The Christian Church has been broadening its horizons over the past few decades, with both homosexual and female candidates now being considered for important religious appointments.
It has been a controversial development, however. For many, the inclusion of homosexual and female priests completely undermines their devout faith. Others rejoiced over Christianity’s step forward. The question to consider, though, is why the ‘solutions’ to these issues have been worked through painstakingly, when beforehand they seemed to conflict so deeply with doctrine.
Jeffrey John made headlines in 2003 when he was nominated to be a Church of England bishop – and then openly admitted to being in a gay relationship. After two months he was asked to withdraw his name, and complied. John has clearly since overcome the ‘peer pressure’ because he’s back again, nominated as Bishop of Southwark.
Fundamentally, the same Christian doctrine has been followed for nearly 2000 years. Yet it’s these ‘exceptions’ that generated such dispute which will make all the difference for the religion’s future.
Hardest to establish (and admittedly controversial) is whether the Churches are progressing because of social need, or because they’ve genuinely found a way for their doctrines – branded as ‘timeless’ – to remain contemporary; a ‘desirable’ ethos. If it were, at first, outrageous for the majority to consider, then the acceptance of homosexual priests surely represents something other than Anglicanism. Requiring followers to be convinced that something is in absolute accordance with their faith seems somewhat dubious.
In the realms of Catholicism, former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has recently been considered for the new British ambassador to the Vatican. Controversially, she converted from the Church of England in 1993, after the acceptance of female priests was voted through. In a way, Widdecombe’s case appears healthier: personally changing to a denomination or religion that better suits one’s own principles, rather than the creed itself undergoing a change.
In the United Kingdom, between 2004 and 2008 Church membership dropped by a hefty 2 million; 500,000 people losing faith in something they believed in, per year.
Are the Churches scared that they’re losing followers because their doctrines are (somehow, to their incredulity) outdated? Perhaps they should be. Christianity’s – Catholic, Protestant, Non-Trinitarian, Eastern alike – pull is clearly still strong, but this 17 year British trend of decline looks set to continue. Belief, it would seem, now comes hand in hand with double standards as set out by their structured communities.
An eagerness to demonstrate inclusivity may indicate a desperate attempt to gain members. If a Church appears to create new ‘rules’, it will evolve outside of the religion that the ‘original’ believers believed in. It would perhaps be far more credible to create an entirely new denomination.
In the future, maybe Christian communities could take a leaf out of John’s book. Inclusivity is excellent progress, but don’t succumb to ‘peer pressure’, even if the bully is a pious population of over 42.6 million. No-one wants their belief to be undermined.