Leading article: The bishop is embracing a lost cause

Share
Related Topics

Ear-splitting rows are part of the warp and woof of the Church of England – the price paid for a Church that has always claimed to be national and inclusive rather than dogmatic.

Claims that the Bishop of Rochester's dramatic call for homosexuals to "repent" marks a milestone towards a formal divorce in the Church between liberals and evangelicals, therefore, must be approached with caution. In many ways, the battle fought in the Church today over same-sex relations is still far more decorous and charitable than most of the Anglicans' earlier feuds.

In the 19th century, evangelicals engaged in pitched battles with High Church "ritualist" opponents in London churches, using stones and cudgels. There is no sign yet of Dr Nazir-Ali or his supporters resorting to such tactics with gay or outspokenly pro-gay vicars.

History suggests that almost every generation throws up a symbolic issue that conservative Christians then seize on as the ultimate challenge to tradition and orthodoxy. "No pasaran!" they declare: "They shall not pass!"

Yet even the most conservative Anglicans today would probably be embarrassed to revisit those lost battles. How many want to maintain now, as did their ancestors, that the world was created in seven days or the Pope was the anti-Christ? Little more than a century ago such beliefs were perfectly normal in the Church of England. Now they appear ludicrous.

Some conservative Christians no doubt believe they are on safer ground in sounding the tocsin against the monstrous regiment of homosexuals, partly because a large proportion of society remains homophobic. They know that many socially conservative people who would not dream of going to church will, nevertheless, lend noisy approval to such a campaign.

They need to be careful. Society is changing fast in its understanding of the workings of the human heart. "Out" gay cabinet ministers would have been inconceivable a few years ago, as would the presence of a prime minister's wife at Gay Pride. Conservative Christians like Dr Nazir-Ali, in other words, need to think twice before embracing a cause that only embarrasses future generations of believers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world