Church of England

Good Disagreement: report fellow Christians to the police for daring to disagree

It isn’t entirely clear what happened to 1 Corinthians 6 in the Christian pursuit of Good Disagreement. It appears that if certain liberal/progressive Christians disagree with conservative/traditionalist ones, they think it better to run to the police rather than take their complaint directly to them, and engage in reasoned discussion, prayer and mature fellowship. Matthew Henry expounds:

6:1-8 Christians should not contend with one another, for they are brethren. This, if duly attended to, would prevent many law-suits, and end many quarrels and disputes. In matters of great damage to ourselves or families, we may use lawful means to right ourselves, but Christians should be of a forgiving temper. Refer the matters in dispute, rather than go to law about them. They are trifles, and may easily be settled, if you first conquer your own spirits. Bear and forbear, and the men of least skill among you may end your quarrels. It is a shame that little quarrels should grow to such a head among Christians, that they cannot be determined by the brethren. The peace of a man’s own mind, and the calm of his neighbourhood, are worth more than victory. Lawsuits could not take place among brethren, unless there were faults among them.

This doesn’t seem to apply to Christian gay rights campaigner Jayne Ozanne, who talks an awful lot about Good Disagreement, but for whom, in truth, no dissent from her views can be good. Since her overriding theology is that of inclusion, any reasoned proposition for exclusion logically becomes ‘hate’, which constitutes a crime, which must be reported to the police. She’ll probably consider this article to be a ‘hate crime’, too. It’s hard to tell. She blocks on Twitter anyone who disagrees with her, even if they’ve never actually disagreed with her on Twitter. No dialogue at all. Just blocked. Isn’t that just Totally Brilliant Disagreement (© Rev’d Peter Ould) among professing Christians?

According to Jayne Ozanne, the post on Vicky Beeching and vocation was ‘hate’, pure and simple. Vicky Beeching herself called it an “attack“, which is odd, because reasoned argument about an issue isn’t personal attack at all. But perhaps even that observation constitutes an attack? Maybe to disagree with a deeply-held view is to attack? So all must now agree, or else it’s ‘hate’?

“It took a lot of vulnerability to talk about why I’ve never become a priest,” Vicky Beeching explained. To be clear, then, she was feeling fragile and vulnerable, so she wrote an op-ed piece for the Guardian? So a few hundred quid mitigated her fragility and vulnerability? Is it ‘hate’ to ask these questions? Do they constitute an “attack”?

Why should a provocative piece purposely placed in the Guardian – in which the Church of England is maligned as damaging to people’s well-being, and the Archbishop of Canterbury smeared with duplicity – be considered immune from critique? Is it that Good Disagreement can only happen when “attack” is not perceived? Whose threshold of feeling should then obtain? What if no personal attack was intended, but one is felt?

Why should Vicky Beeching feel free to attack the Church of England, which is people, but feel “sad” when her attack on them is met with counter defence? Why should she feel free to attack Justin Welby for issuing a statement which is “less progressive than it first sounds”, but object to a counter affirmation of moral orthodoxy, or the mere questioning of why the Archbishop should need to be progressive on this matter at all? Or is it that not to be progressive is to ‘hate’? So all conservative/traditionalists become “abusive and vile“?

As the College of Bishops meets this week to contemplate the way forward after ‘Shared Conversations’, what if they determine there will be no change in the church’s liturgy to accommodate same-sex unions? Would that constitute an omission of ‘hate’? What if they decide to uphold the essential catholicity of church teaching on marriage, thereby excluding Vicky Beeching from fulfilling her vocation? Would that assertion of orthodoxy be ‘hate’? What if they just meet to pray, explore, meditate and reflect, and not issue any great gay-equality proclamation at all? Would that inaction perpetuate inequality and injustice, and so ‘hate’?

What if the Bishops of the Church of England, as they meet this week, change absolutely nothing on the doctrine or definition of Christian marriage? What if they meet again in February and nothing changes? And again next July and nothing changes? What if the Bishops collectively determine that this is not simply a controversy about one theological anthropology over another, but a matter of Church catholicity, God’s pattern for humanity in creation, the authority of Scripture, and the weight of the experience of the reading of Scripture? What if they decide to place salvation and the Godhead above gender identity and inclusion? Can we not then agree to disagree without hyperbolic screeches of ‘hate’ and the wasting of police time?