Tuesday 9 October 2007

Bigger than any election

There is a political division that has existed in this country for far longer than any of our current political parties and can even be said to have been part of the reasons that party politics in this country started when the Whigs and Tories coalesced from loose interest groups. So for centuries, before we developed anything you would call a multicultural society, there was a tremendous and on occasions violent battle for the Hearts, Minds and Souls of everyone between the Church of England and the Church in Rome. These days everything is a lot more civilised and all of the major faiths and their component denominations are happy mostly to avoid anything more vicious than a heated debate as they attempt to recruit and retain congregation. But your soul is still a bigger deal than any election to a temporal authority, even if you could use how long Tony Blair dragging out his last days in power as an analogue for eternal torment. As I get older, I get more cynical and add more and more layers of scepticism onto the "this is another form of politics" thesis I latched onto when studying comparative religion when I was younger. This means that while I welcome news that the Church of England is promoting organ donation as a dutiful act (in a response to the House of Lords’ EU Social Policy and Consumer Affairs sub-committee) I wonder why they are being irresolute on the subject of opt-in verses opt-out systems. Where is the angle, what is being spun, why have they chosen this particular set of words, what is their aim? The specific quote that got me thinking along theses lines is:

Whether organ donation should be arranged through an "opt-in" or an "opt out" system is not a question on which Christians hold a single set of views, the response explains. The opt-in system, where people sign up to be donors if they die, reflects Christian concern ‘to celebrate and support gracious gifts, freely given’. An opt-out approach, where people state that they do not wish to donate organs, ‘could stress the Christian concern for human solidarity and living sacrificially for others’. — Rt Revd Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark

If it is Christian duty to donate and the Church of England wishes to maintain the position that this is a Christian country then surely it is their "duty" to promote an opt-out system. It isn’t as if anyone will be forced to donate, all the proposals I have seen include opportunities for the next of kin to argue that the deceased didn’t really want it and other safeguards.

It is entirely possible that my position on this is affected by the fact that I am a little grumpy at Lambeth Palace at the moment over their treatment of the American Episcopal Church. I don't think Rowan Williams should be bowing to the ultra conservative African churches on this one, especially as it is known that he personally believes that homophobia has no place in the church. On the flip side I have no great investment the latitudinarian unity of the Anglican Communion. I am C of E, not due to any burning sense of buy in to global group of Anglicans, but precisely because it is a broad church pun intended. I had kind of hoped that the Episcopal Church would decide they want to stand by their position. I know that would have lead to them being asked to leave, or the homophobic churches storm off in a huff. Either of which would probably bring about the end of the global Anglican Communion but I won't see that as a loss. I am watching to see what comes out of the moves by the Scottish and Mexican branches of the Anglican Communion, if they do manage to bring this to a head and create a breakaway Communion I would probably become a Scottish Episcopalian.

As a footnote, while researching this post, I realised that of the five primates in the home nations, three are Welsh, one is English and the other Ugandan.

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