"Our aspiring women deacons view the female diaconate not as a historical revival, but as a camel’s nose in the clerical tent."That is as may be. In all churches there are quests for power or at least a greater share in the (perceived) power of the institution. But I suggest Pope Francis is less interested in sharing the power and more interested in sharing the load of responsibility. He always strikes me as a realist, not an idealist. He knows only too well that a huge "manpower" [sic] problem exists because of restriction of the priesthood to (a) men (b) celibate men (in the Western Catholic church). Here in NZ we see that shortage expressed in some parishes which are being run by female pastoral leaders. Francis is also realistic about the possibility of introducing women priests to his church = zero for a long time to come. And the time will only come if a start is made roundabout now. So, yes, in a sense Francis is trying to get the camel's nose in the clerical tent, but not motivated by power and concern to share the power but by responsibility and concern to share the load with the 50% who are canonically unavailable to take it up. (Incidentally, Bosco Peters has also posted on women deacons here.)
Closer to home there was another camel's nose sniffing about an Anglican tent (literally re the tent, because that is what #gsthw16 met in).
This nose sought to nudge one of the time-honoured, traditional but "what's my theology?" sacramental actions of the church out of the tent, replacing it with, well, pretty much the same thing but with a new name.
Previously here I drew attention to a proposal to change "Confirmation" to "Affirmation." The more I thought and heard about this proposal, the less happy I became. Notably, I was less than persuaded that "Affirmation" was a better name than "Confirmation" and I was less than persuaded that much substance was actually going to change from what we already have in the NZPB if the change was approved.
Bosco Peters notes the situation (along with other #gsthw16 motions) here. Taonga reports here and it is worth citing in full to get a feel for how the debate went, which ended in the motion being booted to the touchline for some physiotherapy on it:
"The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has decided to broaden its conversation on confirmation after changes to the rites of baptism and confirmation were let lie on the table at General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui in May.
The bill presented to synod proposed new formularies for the baptism of adults, baptism of children, and a new rite that would replace confirmation, to be known as The Laying on of Hands for Affirmation, Renewal and Reception.
The proposed formularies came in response to local research that outlines how confirmation has lost its pivotal role for many Anglican churches in Aotearoa New Zealand.
An accompanying report explains how the change in understanding and status of confirmation has mainly occurred since baptism became the sole rite required for Christians to receive communion in Anglican churches, going back as far as the 1970s.
Rev Michael Wallace (Dunedin) thanked Assistant Bishop of Auckland Jim White, who had completed the research on behalf of the house of bishops, but asked for a response that did not unnecessarily break with tradition,
“This work on confirmation has identified a crisis in our church,” he said.
“But I believe the crisis is not with the rite of confirmation itself, but with our church’s approach to catechesis and formation.”
Bishop Apimeleki Qiliho agreed on behalf of Tikanga Polynesia,
“It is the teaching behind confirmation that helps candidates to live out their baptism,” he said.
The Anglican Schools Director, Rev Anne van Gend, opposed any shift from confirmation.
Joined by Kim Duxfield, chaplain of Nga Tawa Diocesan School, Ms van Gend asked for school chaplains to be invited into the conversation before any change went ahead.
She also reminded synod that school chaplains are responsible for the largest number of confirmation candidates throughout the church.
“Confirmation is an important rite of passage for our students,” she said.
“And I am loathe to see anything that would weaken that.”
Te Aute College Trustee Maui Tangohau also favoured keeping confirmation as is.
“One reason parents send their children to Te Aute or Hukarere (Māori Anglican Colleges), is to maintain their Anglican faith,” he said.
“When you leave these schools, you will be baptised or confirmed or both.
“And that is valued.”
Rev Jay Behan reported Christchurch diocesan synod heard many voices in support of confirmation, while the Bishop of Waikato Helen-Ann Hartley spoke of the rite’s long-standing, worldwide role.
“I would hate to see it go,” she said.
“There are deep historic and pastoral aspects to confirmation.”
Bishop Jim White replied there was little in the concerns and questions that suggested a present-day rationale for confirmation.
“’That is our tradition’ is not sufficient answer, nor that ‘it is in the Book of Common Prayer’,” he said.
“We have jettisoned other parts of the Book of Common Prayer.
“We no longer hold to the same view (or doctrine) on baptism and that is key.
“There is nothing to ‘confirm’.”
He also said speakers had confused failures or successes in catechesis with confirmation.
“We must improve our catechesis, but that is separate and distinct from the use of an archaic rite.”He finished with a challenge: “I hope that hui amorangi and dioceses will engage in the substantive matters set out in the report on baptism and confirmation and respond to the Common Life Liturgical Committee over the next two years.”"
I am very disappointed with the reported words re "tradition." Tradition in this context is not only about tradition (the enduring presence of the past in the present and future life of the everliving body of Christ) but about catholicity: confirmation is a sacrament or sacramental action of various branches of the episcopal churches of the globe. To ditch this tradition is to fray - once more - the (somewhat stretched) fabric of catholicity binding these churches together. It is a worry that few in ACANZP seem to (a) understand catholicity as a mark of the church (b) hold any great commitment to catholicity.
On Confirmation itself, I am all for the service. It was and remains important to me that I have confirmed the faith which my parents had in bringing me to baptism. Not just affirmed that faith but "con"firmed it ("con" resonating with the togetherness of being a family of God). And, frankly, it does not worry me too much at all that "Confirmation" is perceived as a "completing" of baptism. Yes, baptism is complete in itself, nothing can add to it or take away from it as a rite. But the poor infant being baptised and having no memory of it might like the opportunity to complete for themselves what they could not contribute at the time of baptism, "Yes, this is my chosen faith too." Complete, that is, the shift from faith expressed "on behalf of" to faith expressed directly by the baptised person.
Meantime, however, all such matters of arcane church life are put in perspective by this sobering editorial in the Guardian, here.