Friday, 15 May 2009

The Vicar of Dibley?

“Why are you people still so obsessed, after all this time, with women’s ordination? Surely the Anglican crisis is not about who can be ordained, but really concerns moral theology; our difficulties flow from the widespread abandonment within our Church of biblical standards of behaviour, largely over the issues surrounding human sexuality.”
Up to a point; yet whatever false and unbalanced stance the Church in any one generation may take in terms of its moral theology (and, of course, the Catholic will say we can have no moral theology except that of the Universal Church) it is always possible in the next generation to repent of it.
In terms of the crisis facing us, women’s ordination to the priesthood is far more of a problem and the ordination of women to the episcopate is the onset of nuclear winter as regards the survival of catholic sacramental life within the Anglican setup; there can be no rowing back from a decision of that magnitude, because sacramental uncertainty is enthroned at the very heart of the life of the Church, along with the resulting fracture of communion among us and the shattering of all our ecumenical hopes and dreams. As Anglican Catholics, in the eyes of the liberal “elite” which governs us, we are the visible reminders of that sacramental uncertainty, which is why we must be driven out.
“The friendly lady vicar with the colourful jumper” (to quote a wickedly funny Mitchell and Webb comedy sketch) has become as much a part of “ordinary” Anglican parish life in England and Wales as milky tea and the smell of mouldering hassocks in country churches (my own excluded, of course!) It’s not a matter, as some very influential commentators have maintained, of the abandonment of biblical values bringing about the existence of two religions within our Communion: the problem of the two religions has been around for some time in the person (however individually sincere and well-meaning) of “the friendly lady vicar with the colourful jumper.” And that is the case whether or not she herself realises it or has herself signed up to the modernist agenda.
As the more perceptive among the radical modernisers knew all along (so did their critics – we all remember being derided in the 1980s for pointing out the probable implications of breaking with the tradition of a male priesthood) all else follows from this one change. That is why women’s ordination had to be successfully pursued whatever the cost.
Now the citadel has been stormed, all that remains for those who still resist is either on the one hand to try to negotiate terms of surrender (of course, ultimately there will be no acceptable terms offered - the ultimate irony is the adoption by liberal revisionists of the maxim “error has no rights.”) or to try to disengage and march away into an uncertain future, but with our tattered banners still flying.


  1. As a friend of my blog, Father, you know the conclusion it's taken me much of my life to reach. Women's ordination and the 'abandonment within our Church of biblical standards of behaviour' are only symptoms of the real problem: the 'Reformation' was evil, undermining the English Church and turning it Protestant and Erastian.

    That Erastian blight was partly why the 'Enlightenment' hit English Protestantism so hard. Congregationalists turned into Unitarians and widespread private unbelief became normal in Anglicanism. The only difference between now and the 1700s in that respect is the 1960s brought it out in the open.

    Anyway conscientious Christians in the Anglican Church always felt bad about that fatal compromise and tried to correct it so there were the Evangelicals, the Methodists and us.

    We didn't come from nowhere. Of course what made our late Anglo-Catholic movement possible is our church was haunted by Catholicism.

    As Christopher Haigh wrote, in 1600 many English (and I think one can safely say Welsh as well at the time) were 'parish anglicans', not committed Protestants but still village mediæval Catholics at heart although most of outward Catholicism was forcibly taken from them (besides recusancy and 'Church Papists' it survived surreptitiously in the parishes into the 1580s).

    Of course you had the Carolines, the Non-Jurors, the old high churchmen... sometimes Catholic but not necessarily, and their religion was more an intellectual exercise not about sacramental practice let alone ceremonial.

    Then after the 'Enlightenment' and Industrial Revolution you had the Tractarians almost in the old high-church mode... whilst at the same time the Gothic Revival had the English looking nostalgically to the Catholic past (something better than dark satanic mills)... when those two movements met up in the mid-1800s and then on top of that took then-current RC practice (better than now) on board, voilà, Anglo-Catholicism.

    We thought we 'got' Anglicanism.

    History seems to say otherwise.

    I learnt the rudiments of Catholic doctrine at an old-school outwardly MOTR Anglican parish 30 years ago and have identified as Catholic since I was 13. When I found full-practice traditional ACism when I was 17 I thought I'd come home.

    Years ago in England I met somebody who'd been at the Congresses decades before that.

    But I'm sorry, Father, it's over.

    I don't understand why it's ending in my lifetime (yes, why me, but I'll cut that short) but I understand why it's ending.

    I never originally planned to head to another church but did so some time ago.

    (As you know I see the AC future in Britain as RC national parishes, part of Pope Benedict's Catholic revival.)

    The vicar of Dibley and her sisters are like a big neon sign saying 'You were wrong; we're Protestants'. It's taken me years to come to terms with that. But I'm not angry at them any more.

  2. Yes, I don't disagree with one word of what you say.
    Of course, the "why me?" syndrome is very hard to shake off, but for the sake of our souls we have as Anglo-Catholics to embrace reality (very belatedly, some would say) and wake up and smell the coffee. We have no long-term Anglican future; that shouldn't be a cause either of bitterness or of self-pity. The Reformation is simply taking its logical course, even if the fact that it has taken some five hundred years to do so is a cause for some wonder!
    So, is it all over? Yes, it is, in terms of the essential battle between Protestant "liberals" (and I agree with G.K. Chesterton about the terrible irony of applying that appellation to theological modernists) and Anglo-Catholics for the "soul" of Anglicanism. We have fought and lost. Having received part of my education at the "home of lost causes," I can only say that we have seen this coming for a very long time.
    Where the battle is still being fought is only really over how and when we abandon the leaky vessel of Anglicanism and collectively take to the lifeboats hoping to be picked up by the barque of St Peter. Perhaps that process is already underway. Failing that, we will have to jump overboard and swim as individuals before we are made to walk the plank. (Sorry, too many nautical analogies!)
    But, whatever happens, we have to try (again collectively or indiviadually, as priests or laymen) to repatriate the Catholic elements in Anglicanism within the Western Church where they have always belonged and from whence they originally came. That in itself should be a cause for rejoicing, that some old wounds in the Body of Christ are being healed.


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