But then, the church has ceased to speak with one voice on the matter. Anyone who guessed that the CT article is graced with a photograph of the event could also guess that said picture shows perennial episcopal aspirant Jeffrey John, who is transparent as glass about his desire to make whatever diocese he attains dominion over as a power base for dictating approval of people, well, like himself. Church teaching becomes thus something to be captured and made to serve his views. But then, what's the point? The PM has already shown that church teaching is held inferior to, well, whoever it is that taught him. Or maybe it is simply his own urges and calculations which rule him.
There has been a lot of going on about Ross Douthat's doubts on the prospects of liberal Christianity. A lot of the rejoinders don't seem to be able to get past the adolescent observation that the conservative denominations are also on the ropes. But really, considering Cameron's remarks, it's hardly surprising. The various churches are all having a hard time getting people to care, I think for somewhat different reasons. The Catholic Church's problems in the USA, for instance, are plainly derived in part from reaction to the high-profile sex scandals. But the secularists are also getting their wish: it is they who are setting society's agenda, and the churches are, by and large, simply buying into the programs given to them by worldly authorities.
This corrupts the conservatives and liberals differently, because they are in bondage to different secular authorities with different aims. The conservatives are controlled by business interests who are uninterested in theology, and this means that they are free to adhere to basic theological doctrines while at the same time their moral teaching is contaminated with neo- and paleo-con economic and social dogmas. The liberals, however, are enslaved by the academic and social bureaucratic establishment, and these people are notoriously adverse to Christian tradition. The irreligion of the academy produces a derivative irreligion in their ecclesiastical followers, so that the result is that, as Douthat says, "the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism."
There remain centrists, of various political views, who are not beholden to the outside, but they are conspicuously beleaguered. Their faith that scripture- and tradition-based theology is the starting point for moral reasoning and "lifestyle" (as though one works out how to live in the same manner as one works out how to get one's hair cut at the barber or salon) is dismissed as antique. If they represent the best foundation for a church going forward (for they do make an argument for religion above and before their moral teaching), they are also crippled by institutions which abuse their otherwise commendable loyalty. I have tended to have little use for the "emergent" movement, because too many of its proponents (Brian McLaren, I'm looking down the road at you) are object lessons in the corruption of hitherto conservative non-denom evangelicals by the same intellectual forces which ruined mainline theology. But as it stands, the only hope going forward is to break free of existing institutions, and indeed perhaps to see institutionality itself in different terms, because of the obsession with church power which so drives liberal Christianity.
That said, I'm not abandoning the Episcopal Church this week. But right now its claim to my loyalty is based very weakly on being able to find a sufficiently orthodox parish, and nothing else.