Monday, October 18, 2004

First thoughts on the Windsor Report from a sceptical gay Anglican 

My initial reading of the Windsor Report into the nature of authority in the Anglican Communion has, being a political scientist, focused more on the changes to structures of governance proposed in the report arather than the theological background behind them. The proposals on the future of Anglican "structures of unity" and consequences for the nature and placement of authority within the Communion strike me as being radical indeed.

The enhancement of the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been noted as a radical departure by many commentators, but the promotion of the Anglican Communion Office as a de facto Curia worries me rather more; the interaction of a highly powered ACO with a federation of churches used to local, synodical and dispersed authority is a recipe for conflict. Moreover it would mark a radical re-clericalisation and centralisation of authority.

The tentative proposals to strengthen the authority of the Lambeth Conference also pose a number of fundamental questions about the nature of authority in Anglicanism. The empowerment of an Archepiscopal College in a Communion with a history of synodical goverment and considerable lay authority is a radical departure, particularly when the report tentatively proposes some sort of executive authority for the Conference based on
supermajority votes. I think the Commission has underestimated the likely resentment of laypeople in theologically liberal parts of the Communion to being handed down diktats by Lambeth, forgetting that the pressure both for the appointment of Gene Robinson and blessing of same sex relationships in New Westminster came primarily from the laity in both Dioceses.

While the report didn't and couldn't consider the matter of homosexuality itself, it did strike me that the laying of blame was squarely at the liberal door. No mention of how the bullyboy tactics, tub thumping and none too subtle anti-White racism of some of our fathers in God may also have led to the collapse in mutual confidence which afflicts us now. No mention of how Jeffrey John's opponents claimed not to be opposed to his lifestyle but the fact that he opposed Issues in Human Sexuality (I mean, where are we? Eighteenth Century Italy?)

In Lambeth Resolution 1.10, given almost scriptural authority by some, the Bishops of the Anglican Communion committed themselves to listening to the experiences of gay churchpeople. When I see some evidence of this I might have a bit more confidence that this isn't just a prelude to a rerun of 1998, with a superduper anti-gay resolution in 2008 given executive force, and banishment for all who disagree.

I also wonder what happens to Gene Robinson and those who participated in his consecration. It seems Robinson is to be treated as a pariah by the rest of the Communion and those who participated in his consecration asked to exclude themselves from episcopal gatherings - presumably including the Lambeth Conference with its enhanced authority.

Anyway, there was never a chance of the Commission coming even close to a resolution with its current mandate. At the end of the day, the gay issue is only a proxy for the real issue: what is the nature of the supreme authority we grant to scripture. If we are going to have a meaningful conversation about the issues that divide us, I suspect that's where we have to start.

Hold on to your seat folks. I don't think the bumpy ride is quite over yet!

Friday, October 08, 2004

EU to join Turkey? 

The North Sea Diaries report on the Turkish Grand National Assembly giving the go ahead for the European Union to join Turkey. (For the humourless: a spoof.)

More seriously, EUPolitix names and shames the bad boys in the Commission's internal debate on Turkey.

Unsurpising names - Franz Fischler who has expressed his views before, Frits Bolkestein, I used to think was a good Internal Market Commissioner but now realise is a racist old bigot, Michaele Schreyer (given the general nonsense from the German Christian Democrats).

More surprising names - Loyola de Palacio(thought she'd have had more sense), Pascal Lamy (ditto), Jan Figel' (Slovakia is a strong supporter of Turkish membership, and it also has the flakiest democracy of the 10 states to join this year and ought to have a little more understanding).

Sort of not surprising - Markos Kyprianou, although I'd hoped the Greek Cypriots might have shown a bit more humility given they scuppered this year's peace deal.

Surprising and worrying - Olli Rehn, the Finn who will become the EU's new enlargement Commissioner as of November. It's especially worrying to see someone so crucial to the accession process to be so negative.

Sitting on the fence but whipped into line by Chirac: Jacques Barrot.

