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Gay bishops and women bishops are not the same issue

By Melanie McDonagh, Spectator

This being the Ephiphany, churchgoing Anglicans will be on the receiving end of any variety of sermons on the visit by the three kings to the infant Christ. There won’t, by and large, then, be much attention given to the whole issue of gay bishops. No attention at all, probably.

You’d never think it, though, judging from the broadcast and press reaction to the news. On the Radio 4 Today programme yesterday, the presenter said sternly to one conservative Anglican, Norman Russell, the Archdeacon of Oxford, that the fuss over the issue of gay bishops just goes to show why people are turned off by the church: it can only ever think about sex. The archdeacon replied mildly that this wasn’t quite the case: the church did talk about other things.

Russell could have made a stronger case. He could have said, nope, it’s not the church that’s obsessed by sex; it’s journalists. The only reason why it feels like the church spends its time arguing about sex and gender is that these are the sole issues that are taken up in broadcast discussions about religion. Week after week, clergy treat congregations to reflections on justice, mercy, charity; much of the time in synod is taken up with the question of how best Anglicanism can serve the wider community; most of the time, Anglican clergy try to put these principles into effect on the ground. And what are the chances that any of this will be reflected in BBC coverage of religion? Quite. But give most papers, most pundits, a sniff of a row about gay clergy or women bishops and they’re off.

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