Theo Hobson points out that the Church of England seems unable to "reform itself without simultaneously pandering to the reactionaries who don't want reform." He suggests that this "jelly-headedness" with respect to progressive change is built into the very institutional framework of a church that is built around an ecclesiastical hierarchy:
Could it be that there is a fundamental incompatibility between ecclesiastical authority and modernity? Maybe the very idea of an authoritative spiritual hierarchy is irredeemably pre-modern. That is why the reactionaries can't be defeated: they are always more in tune with the logic of the institution than the progressives. The fact is that the feminist movement is ecclesiastically subversive - and the gay rights movement, too. For they both expose the fact that church authority has a different logic to secular liberal principles.This hierarchy is indeed pre-modern, a relic of an era when absolute monarchies ruled the world, when theological governance simply mirrored the prevailing model for authority found in the secular arena. We've come a long way since then in the secular world, but parts of the theological world are still stuck in the past. The result does seem to be a stodgy conservatism. We've certainly seen this tendency towards resisting progressive reform within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, which had a brief flirtation with it under John XXIII but since that time has had a succession of reactionary popes, including the current one, who made a name for himself during his previous job by bullying and harassing progressive theologians within his church.
One of Theo Hobson's commenters pointed out that Rowan Williams, who is a representative of this ecclesiastical hierarchy in England, ignores the fact that "his Church is supposed to have been founded by a radical wandering Rabbi who spent more time talking to tax collectors and prostitutes than he did worrying about whether going with his convictions would lose him his pension fund."
At every turn, Jesus stood opposed to those who set themselves up as the gatekeepers, who presumed to control and define terms of religious discourse. How did it happen that a church that claimed to follow his teachings itself became just another example of the very theological authoritarianism that he resisted? As the Who once put it--meet the new boss, same as the old boss.