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  • Greg Smith

The Church of England Needs Ladies

Or, logically, it’s also possible that everyone in the Church of England is a lady. Well, not a lady, exactly. But without a definition of “woman,” everybody might be one, or nobody, or some are and some aren’t, but no one can make that determination. It’s all very confusing.

That’s not my conclusion, it’s their confession.

The Church of England is holding its General Synod in the City of York this week (from which General Constatine launched his bid to become Emperor Constanine, but that’s another story). A question was brought to the floor: “What is the Church of England’s definition of a woman?” The bishop responsible for giving an answer…well, declined to give an answer:

Innes responded, “There is no official definition, which reflects the fact that until fairly recently definitions of this kind were thought to be self-evident, as reflected in the marriage liturgy,”
“The LLF project however has begun to explore the marriage complexities associated with gender identity and points to the need for additional care and thought to be given in understanding our commonalities and differences as people made in the image of God,” he added.
Living in Love and Faith “is part of discerning a way forward for the Church of England in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage,” according to its website.

Ironically, “England's first woman priest…is 'not totally happy' with the bishop's answer. How it was determined that “she” was (is?) the first “woman” is not reported. Maybe there were oodles and oodles before her. Who can tell?

I could go on poking fun at this silliness, and there are some obvious points about gender ideology. But I’d rather point out that this is the Church of England we’re talking about, which has its origins (at least partially) in King Henry VIII’s sordid marriages and divorces. Of course there were a lot of subplots in that story, but we shouldn’t miss the major point. The Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, insisted on its doctrine of marriage as a function of natural law. Henry bent doctrine to suit the needs—no, the demands—of the state. Politics trumped theology.

Five hundred years later, and here we are. The weird demands of post-Christian (neo-pagan?) British politics demand that natural law bend to the demands of the state. And because the Church of England, from the time of Henry on, has been a state church, the bishops in York have all gone wobbly to keep up.

The German bishops and their “Synodal Way” notwithstanding, the Church in Rome has maintained its fierce independence from state control. It never became an organ of the government like the Eastern churches in Constantinople (and Moscow), or like the national churches of England, the Netherlands, Germany, and Scandavia. That’s one of the reasons why the Papal States hung on so long, so that the papacy wouldn’t become a state church in Italy.

I have many anglophile Protestant friends. They love the Reformation stories, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and all the "ye olde" rest. But I’ve never been able to wrap my head around how a church with the king (or queen) as its titular head can hold the authority of the apostles.

It was stuff like this that led me to Rome.

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