Wednesday, 27 June 2012

"You have to get the little silver balls into holes..."

The biggest hint yet that the Church of England may be facing another long delay over women bishops has come from the Archbishop of Canterbury [here]:

“I share the frustration of a lot of people that we’re tangled-up in trying to get the maximum support for it in the Church of England and every move in one direction makes other people move away," he said.“It’s like one of those terrible games you get in Christmas crackers sometimes where you have to get the little silver balls into holes – you always get two of them but then the other one goes off somewhere else.”
Archbishop Williams,speaking to a gathering of young people at Lambeth Palace, also had this to say about the widening gulf over same-sex marriage: 

“Same with same sex marriage, where once more we’re used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the Church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it.
“What’s frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience.
“So whatever we think about it, we need, as a Church, to be tackling what we feel about it.”
I'm not so sure; I think we've come as far as feeling will take us on both these matters. There will never be progress (whatever that implies) towards a resolution of any of the fraught issues now facing the Church as a direct consequence of what many of us believe is the de-christianisation of western society until liberals, progressives - or whatever we choose to call them - stop regarding the views of their opponents as merely evidence of deep psychological flaws, and begin to address, on their own merits, the theological issues which divide us.
We don't so much need to tackle what we feel about the searing divisions which now exist  between the Church and contemporary society, something which is, due to the inroads which  secularist thought has made among both laity and clergy, acutely mirrored among our fellow Christians, but to make a serious and honest appraisal of the intellectual and theological impasse at which we have arrived. This is a gulf which exposes radically divergent views of the nature of God himself, the purpose of humanity and the role of revelation. It is simply dishonest to pretend otherwise.
The repeated resort to cod psychology directed at opponents, combined with the naked flexing of synodical voting muscle and the ruthless exploitation of a friendly 'progressive' mass media, is just another way of avoiding any rational discussion of the real issues at stake. It's much more congenial to present the liberal agenda (and, yes, there clearly is one) as just a minor matter of bringing the Church a little more into step with modern thought, rather than the theological and anthropological sea change which is really being advocated and, if we are to be realistic, has already to a large extent taken hold of the weltanshauung of the Anglican Communion, at least in its western provinces - that is, the people who still control the agenda. 

On the same subject, and highlighting the fact that these stark divisions are not just an Anglican or mainstream protestant problem, here is the Telegraph's commentator Tim Stanley on the subject of those American nuns (some of them anyway) who have taken to the highway:
"...In short, the Catholic Church cannot change and it cannot indulge rumours of past error. Arguably, it doesn’t have to because it has never been proven theologically wrong.If this is obvious to a layman, then why do the American nuns persist with their theological innovation? Alas, the answer is that some of them simply aren’t very Catholic. Or, at least, their Catholicity takes a second place to their political liberalism...."
"...The LCWR has endorsed Obamacare, despite the fact that it threatens Catholic liberty and teachings by compelling Catholic employers to provide contraception coverage to their employees. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, because several members of the LCWR had been active campaigners for reproductive rights. Moreover, they have embraced a theological ethos that goes beyond Catholicism – and even beyond Christianity itself. One of their key note speakers at this year’s convention was Barbara Max Hubbard, who “has been called ‘the voice for conscious evolution of our time’ by Deepak Chopra … She has launched the “Agents of Conscious Evolution” training and is forming a global team to co-produce a global multi-media event entitled, ‘Birth 2012: Co-Creating a Planetary Shift in Time’ … a historic, turning-point event; awakening the social, spiritual, scientific, and technological potential of humanity.” Hardly St Augustine, is it?...       [here]


  1. The divisions in the R.C. Church are very serious but there is a structure (a very old one) which, in the end, serves to right the boat again. Chesterton remarked that he believed the Catholic Church to be the true Church because given all the troubles etc over the centuries it's survival alone spoke in its favour (or words to that effect). It reminds us that one of the main (if not the main) problems of Protestantism (and Episcopal churches without sufficient "oversight") is that of the lack of authority (or misplaced authority). Isn't this precisely the statement often made by those who have left the Anglican Communion over women priests...that it is really about authority?

  2. Father, thank you for that comment. Yes, we would be hard put to think of any Anglican who has entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church for theological reasons who wouldn't give the issue of authority as the primary reason for the change of allegiance. I wasn't seeking to equate the two ecclesial situations: the differences are stark despite the widespread dissemination of unorthodox views throughout western society. As you say, you have both the structures (the Petrine primacy being the most venerable and the most effective) and now,it seems, the will to oppose heterodoxy when it appears - we have neither.


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