Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Archbishop chooses religion over faith

Not a good day for the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the Anglican Communion, or for open-mindedness. The Episcopal church has had to put ordination of gay bishops on hold, along with blessings on same-sex marriages, in order to avoid the Anglican church dividing.

This is a classic example of the conflict between religion and faith. All faiths are largely similar in their values, and all are forces for good. Religions, on the other hand, are the man-made political institutions that purport to represent the faiths but often pursue a separate agenda to them. It is religions, not faiths, that have done harm.

Agreeing to exclude a group of people from a spiritual body just to keep the body together is a shameful act. Let's not forget that it isn't that long ago that people were issuing threats if women were allowed to become vicars. Only a century before that, it was up for debate whether some ethnic minorities should be allowed in (and interestingly it is the same ethnic minorities that are at the centre of the resistance today). For a Christian body to find it controversial to treat people the same reflects very, very badly on Christianity and goes completely against the spirit of the faith.

This post is not about homosexuality. It is about the response to it. Let's be clear: Dr Williams is making the preservation of an institution more important than upholding the faith that the institution represents. This is wrong. As a spiritual leader, you have an obligation to uphold the values of the spirituality, not to compromise them in human politics. This is what Rowan Williams should be doing. The gospels are all about Jesus confronting the religion of the day - he wasn't worried about the popularity of what he was saying, or whether it would cause a divide in the religion, and gave no compromise. Ask the monks in Burma, or Ghandi, how they feel about appeasement in the face of their values.

For how much longer will people within the religion try to use the teachings of Jesus, the core of which is 'Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself' let's not forget, to justify their exclusion of others from their church? It's a depressing reality that the church lags society by about 50 years. A true church should not be lagging society, it should be leading it.

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