Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anglican and Roman kerfuffles

A quick note ... Preludium, Thinking Anglicans and co have noted in the past week or so the kerfuffle in the C of E re a committee seemingly recommending that a decision of the GS re women bishops be overturned. Then there are reports that behind the walls of the Vatican the curia are getting to work on Benedict's offer, concerned that it means this, that, and the other divisive possibilities, especially re commitment to priestly celibacy.

One response, common in both situations, is a call to be staunch: stick with the decision, even if people are upset.

Perhaps. But I wonder if a deeper issue churches face in these situations is unity. The majority decision of a synod may be right. The determination of a bishop or pope to lead their flock in a given direction may be correct. But should 'majority rule' rule in every situation? Does a leader's authority to lead override considerations of popular mandate and support? We can go to the history books and find situations in which a stubborn maintenance of a majority decision, in the long run, was the right thing to do. But there are also times when such adherence leads to civil wars, balkanisation of an entity into fractured parts and the like.

What occasions are the desire to have women bishops in the CofE, to admit married Anglican priests to the Roman priesthood, and to canonically affirm partnered gay clergy in Anglican churches of the Communion: push ahead, whatever the consequences? Or, pause for a long cup of tea?

I am not saying, e.g. re the English situation, that the committee is right and the whole of its GS wrong, rather offering my sympathies to people who clearly are deeply concerned about holding their churches together in the face of extraordinary challenges.

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