Sunday, 6 July 2008

Giles Fraser: Enough is enough. The extremists must be confronted

[...] The conservatives have decided that they can exploit the deep homophobia of many African Christians in order to stage a coup for the soul of the church. Suddenly, we are once again fighting the unresolved battles of the Reformation, with narrow-minded puritans seeking to impose their joyless and claustrophobic world-view on the rest of the church. The newly formed Federation of Confessing Anglicans (Foca) is seeking bridgeheads in wealthy evangelical parishes and the English ecclesiological peace treaty lies in tatters. All eyes now turn to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Is there anything he can do about these Focas?

His track record isn't all that encouraging. Since this crisis began, Dr Williams has been bending over backwards to accommodate evangelical demands. Despite his progressive instincts, he reversed his support for the gay cleric Jeffrey John becoming a bishop and then decided that he would not invite Bishop Gene Robinson to the forthcoming Lambeth conference. Time and again, the Archbishop has given in to conservative ultimatums in the search for unity. And all that happens is that they come back for more.

A traditionally inclusive church like the C of E is especially vulnerable to infiltration by extremists. For the whole point of being inclusive is that all are welcome. It's a natural openness that is currently being exploited by those who have no love in their heart for the very inclusivity that allows them in in the first place. Even more so than the Labour Party in the 1970s, the English church is vulnerable to entryism. If fundamentalist Christianity were allowed to take over the Church of England, it would gain unprecedented access to national government through its role as the established church. The prospect of a state church, determined to convert Muslims, should set off huge flashing red lights in every corridor of power. In America, the separation of church and state creates a firewall between fundamentalist religion and state power. We have no such protection. Read more
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