A divide widens in the Anglican Church

There are times when the great events of the day are glimpsed through a prism of small, personal rituals and routines that offer new insights, almost a kind of truth.

And so it seemed for some Christians contemplating the convulsions within the hierarchy of the Anglican Church over the vexed question of allowing the appointment of women bishops.

Finally, 16 years after permitting the ordination of women priests, the General Synod of the Church of England took the first step this past week toward the consecration of female bishops, following the practices prevalent in the United States, Australia and Canada.

But far from being feted as a progressive step forward, the moment seemed drowned out by the minority voices of clerics and lay worshipers opposed to the elevation of women to the bishopric.

There was talk – increasingly common in the worldwide Anglican Communion – of schism, of rebel clerics abandoning their ministry within the Church of England to march toward the Church of Rome, reversing the historic split within Christendom inspired by Henry VIII in the 16th century…

But there is also a contest over the purity of faith and, as in the Roman Catholic Church, the protection of stern moral doctrine against flexible approaches to belief, behavior and worship.

As usual, the defenders of the faith are those who believe nothing changes and nothing should change. Or, even worse, ordinary human beings should have little or nothing to say about how their lives change.

Learning and knowledge play no part in the equation that dances in the heads of True Believers.

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