Thursday, 24 May 2012

Postscript about synods

There has always been substantial, even essential, disagreement within Anglicanism among the three broad theological traditions which emerged in the Church of England as a result of the reformation settlement. It is extremely difficult to see how synodical government could ever have had much of a constructive role where there is such acknowledged doctrinal 'diversity.' 
However, a synodical constitution (where crucially the episcopate had far more of a determining and leading role than in the present Church of England structure) worked relatively well in the Church in Wales from the days of disestablishment in 1921 to the mid 1970s and beyond. 
Yet in the contemporary church  the corrosive role of secularism, the prevalence of rather simplistic views about the importance of 'democracy,' and the failure of catechesis to counter the powerful social influence of the mass media has certainly meant we have now a far less theologically, historically  and scripturally aware laity than ever before. 
And if we add to that the growing influence of theological radicalism among the clergy since the 1970s, and a highly efficient system of networking among those liberals and establishment figures who have subtly but effectively determined episcopal elections in Wales since the 1990s, we arrive at the present situation where there are now no effective brakes on the runaway expression of heterodox opinion which is our local version of synodical governance. 
The doctrinal and ecclesial checks and balances put in place by the main architect of the Constitution of the Church in Wales, Archbishop  C.A.H. Green, have entirely broken down as a result of conditions he and others could not have envisaged. Ironically, the very authority of the episcopate exercised in the constitution through powers of direction and patronage has worked, not in favour of the preservation of orthodoxy (nor even for the maintenance of a diversity of theological opinion) but for its exact opposite.
There is no authority save that of the majority vote.

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