Friday, 23 November 2012

Attempting to square the circle?

Perhaps now the dust is beginning to settle after Tuesday's vote in the Church of England's General Synod, and thoughts are now turning to some kind of constructive engagement on the part of those who disagree so strongly - not only about women's ordination, but about the entire future direction of Anglicanism. 

There have been those who have covered themselves with, well, not glory, in the way they have reacted to the lost vote. Some have stoked up a much worse crisis than would have been the case if there had been an admission that the measure had been flawed all along and now needed serious revision in order to achieve progress.
It has to be said that the naked displays of anger on the part of those who clearly view this entire process as just another means for the advancement of women in society (for them it's all about visible 'power' in the Church) have been equalled if not surpassed in their destructive force by the motley collection of atheists, agnostics and those of other traditions - and those whose sexual orientation means they have another 'equality' agenda to promote - who have by their lack of judgement and restraint and sheer constitutional impropriety once again brought the contemporary House of Commons into the kind of intellectual disrepute to which we are now becoming very accustomed. As to the sound of senior Welsh ecclesiastics desperately trying to clamber aboard the one-upmanship bandwagon, the least said the better. 
By contrast, the reactions of those who were against the measure before the General Synod have been diplomatically restrained to a high degree, to say the very least. There hasn't been the slightest whiff of triumph or celebration - in contrast to the behaviour of the victors in 1992. To accuse those who voted 'no' of somehow being responsible for bringing this crisis of 'Erastianism' down upon their own heads, as some are doing,  is a little like chastising the Poles for their lack of flexibility in attempting to resist the overwhelming force of the German invader in 1939. [An extreme analogy, no doubt, but the consequences to ecclesial life are just as fatal] This is not a crisis of our own making; we have simply 'dared' to follow where conscience and theology alike have dictated: this not a matter of a choice between two competing 'political' calculations. There is absolutely no point in standing for the rights of the Church against the state, if to do so we are left without priesthood or sacraments - which is , to put it bluntly, what we believe the advent of women bishops will bring about. We stand where we do, because, as someone said, we can do no other.

Clearly there has to be a way forward apart from the disastrous 'winner takes all' policy of the extreme pro-women's ordination lobby. I call them 'extreme,' yet these are the very people who have been heeded by the bishops at the expense of those who only wish to be able to live the Christian faith with a degree of sacramental certainty entirely consonant with Anglicanism's own traditions. 
This now powerful lobby group consists of those who would once have undoubtedly have been classed as extremists (with an a priori secular ideology curiously coupled with an exalted theology of monarchical episcopacy - hence their talk of 'second class women bishops') are clearly in the driving seat and now control the agenda. 
Those opposed in principle to an ecclesiology which accepts and even demands the existence of women bishops have been far more willing to find a way forward, even to the point of accepting in practice a principle with which they deeply disagree. It is the intransigent refusal of the feminist lobby (I don't know what else to call them) to accept even the slightest diminution of the power and authority accorded to a woman bishop, which has led to the present crisis.

Of course, at root the real issue has nothing whatsoever to do with matters of sex, male and female, but about what  normative authority should be accorded to Scripture and the tradition of the ages in the life of the Church - as the late Mgr Graham Leonard, when an Anglican bishop, never tired of stating, this is a division about the very nature of revealed religion itself, ultimately about the nature of the God in whom we believe. 
Ranged against one another here are two completely irreconcilable positions. How do we square the circle? Is it theologically - even humanly - dishonest even to try?
We all know that, without a separate province (the original aim of traditionalists), any deal brokered now will only constitute a very temporary truce in an ongoing ideological war.


  1. In the Catholic Church it is not uncommon for members of a religious order to take over the running of a parish. The priests remain under the control of their order; the sacramental life of the parish is guided by the charism of their order; and the parish when it comes to most administrative matters continues as part of the diocese.

    Could something similar work in the CofE for Anglo-Catholics? An order recognised by GS as having a national remit, working in parishes, sacramentally independent of the diocese, while administratively part of it?

    Or has something like this been mooted before?

    1. That;s exactly how Ordinariate priests run Diocesan parishes throughout the land. Nothing to be invented it exists!

    2. Not exactly, Joseph ... the Ordinariate is part of the Catholic Church, whereas what I am thinking about would be part of the CofE ...

    3. That's it exactly - part of the Catholic Church, which the Church of England has turned its back on. It's protestant which is fine but don't keep on fooling your selves it's catholic cos it aint.

    4. I think we may be talking at cross purposes, Josesph. No one is suggesting that the CofE is part of the Roman Catholic Church. But it is quite possible to be Catholic without being Roman Catholic; hence the many Eastern Catholic Churches which are in full communion with Rome. Anglgo-Catholics, in my view, are Anglicans who are traditional, that is to say Catholic, in matters of faith and doctrine; and whose hope for the future is some form of communion with Rome that allows them to remain Anglican without being subsumed into the Roman Catholic Church (which the Ordinariate, generous though it is of the Holy Father to make such a provision available, does).

      Fr Michael is probably more knowledgeable on such matters than I; I'm sure he could put this better ... & indeed correct any incorrect impressions I am giving on this.

  2. Thank you - that's helpful.
    Yes, it is the so-called 'Society' model which was rejected by the bishops originally, but may well now resurface in any future discussions over which, we all hope, the WATCH lobby won't have a veto. Let's hope so.


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