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Sir Joseph Pilling

There have been some pretty harsh words here of late about my own Church. Some have asked my why I don’t bar them. As regular readers know the only things which get barred are sustained bad language and those who come here just to wind others up; none of those are conducive to a Christian atmosphere and that is why they are banned. Opinion is not, provided it is backed up and does not just consist of insults. So, if Geoffrey and others here wish to criticise the Church of England, I have no problem with it. That does not make me disloyal to my Church.

I think that the Church of England is brave because it has in public arguments which others have either in private or in code. No one familiar with arguments within the Catholic Church, not least at the moment, could be under the illusion that there are not bitter disputes over some of the things which my Church has argued through. For all those who say that there can never be changes over matters such as allowing divorced people to communion, or married priests, there are others arguing the other way; these may, or may not, include the present Pope, and there is a cottage industry out there devoted to explaining what it was he meant, or did not mean. Similarly with that biting issue of our time, ‘gay Christians’. There are those who object violently to the fact that Archbishops Dolan and Nichols have allowed ‘gay masses’ to continue, and those who accuse those prelates of not having done enough for the LGBT community; and there are those who would put those last words in italics. In the C of E, these arguments tend to be had in public.

The issue of women bishops is being resolved, some say, in a ‘fudge’. I disagree. The issue has been dogged by polemic on both sides, and last time those in favour were not, in my view, and that of a majority of the lay members of Synod, sufficiently respectful of the sensitivities of Catholics in the Church; this mistake has been remedied. One can disagree on the main issue, but that one – that of women in ministry – was resolved long ago. That being so it is wrong to bar women from preferment; but it is also wrong not to provide safeguards for those of us who think them necessary. One can call this a fudge, or one can see it for what it is, that is a Christian way of arguing which attempts to find a way to calm fears on all sides.

The Church of England attempts to be just that, a Church which meets people where they are. Not just the good church-going people, but those who turn up at the vicarage in a state and demand to see a priest; not just the theologically literate, but the people who know nothing save their own distress. We have on the one side those who seek to so radically reinterpret Scripture that it empties out the meaning of much of the Gospel, leaving only a warm fuzzy feeling in its place; we have on the other those whose interpretation of the Gospel seems to focus so much on what is ‘legal’ that is leaves only a cold, hard lack of emotion in its place. Between the two we seek to find ways where we can work with all to bring the Good News of salvation to all who will receive it.