From freedom to compulsion

  • Sumo

When change happens, or is suggested, someone will always be excluded. It’s inevitable. There’s no way to make a significant change – or reject a significant change – without exclusion and compulsion.

In my past, I’ve been in Anglican churches. I became a Christian in an Anglican church, and served on the ministry staff at some too. So I am aware of all the debate around ordination of women to be able to lead a parish.

A common argument for ordination goes like this:

We in favour of ordination are not going to impose our views on you. You can continue to disagree and be part of male-led churches.
But you who are against ordination are imposing on us. Be fair, and give everyone room. There’s ample room for disagreement.

It’s rubbish.

If and when the change is made, it’s a complete change. In practice, it takes time to work through, but it’s still a complete change. (Because of this time lag, there’s the possibility of a reversal of the decision. But that’s another post.)

A great example of this is a report of controversy in Canberra-Goulburn Diocese (Bishop Rejects Claim of Hardline Attitude).

The controversy is that ministers moving from Sydney Diocese (no women leading parishes) to Canberra-Goulburn (which permits women leading parishes) are undermining Canberra-Goulburn’s practice.

It’s a poor article: untrue about the Diocese of Sydney, resorting to caricature, and not one aggrieved Canberran is actually named or quoted. Yet what it does include gives the lie to the above argument. It shows that there is, in Canberra-Goulburn, no room for both views. There’s no room for disagreement.

A couple of quotations make my point.

Firstly, from the bishop, Stuart Robinson:

On my election I said I would require verbal assurances from any new clergy appointment to this diocese that they will support the ordained ministry of women. All clergy I have appointed have given me this assurance and I remain committed to this policy.

It’s now a requirement to agree with the policy.

Then there’s the word of a rector (senior minister in a parish) who is also liaison officer for the bishop, Gillian Varcoe:

She said that under the diocese’s code of practice, anyone who undermined female ordination could have disciplinary action taken against them.

If you disagree, you’re open to discipline.

We see that pro- and anti- ordination groups are equally exclusive.

Why is this important? To show we can generally ignore the argument that says you need to be more inclusive. Inclusion is an end point, a blessed fruit. It is not a starting point. The starting point can only ever be what is the right thing to do.