Monday, 2 January 2012

Indifferent - but to what?

Once again Fr Geoffrey Kirk, writing in the January edition of Forward in Faith's New Directions, has hit the nail on the head. In a particularly trenchant article he challenges the Catholic Movement in the Church of England to recognise that the battle has been lost.
But this is the passage which struck me particularly forcibly, having had the same experience, although a few years later:
"How vividly I remember Denis Nineham celebrating in the college chapel in a chasuble bought by Austin Farrer, behaving for all the world as though he believed in the Real Presence, when he did not even believe in the Incarnation. The virus has proved not only terminal but catching. It was doctrinal indifferentism which allowed the development of the so-called 'Doctrine of Reception' was was embraced by opponents of women priests more or less tongue-in-cheek. It has left its doleful mark."
How very true. We have seen it time after time, accompanied by a 'business as usual' mentality and a refusal or, more charitably, an inability to deliver on our rhetoric in the face of the untrustworthiness and betrayals of our opponents. Nowhere has this been seen more clearly than in Wales where now, because compromise has proved predictably to be a one-way-street, orthodox opposition simply does not count for anything. The sniggering from the sidelines has become almost deafening.

Yet, of course, the doctrinal indifferentism Fr Kirk identifies goes hand in hand with heavy handed sociological prescriptivism. You can be as 'radically orthodox' as you wish in modern Anglicanism just so long as you subscribe to contemporary society's equality agenda, regardless of the damage done to previously shared notions of apostolic faith and order. Doctrine simply doesn't matter any more, the real pariahs are those who are unfashionable enough not only to believe that it should, but that its content should be unchanging. The lack of theological, as opposed to sociological, argument in the debates in synods and governing bodies by the proponents of women's ordination to priesthood and episcopate has spoken for itself and has proved to be an acute and ongoing source of embarrassment to a Christian ecclesial body still engaged, for what it's worth, in ecumenical dialogue with the great Churches of West and East.

The Archbishop of Canterbury can pen as many good wishes to New Directions as he likes, but very clearly and to his lasting regret, with his hands being tied firmly behind his back by General Synod, as things stand now those expressions of prayerful support can mean nothing in terms of active support in favour of Anglican comprehensiveness. [And since when were the followers of the Oxford Movement in favour of that - another sign of indifferentism?] 'Episcopally led and synodically governed' means what it says; bishops, even archbishops, don't make the decisions which count.

Update 05.01.2012:  A link to Fr Kirk's article is now available at the Ordinariate Portal [here]

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