Church seeks to get free of society's injustice and bigotry

RUSSELL ARMITAGE
Last updated 08:48 25/07/2014
Russell Armitage
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
Russell Armitage.

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OPINION: As manager of the Diocese of Waikato for several years I had many interesting discussions, usually over lunches, with Michael Hewat and we both seemed to enjoy this. Michael is an intelligent man, has studied and has an ability to think sensibly.

It is therefore very sad and almost incomprehensible that he has got himself into this no-exit route into the religious wilderness. One of bigotry and exclusion. He was once against the ordination of women but justice and logic eventually prevailed and he changed his mind. He says that the church is "obsessed with sex".

During my time working in the Anglican Church I would say that, unfortunately, it is people like Michael Hewat who are obsessed with sex, as they have prevented the church achieving decency and humanity on this matter, by their illogical and primitive views on sex and sexuality.

The Anglican Church has been trying for far too long to simply include people of all sexualities within the grace and blessing of God. I am sure Michael would see us all as people of God. In seeking this inclusion the Anglican Church is just doing what it has done for the last few centuries - working against the injustice and bigotry imbedded in societies for the liberation of oppressed groups.

Enlightened people within the church, moved by the spirit, have fought for the emancipation and equality of slaves, peasants, those wanting to read the Bible in their own language, people of coloured race, women, the list goes on - and let us remember that in all these cases the church and some of its theologians and adherents used dogma and passages in the Bible to justify this discrimination and exclusion - just as Michael is doing now for homosexual people. It is a tragedy for him. Such a waste of his talents and his life.

I was raised a rationalist and have always had a healthy scepticism about religion. It has caused considerable damage to individuals and communities on many occasions. However, as a student of history I also acknowledge the church's contribution (the Catholic and Anglican in particular) to music, art, architecture, keeping the light of learning alive after the collapse of the Roman Empire, social justice and a set of values. The protestant church did away with the pope. However, the section of the church that Michael has now aligned himself with has turned the Bible into a paper pope. It has more to do with the religious dogma that gave us the Inquisition, the burning of witches, apartheid, the persecution of scientists such as Galileo and the oppression of women. It has more in common with fundamentalist Islam of which we see so much today, which ironically also concerns Michael, than a modern enlightened Christianity of which he should be a part. This is a great shame.

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- Waikato Times

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