judgements to a centralize authority or they are not? (and idea that anyone is "controlled by General Synod" is extremely funny). The fact that those 95% of catholics who don't agree with the Pope and still consider themselves catholic suggests that even the heirarchical Catholic Church is complicated beast. Its seems to me that one of the "new atheists" errors in is that it conceives of relgious faith purely in terms of the intellectual assent to certian doctrines. Church unity is based or more than that which is why you can (and have had for about 2,00 years) a unifed religious movement which great diversity of opinion.

giroscoper said...

Thanks Ken.

I feel my point still stands: you can't have a unified religious movement where there is disagreement, not just on a few minor issues, but on every single matter of social doctrine. It would be more honest to admit differences of interpretation and split. The current difficulties the Anglican communion faces seem to me to be good evidence that the current situation is unsustainable.

I'd draw a very sharp distinction between C of E priests and Roman Catholic priests in terms of their autonomy and I was probably not at all clear on this point. You'll certainly be able to correct me if I'm wrong on this, but as I understand it C of E priests have considerable autonomy. No-one really tells them what to do (unless you slag off the royal family, like that poor bishop last week. Telling it like it is with respect to the royals seems to be out of bounds. But apart from that...)

Whereas in the Catholic Church priests basically have to do what the church authorities (acting under Vatican control) tell them, or they're out. Excommunicated. This means that in practice, Catholic priests are either automatons following a strict Vatican line, or they keep their mouth shut in public.

As for the Catholic congregations - I suspect they disregard most of the church's teaching, which they can do because (a) they're not dependent on the church for their job (like priests are) and (b) the church needs them more than they need the church. The church needs bums on seats to keep the numbers up, basically. It's as simple as that. And so the farce of the RC church continues.

I guess my basic stance is that church unity - or any kind of religious unity - has NO value in itself. None whatsoever.
This is NOT an 'every person for her or himself' kind of libertarian Ayn Rand argument. Tolerance for other opinions has great virtues. Working together with people of all faiths and none on particular issues has great virtues. But being part of an organisation cracking at the seams with disagreement and dissent just to try to maintain unity for its own sake? That's crazy.

Some people (not you, I'm sure) defend the C of E on the grounds of historical tradition, or the fact that it's the established church of the nation. For my part, those arguments hold no water whatsoever. I've always regarded 'tradition' as the last refuge of the scoundrel (to misquote Dr Johnson) and the idea of an established religious body is patently ludicrous to most of us on both left and right.

To put this in context, I feel the same way about pretty much all large organisations - nation states, Microsoft, the Labour party, you name it. As my old next door neighbour once said, "once an organisation gets big enough to need an HR department, it's probably out of control."