In declining to permit women bishops, the General Synod of the Church of England has made its most positive decision in decades, possibly ever.
Christianity is the basis of this state and the foundation of all three of its political traditions. But independent research has found very large proportions of the women among the Church of England’s clergy to be doubters of or disbelievers in key points of doctrine. Two thirds deny “that Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin”. One quarter denies the existence “of God the Father Who created the world”. Assuming a woman on the episcopal “team” in each diocese, of those with privileged access to the media and other organs of national life as the voice of the Christianity professed by 72 per cent of Britons, at least one eighth would have been agnostics or atheists.
A positive decision to retain declared “Fathers in God” sets the tone for the introduction of a legal presumption of equal parenting. For the restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit was being paid to mothers. For the restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father. For repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as a child’s parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed. And for paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child was 18 or left school.
That last, in particular, would reassert paternal authority, and thus require paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence. That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver: high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment. All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need. Not least, the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing that secure economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. Nuclear power. Coal, not dole.
And it includes foreign policy, in no small part because those sent to war tend to come from working-class backgrounds, where starting to have children often still happens earlier than has lately become the norm. Think of those very young men whom we see going off or coming home, hugging and kissing their tiny children. Yet our society urgently needs to re-emphasise the importance of fatherhood. That authority cannot be affirmed while fathers are torn away from their children and harvested in wars. You can believe in fatherhood, or you can support wars under certainly most and possibly all circumstances, the latter especially in practice today even if not necessarily in the past or in principle. You cannot do both.
To argue for this by word and by sheer presence is a role for living icons of God the Father, addressed as “Fathers in God”.