Sunday, 6 April 2014

(Even) More bishops for Wales....?

Ancient Briton has this report on the forthcoming Governing Body Meeting of the Church in Wales, referencing particularly (sense of déjà vu, anyone?) "the Church in Wales response to the Proposals from the Gathering of the Covenanted Churches 2012." 

The 'long term recommendations' of the inevitable working group include these proposals for what we can only describe as Welsh pan-protestant unity (emphasis is mine) :
"That the Church will have nine jurisdictions – the six existing Anglican dioceses plus a Methodist jurisdiction, a Presbyterian jurisdiction and a URC/Covenanting Baptist jurisdiction, each of which will be invited to elect its own bishop
and that the elected bishops of the new jurisdictions (who would 'ordain all those who are to become ministers' within that jurisdiction) "will be a bishop in the Church Uniting in Wales and will share collegiality and full interchangeability with all the other bishops of that Church."

My understanding is that there will be no insistence that the new bishops will first have to be ordained to each of the three orders of ministry (and, no doubt, historical anomalies will be produced like rabbits out of a hat to justify that one...) 

One wonders how much support there will be for this bureaucratic masterpiece among the Free Churches themselves, all of which have resisted the introduction of episcopacy for so long, including some traditions whose ecclesial polity is historically defined by that rejection ....  
It's curious that the contemporary response to catastrophic decline appears to be the introduction of yet more cumbersome administrative structures.

I'm also told there is very little enthusiasm for this particular scheme from the Church in Wales itself, particularly from those who are deemed to be in the running to become Wales' first female bishops... after all what would be the point in striving for 'gender equality' in the episcopate, only to have the currency so fatally devalued? Having crashed through the glass ceiling of institutional misogyny they would have little to show for it except the headache....  

The proposals would, of course, if approved, lead to the astonishing spectacle of a 'united church' in Wales which had not only bishops who were (for several reasons) not bishops at all, but that some of them would also be 'bishops' who had no belief in episcopacy (of course, as distinct from episcope) much less in apostolic succession in any recognisably 'catholic' sense ...

And as someone said out to me this afternoon, "Nine bishops for a 'uniting church!' And the prospect of one bishop to care for traditionalists would kill them ..... ?"

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