Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Where do bishops come from? The sky of course!

A while ago Julian Mann of Cranmer's Curate blog mentioned talk of conservative evangelical bishops being made for the C of E. No one else mentioned it. John Richardson of The Ugley Vicar said he would have heard this talk if it was happening and declared he had not heard the talk. End of story?

Not quite. Julian Mann is now saying again that this could happen. And not just on his blog, but in Forward in Faith's magazine called New Directions. On his blog he reproduces his article. He makes an excellent point: if this is going to be done, may it be done properly, openly and consultatively.

"Firstly, there should be no secrecy over the consecrations. There needs to be a strong local mandate from as many as possible within our constituency in the Church of England. Whilst one understands the need to safeguard the position of those men who volunteer to be bishops, the process does need to be as open as possible, with consultation about the individuals and good advance notice of the consecrations. Simply to be told at a gathering of the clans hastily convened by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans that the consecrations are taking place the following weekend and asked for an endorsement would be very far from providing a positive mandate. It would leave the new bishops vulnerable to the charge that they had been parachuted in by the big churches and their church plants, and the lack of ownership would effectively kibosh their ministry from the start."

Except, doing this openly would raise questions would it not? Including the obvious ones about legality in relationship to licensed ministry. The answers would be fairly clear I suggest: follow these bishops and you are out on your ear. Surely this is a recipe for schism, unless 'bishop' means 'cheerful bloke with ministry of teaching and encouragement and firmly holstered hands'. A sort of 'travelling secretary' kind of bishop may not lead to schism. But I don't think this is the kind of bishop we are talking about. Such bishops will be ordaining bishops.

Julian Mann has some recognition of ensuing legal difficulties, but the following seems scarcely alive to all the likely difficulties:

"Clearly, there are many outstanding questions to be addressed over the practicalities and legalities. If the bishops to be consecrated are already ministers who hold a bishop’s licence to officiate, presumably those licences would have to be forfeited. Effectively, the new bishops would leave the institutional Church of England but would have a pastoral relationship with clergy and churches that remained in. It is likely therefore that the new bishops would be senior clergy about to retire and/or younger episcopally-ordained church planters already ministering without a bishop’s licence.

"There could be some interesting alliances once, God willing, they come on stream. The growing army of dogmatic neo-liberals in the institutional hierarchy are bound to be furiously opposed. Any incumbent presenting Confirmation candidates to one of the new bishops should expect to be threatened with the Clergy Discipline Measure. The Open-Evangelical Fulcrum constituency is also likely to provide vocal opposition. But some old-school liberal bishops could well be inclined to cut deals with the new cats on the block. They have not got the same axe to grind as anti-FCA evangelicals, coupled with the fact that old-school liberals are often generous people. What is the merit in driving out a financially generous and lively congregation?"

The last paragraph is, frankly, nuts. I can imagine absolutely zero "old-school liberal bishops" willing to cut deals with unlicensed, unrecognised bishops.

All right. I could be wrong. Tell me I am. Para-episcopoi deploying parachutes as I speak. Old-school liberal bishops waiting at the drop zones with tea and scones and the right hand of fellowship!

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