Especially good boy - Stavros Dimas - the Greeks really are trying their best to put their differences with their oul' enemy behind them. More power to them. The brave stance of both main Greek political parties on the Turkish accession issue deserves more credit in the rest of Europe.

Any and all of these Commissioners - but especially Rehm given his key rôle - are worth a quick e-mail to from any citizens or residents of the EU, just to keep the buggers honest.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Forgive Me Lord, For I Bear Collective Responsibility... 

Former leader of the Swedish Left Party, Gudrun Schyman has proposed that men pay a "man tax" simply for being male, to make us all aware of our supposed collective responsibility for domestic violence.

I must say that I have some positive views about Schyman. Anyone who annoys the holier-than-thou Swedish political and media establishment enough to be forced out as party leader must have a good side to her - not the tax evasion side, but the side that caused lots of sanctimonious Swedish tongues to cluck about her drinking. In many ways she sounds like the sort of person you want to have a few beers with.

All the same, this proposal is the sort that is easily dismissed as crazy, but actually very dangerous. Firstly, the notion of collective guilt has pretty much been expunged from comtemporary political discourse. The Holocaust saw to that, and rightly so. I'm afraid its all too typical of the contemporary far-left to propose all sorts of illiberal drivel on the basis that it's supportive of equality, or the environment, or public health. The libertarianism of the sixties left - which Schyman was a part of - seems to have departed.

Secondly, as even the folks at feministing point out, this is the sort of thing that provokes a backlash. Why the hell should I pay a tax because some scumbags beat women? If I obey the law and social norms and get penalised anyway, what conclusion can I draw but that the law is an ass and the people who propose laws like this are arses.

But at its simplest, this is the sort of misandry that gives feminisim a bad name. It makes it all the easier for anti-equality chauvinists to argue that all feminists are man-haters with a secret castration fixation. And while that's a dreadfully inaccurate statement, I can't help feeling it's correct in the case of Gudrun Schyman.

And before you think I am wasting by breath on a crackpot Communist whose political career is in terminal decline - today's lunacy often becomes tomorrow's common sense (look at how much previously faddist gibberish has become conventional wisdom as part of the obesity panic). Don't be too cocky about issues like these...

Nuts about Nuts 

What is more frightening? The fact that a rather stupid headmaster in Cumbria has banned children from playing conkers without wearing industrial goggles? The fact that children like Danielle Armstrong are being brainwashed into thinking that zero risk activities are dangerous? (Danielle says that, "It doesn't stop you from having fun because you still play the game. It's just protecting your eyes at the same time." And I'm sure the head teacher didn't put her up to saying that.)

Or is the most frightening thing some of the truly idiotic reaction from some of the posters on the BBC's online message board.

Dave Brown from Bishop's Stortford tells us that:
The fact is that if children play dangerous games without taking precautions, someone is going to get hurt, sooner or later. The question is, would you be so relaxed if it was your child who was hurt? Because it could be!
No Dave, it couldn't be, because conkers is not a dangerous sport. There is just a teeny difference in danger between conkers and, say, drag racing.

"Conker Law", UK, tells us that:
Having to go to court over someone else's injured child is the most stressful experience going - and there will always be people who think it is your fault, regardless of any outcome.
How are children going to be 'injured' playing conkers. Maybe the head teacher, like Norwich City Council, thinks the pupils might slip and fall on mulched conker?

Heather from Stockport suggests that:
Surely it would be more sensible, fairer and cheaper to ban the kids from playing conkers at school?
Dear me, I hope you don't have any children, Heather, because if you do I bet they have really miserable lives.

Isobel from Salisbury adds that:
But now I know conkers really can damage the eyes, I think it's the most sensible compromise. Well done Mr Halfpenny!
Now, Isobel, how do you know that conkers can really damage the eyes? I mean, if I went up to you and told you that I was actually an alien from the planet Zarg, and the son of the Zargian demigod of love, would you believe me?

At least some schools have a more positive approach to the pastime.

The real tragedy is that which paranoiacs with too much time on their hands like Sean Halfpenny come up with nonsense like this, real safety at work issues – like the use of undertrained casual staff on building sites – go ignored.

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