Imagine for one moment that rather than being a lapsed Roman Catholic married to an Anglican priest I’m actually a member of the Anglican church. Think harder now, imagine that I’m actually the Archbishop of Canterbury and this is the speech I would give to the Anglican Synod today regarding women bishops and the future of the church.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We are the laughing stock of the nation. Out there in the real world women are working as teachers, firemen, soldiers, police officers, fighter pilots, surgeons and particle physicists. But in here some of you still exist in the dark ages. Well your time is over.
Some of you make representations that you’re struggling with issues of theology, of traditional and biblical teaching. I think you are full of shit. Our church was set up as an alternative what we saw as a Catholic church that had lost its way, too fond of traditions and rituals. We had a new prayer book meant to be relevant to the people of that day. And what are we now? Another church stuffed with our own traditions and rituals, clinging onto the BCP, a book that is also no longer relevant. So what if that’s what you had as a child – were you a child in Jesus’ day? Do you pray in Aramaic? What does that matter in the 21st century? What does that matter to the people on the estates, lost and alone? We need to share our love in the language of today.
We spend tens of millions of pounds each year trying to keep crumbling ancient and beautiful churches upright. Churches with no disabled access, no toilet facilities and with leaky roofs due to lack of funds and continued lead thefts. We have become an organisation that is all about curating the past, whether that is our old buildings or outmoded ideas on gender and sexuality. It is time we moved on.
It is time we abandoned all our broken parish churches. IF they are of historic or architectural worth to our nation there are organisations such as the National Trust that will look after them. But we no longer need to. Meanwhile we will save money by building new modern buildings that are as useful to our communities during the week as they are on a Sunday morning. They will be sources of hope and warmth, not drafty old stone millstones around our neck. You might argue that no-one will drive a few miles to these new central churches, but that is wrong. In villages up and down our nation people climb into their Range Rovers on a Sunday morning to go get their newspaper. Why can’t they do the same on a Sunday to attend church? Aren’t we worth more to them than the racism and borderline paedophilia of the Daily Mail they foolishly buy? And there will be plenty of room in their cars for the people who don’t have their own transport.
We need to abandon our old expensive and irrelevant church buildings. They are holding us back. We also have to abandon those people whose crumbling and irrelevant opinions are making our church the enemy of freedom, love and compassion in this nation. It is shameful that we still ordain those who oppose the ordination of women to any role in the Anglican church, or the ordination of people based on their sexuality. It is shameful. We need higher standards in who we ordain, even if that means a smaller church. The promises made in ordination must from this time on feature a promise to uphold the ideals that no-one should be discriminated against based on their race, nationality, gender or sexuality. New priests must live up to this promise or they are not welcome in our church, for they do not represent what we are about. We want loving caring priests, blind to race, sexuality and gender, people who have a heart for our church, not bigots or those egomaniacs who seem more interested in their own self promotion.
And to those here today who could not make such promises? Thank you for your service. But it is time for you to leave. Collect your P45 on the way out. You are no longer represent the new church, a church based on love, not divisions, bigotry and misogyny dressed up as theology. And yes I mean you bigoted laity members too. Out. It is about time the church stood for something. In these dark times, beset by a government – which many of you foolishly voted for – that is the enemy of Jesus’ teachings, the church needs to stand up for the downtrodden, the poor and bullied. We are not going to be party to these things anymore, not in our church, not in our name.
We will have a small church. But a church that means something, stands up for what is right. And I hope a church that is attractive to those with the right heart, those people afraid of us in the past that would now see us as somewhere they could call home. And so we would grow, and grow healthily. New buildings and new hearts, fit for the challenges of the 21st century.
It’s time to end the hypocrisy. We are riven by divisions. For example we have male clergy shacked up secretly with their boyfriends who oppose the ordination of women? Does that sound like a church that’s interested in love? In supporting one another. People who want to hide who they love, yet at the same time hate the freedoms of others. Ladies and gentlemen we must embrace marriage – not gay marriage – but marriage for all – man with woman, man with man, woman with woman. We must get behind this to reclaim marriage as a sacred thing, something we can support for all, to make families important again. No more hiding in the closet for us. And we must support the ordination of bishops -not women bishops – but men and women as bishops, as leaders.
Our church is staring death in the face. We ordain clergy we don’t even think are good enough to be paid to do the job, but we ordain them anyway, then they work badly for us for free. We ordain mothers and fathers and yet still expect them to work as much as priest with no family. We ordain those who hate others that we ordain. We ordain people who struggle with who they love because they feel we will not support them. We allow bigots among our parishes to form cabals and stack the laity vote. These things must end.
We need to move forward. Men and women, gay and straight, black and white, we have a church to rebuild, a nation to support and represent, good news to spread, help to give, love to share. We can do this together or not at all. Will you join me?
And for those of you who feel they cannot, the exits are at the back, please leave now so we can get on with our purpose, our mission.