ANOTHER VIEW; Church politics can hurt

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The Independent Online
The Independent yesterday ran the story of a "coup" mounted against me by two of my fellow archdeacons. For 25 years I have sat on the General Synod, but now the archdeacons of Cleveland and the East Riding have refused to endorse my reappointment. In a long career in the church one expects to suffer minor and major hurts, but nothing has hurt me as much as this.

Twenty-five years on the General Synod is enough for anyone. I had decided to resign in two years' time, quite happily, because after a time your contribution to debate is limited, because you have heard all the arguments many times before.

Last week my two colleagues dropped a bombshell by telling me that they would not be endorsing my appointment. It came as a complete surprise to me, particularly because in a light-hearted conversation I had referred to my re-election - I had really thought there could be no question about it.

When we met again I suggested a compromise, that I had decided to step down anyway after two years. The archdeacons refused. I then asked that they should delay until the end of the month, so that I could attend the committees on which I serve, to say goodbye to people with whom I have worked for 25 years. They went out of the room to discuss it, then returned and refused.

This refusal hurt almost more than the first decision. It is rather like redundancy, when you are told abruptly that you are no longer needed and you return to your office to find your desk cleared.

The reason they gave for their action was that I did not represent the views of the diocese. Then the Archdeacon of the East Riding said that as a liberal he felt very isolated in the diocese - which is hardly consistent with their earlier reasoning. So I can only take this as a personal slight. The only issue on which they might have felt that I would not represent their views is my opposition to women priests - but that is a dead issue, and I have given pastoral care to all the women priests in our diocese.

This action will not silence me. In fact, it leaves me a lot of gaps in my diary to be filled. I think it shows all of us who are traditionalists that we are not as accepted as some people would like to suggest. Marginalisation is a certainty for many of us in the future. The ironic thing is that the traditionalist view is the view of the ordinary person in the congregation. And the liberals will find that they do not have the ordinary person on their side.

This business has confirmed in my mind that however dirty national politics are, they have something to learn from the church. But I remain an Anglican because that is what I am - God remains in the church, and we sometimes have to put up with these local difficulties.

The writer is Archdeacon of York