Departing clerics may make room for ordinary Christians

Viv Groskop is not surprised that the priest whose rigidity drove her out of the Church of England is now one of the first to flee to Rome.

She writes on the Comment is Free: belief blog in the Guardian:

Around the time I got married I convinced myself that the Church of England’s stance on remarriage was impressive: I told myself that I approved of the fact that my husband’s first marriage wasn’t going to be swept under the carpet; that the church had more respect for marriage than to pretend it doesn’t matter how many times you do it. But over time I’ve changed my mind.

Ten years on I’m disillusioned for the opposite reasons to the angry Anglicans. I would like to see the Church of England be more inclusive not only towards women priests but towards people like me – people who rarely attend church, often question their faith, but who are, essentially, supportive of the church. It’s not as if you’d ever be turned away from a service, but there is a clear message on high days and holidays. Always the hopeful raised eyebrow: are you coming back on a regular basis or not? How serious are you? In today’s Christian Britain you are either atheist or God Squad. There’s no inbetween.

Those, like [Father Stephen Bould of St Peter on the East Cliff in Folkestone], who look to Rome would say this is right. That if you want to marry in our church, you follow our rules. That there is no room for fellow travellers, you either believe or you don’t, the church is your life or it is not. But this is completely unrealistic in modern society. In any case, the church I grew up in was about more than religion: it was about community, ritual and a sense of belonging. Where can you go for those now?

Perhaps if more take the road to Rome it will help. Anyone who wants a doggedly principled stance towards the Christian faith knows where to go. But while parish priests bicker about who is more biblically correct, they should beware. A whole new generation is heading to the nearest yoga class.

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