I have been criticised on Thinking Anglicans for using the Apartheid analogy to explain why I don’t think simply calling something a “deeply held theological conviction” is enough to exempt it from criticism and make it deserving of respect. Here is why I don’t think it was a cheap shot at the end of a admittedly fairly angry piece.
I think using the Apartheid analogy is entirely justified. You may know the history, but here’s why. Apartheid was a “deeply held theological position” that became the official doctrine of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. It was so much a part of the mindset of that church that it was hardly questioned at all by its own members – with the very honourable exception of Beyers Naude. In the end his work and that of the writers of the Kairos document of 1985 and many others forced a thorough going re-examination of the theological grounds of this Internationally much-vilified support for the political programme which it shored up. Eventually that church came to admit they had been wrong and repented of it. But that did not come by their opponents simply “respecting” their deeply held theological opinion – it came because they criticised it steadily, persistently and with great courage in the face of persecution. And thank God they did.
Secondly, I don’t think it is appropriate to introduce the RCs and the Orthodox into the mix. Why? Because they do not do their theology in the way that Anglicans do. Church of England opponents of women in the episcopate need to show us all why their opinions are consonant with the kind of theological reasoning that Anglicans have traditionally deployed.
So I would not want to say the same things to RCs and Orthodox. I might have all sorts of views about the positions that their churches take and their various theological and dogmatic methods, but that would be, as Father Ted would have said, an ecumenical matter. And I would be speaking to them as a fellow Christian, but not as someone who has a material interest in how and why they arrive at the answers they do.
But these people who voted down the measure tell me that they are Anglicans, faithful ones, who want an honoured place in our Church of England. Well, I think they need to justify to the rest of us in terms that we Church of England folk all understand why they have done what they have done. And they and we will do our Church a huge favour if we submit what are the supposed theological rationales for and against to some fairly searching criticism.
A call for respect is seriously misplaced at this juncture – it is saying “peace, peace” when there is no peace.