Editor-At-Large: Equal in the eyes of God? Not in the Church of England

The howls of protest from conservatives that greeted the vote to allow women bishops contradict Christian teaching
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The Independent Online

Why do so many pious men, who profess to be working in the name of God, hate women so much? In their so-called "inclusive" church, we're welcome to participate as long as we stick to playing the organ, arranging the flowers, putting the kettle on for tea and making sandwiches.

We may even be allowed to join the priesthood, if we're lucky enough to find a sympathetic bishop. But if someone with a vagina demands full equality in the Church of England, then grown men burst into tears and start wailing.

This was the incredible scene at the General Synod last week, when after debating the matter for six hours, after years of pathetic dithering, a motion was finally passed beginning the process of allowing women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England.

The result? More than 1,300 male clergy threatened to resign.

At a conference in Jerusalem last month a breakaway group of clerics opposed to female bishops and same-sex blessings formed the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

This could be the first step in the disintegration of our national church, mirroring the events that led to the creation of the Church of England in the first place, when, led by Henry VIII it broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.

Should we care what contorted antics pass for modern debate in a church most of us only occasionally make use of, for weddings, christenings and funerals? After all, if any other organisation in Britain did not give women full equality of opportunity, they would be taken to an industrial tribunal. Yet this mob use the name of God to perpetrate a clear injustice – who said that religion causes more divisions than anything else?

Many churches around the world – in the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Scotland – have already decided to have female bishops. The Episcopal Church of America is led by a woman. With dwindling attendances and empty pews, the Church of England desperately needs to connect with the public, to forge a meaningful role for itself in a country where young people need role models, where many parents need guidelines and support.

There is so much work to do. Instead, the church ties itself up in knots over the role of women and whether or not same-sex unions can be blessed in church. (Answer: not officially, and when two male priests had their union blessed at an historic church in London recently there was uproar). Talk about turning your back on the job you're allegedly supposed to be put on earth to do – love and cherish everyone, regardless of their shortcomings.

This week the Archbishop of Canterbury hosts the important Lambeth conference for more than 800 bishops, a 10-yearly event. Hundreds more arch-conservatives, mainly from Africa, Asia and South America, plan to boycott this opportunity for prayer and reconciliation. The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, is sulking at home. It's enough to make me weep.

I realise that right-wing churches around the globe might be full to bursting with hymn-singing parishioners but that does not mean that their pedantic interpretation of the scriptures and their anti-gay stance is appropriate for the broad mass of people in Britain.

We need a church to respond to our society and reflect our values. How can we talk about treating all religions with respect, if a large group of clerics in our own Church of England want to treat women and gays as second-class citizens? I thought Jesus said everyone was equal in the eyes of God – but it turns out that some people are more welcome at the inn than others.

I told you so, months ago – bad kids have bad parents

Talk about stating the obvious. I've said it before and I'll say it again – the cause of teenage anti-social behaviour lies with parents who don't set boundaries or impose rules. Guess who's just agreed with me? The man chosen to lead a task force on discipline, Sir Alan Steer, who publishes a report tomorrow outlining proposals to tackle the rise in violence among the young.

Changing the current mindset will be a slow process. Last week four young men died from stabbings in London alone – and the Mayor wants anyone carrying a knife to be jailed. Sir Alan states that "greedy and rude adults" are poor role models who have a negative effect on children. He wants parents to get more involved in their offspring's schooling and behaviour management.

Exactly what I wrote months ago. Send parents back to school. You didn't need months of consultation to work that out.

Gehry socks it to Kapoor

Can a sculpture or a building regenerate an area? Success stories include Gormley's Angel of the North in Gateshead and Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, in Bilbao. Five massive art works have been commissioned for the Tees Valley, but I doubt the monumental mesh tube by Anish Kapoor will add to my enjoyment of Middlesbrough. OK, it's the largest sculpture in the world, but it looks like a windsock to me. Gehry's first work in England opens this week, a temporary pavilion in Hyde Park – it's a mad confection of colliding sheets of glass and whirlwind timbers. Idiosyncratic, elegant, chaotic. Kapoor's big idea looks clunky in comparison.

Prezza and Fergie: TV faces we can do without

I'm all for giving raw talent a chance to shine, but I draw the line at John Prescott. For some reason, politicians seem particularly keen to showcase their talents on the telly – Ann Widdecombe and Michael Portillo have been surprise hits as telly presenters, and David Blunkett stars in a programme about youth crime. But Prezza? The man speaks a mangled language few earthlings can decipher. The man whose life story even best-selling author Hunter Davies couldn't make saleable.

But nothing must stand in the way of Prezza's wonderfully optimistic belief in his own abilities, and now the BBC is paying him £15,000 to present a documentary about class in Britain. We know Prescott enjoyed the good life in his lavish grace-and-favour pile, Dorneywood. But what other qualifications, apart from having a common background does he have? He's probably been inspired by the success of the appalling film about fatties shot in his home town of Hull, fronted by her royal hopelessness, the Duchess of York. ITV have now signed her up to tell us about orphans in Romania. Can't wait.

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