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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jul 08, 2008

In a display of spirited independence comparable to the Soviet Agricultural Congress of 1951, the Church of England has voted to approve women bishops. This decision, much like that of the Society of Jesus in 1995 to embrace gender-inclusive language, is expected to send shock-waves throughout the world of aromatherapy and to have consequences extending into the August issues of The Tablet and beyond.

The difficulty faced by the synod is the difficulty encountered whenever a farce is played successfully before a live audience: the struggle of the principal actors to keep a straight face while enjoying the nonsense themselves. Poor Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, twisted himself into a pretzel in his efforts to hide his mirth. Three years ago Bishop Tom Wright had reminded his colleagues of the value of pretending a real debate was occurring and that the conclusion was not rigged from the outset, but in the hilarity of the moment his cautions were ignored.

Along with its decision to permit women bishops, the synod considered options for mollifying those Anglicans who actually attend worship services in the Church, and who overwhelmingly oppose the move. It seems that some variation of the "bishops without borders" scheme will be improvised, allowing the traditionalists to maintain e-mail fellowship while the victors continue the crusade against second-hand smoke and homophobia.

For all its predictability, there's something morbidly pathetic about this C of E stagecraft, inasmuch as the hopes of a dwindling number of un-cynical Christian Anglicans are abused so cavalierly. Think of it this way: imagine you'd trained as a (legitimate) freestyle wrestler, and qualified for the Olympic Games. On your arrival, you find that the medal competition is to be conducted by the World Wrestling Federation -- the professional ham-actors, that is -- who have scripted beforehand all the results according to their own notions of viewer-appeal and revenue generation. The WWF magnates patronize you by trying to make you feel part of a real competition and by using the language of amateur athletics -- which they never entirely grasp. They key point is that you know the folks in charge of the pageant are secretly laughing at anyone who takes their enterprise seriously.

So which option do you choose? Do you don a blue-sequined leotard and crawl into the cage to do battle with Rowan Williams, or do you give Lambeth a miss, and look for humbler but authentic accomplishment among the genuine amateurs at GAFCON?

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  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2008 2:48 PM ET USA

    Di, I've never seen this subject handled more exactly or succinctly. I guess I had always thought that Rowan was being honest in his liberal bent-that the man was incapable of treating others so cynically. It appears that I may have been mistaken.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2008 11:03 AM ET USA

    Drat! I left my blue-sequened leotard on the floor at Saint Patrick's Cathedral! Maybe I'll borrow one at the clown mass [lowercase intentional] next door. mommy....I'm es-scareded of clowns.... help.... ....please?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2008 8:45 AM ET USA

    A great analogy. The Church of England as the WWF. Could the same analogy apply to the Society of Jesus? Did the same folks that in 1995 promoted exclusive (the use of "man" as including men and women is inclusive) gender language all of a sudden see the light and now profess complete obedience to the Pope in 2008? Or is is just the 2008 version of the WWF?

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