The church must not be held hostage

It seems that 1,300 clergy have threatened to leave the Church of England of women are ordained as bishops. Also, one priest has threatened to stay in the church if they don’t start ordaining women bishops. So the Archbishop of Canterbury and his compadres have some choices to make.

Here’s my humble advice. Ignore anyone who tries to hold the church hostage. A few times in my ministry, someone has threatened to leave the parish I serve or to cancel their financial support if this was done or that wasn’t undone. My response is consistent. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’d be happy to listen to your concerns. If you are unable to worship here, I would be happy to help you find a new spiritual home.”

Reasonable objections I’m always happy to hear. Once the “nuclear option” is played — that is, the threat of departure — I find that rational discourse is no longer likely to have any affect. I’m happy to listen to concerns, and even to change my mind or admit mistakes. I’m not willing to listen to inflexible demands, and neither should any other leader.

Archbishop Rowan Williams and his fellow bishops will have to evaluate their situation. As they consider whether to proceed with women bishops, many factors may play a part. (Personally, it’s a slam dunk no-brainer for me, and the sooner they get women in purple, the sooner their House of Bishops will improve.) One factor that must play no part is the petulant threat of 1,300 clergy to leave the church or one priest to stay in the church.

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