Thursday, July 22, 2010

Let's create a church within a church

Julian Mann at Cranmer's Curate draws attention to an intriguing proposal re reaction to C of E women bishops, voiced within a Reform newsletter:

"One way of doing this may be to create a ‘Society’ within the Church of England, focused on mission, with its own bishops providing support and encouragement. It could even be that if such a Society were to come into being, the House of Bishops might recognise it as a place where separate episcopal oversight could operate when the Women Bishops Measure comes in. We will be actively exploring this possibility in the months ahead."

Julian Mann himself offers the view that new bishops ought to be consecrated to serve this Society (by which is clearly meant, consecrations not officially authorised by the C of E hierarchy):

"But there is no practical reason why the Society, made up initially of a group of around 20 GAFCON-supporting churches, should not be set up before 2012. There are existing bishops in the UK who could already provide episcopal oversight for clergy and churches in the network, but it would be advisable to arrange for the consecration of some new conservative missionary bishops to serve alongside them. That would be a clear demonstration that the new Society means business."

Note how small this particular group of anxious opponents of women's ordination to the episcopacy is: 20. (That would be a lot in NZ, but it is not many at all in the vast C of E).

Call me naive, and ill-informed through distance from the C of E, but is this not rebellion pure and simple? Or, if not rebellion, an effective step in schism? "To arrange for the consecration of some new conservative missionary bishops" is either with the approval of the leaders of the C of E, or it is not. Since the premise of such "arrangement" is that the C of E General Synod does not agree to satisfactory provision for opponents of women bishops it is not conceivable that the leaders of the C of E could approve of such "arrangement" in defiance of their own synodical governance. Ergo, rebellion or schism. Or both. But not reform.


Suem said...

I agree with you, it would be rebellion, but isn't that also true of the creation of the ACNA , GAFCON etc? People must make their own decisions, of course, and if they can see no way but to separate and create such a structure, I suppose they are at liberty to do so.

I think in the UK it would be on a very small scale and lack any general public support or sympathy - most people are in favour of women priests and bishops. I would think it would have little authority and command scant respect.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,

There is no intrinsic connection between belonging to GAFCON and rebellion. ACNA I take to be an act of separation.

My sense, from far away, is that you are right about 'small scale' in the UK and 'lack of sympathy'. I also sense this is especially so for the 'Reform' case because it is allied with a view about the general role of women which is dimly viewed across society. The 'anglo-catholic' case is, perhaps, different ...

Rosemary Behan said...

"..because it is allied with a view about the general role of women which is dimly viewed across society."

Isn't this remark a little careless Peter? Since when is the church required to listen to the views of society? Once again you put us down, but never mind, you're obviously on the broad highway, enjoying the appreciation of society.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I may have expressed myself carelessly; but no put down was intended whatsoever.

Let me try again: a general view of women which includes notions of male headship, delineated, inflexible roles for men and women (esp. a woman may not lead a church, a woman's teaching ministry must be confined to women and children) is, as I understand it, subscribed to by Reform and underlies its opposition to women bishops. Such a view, again, as I understand it, is dimly viewed by wider British society. Therefore there is little wider sympathy in society for Reform's opposition to women bishops. Is there anything unfactual here?

On the question of whether or not Christians, as individuals or in a group, should listen to the views of society, the answer is complex. We have an allegiance to God and God's Word to consider. We have history which tells us some adaptation of God's Word is necessary to win a hearing (the most obvious adaptation being to translate God's Word into the language of the people we wish to share the gospel with). We have a range of questions which do not always admit of simple answers. Just to give one example: how should a Christian women missionary dress when living in a hot Islamic country? (cont.'d)

Peter Carrell said...

I suggest that Reform may be doing a disservice to the preaching of the gospel in England by insisting on publicly opposing women bishops. Their persistence, arguably, constitutes a failure to understand the 'language' of the society into which they are seeking to translate the gospel, because the net effect of their stance is to say, effectively, that becoming a Christian involves coming to Christ AND accepting a particular view on the roles of men and women.

(Please understand me carefully here: it is the public nature of their stance at this particular juncture in the life of England and its church which I think is inhibitory of the gospel; not the fact that they hold to the views they hold).

Anonymous said...

"I suggest that Reform may be doing a disservice to the preaching of the gospel in England by insisting on publicly opposing women bishops."

Similar things were said about abolitionists: that they opposed the natural orders of creation and commerce etc. A few years ago it was said about opposition to divorce; now divorce and remarriage are mainstream, or (if you're the Australian PM), entirely optional. Today it is being said about those who oppose mainstreaming homosexual relationships.
What would Niebuhr (or even Dean Inge) say?

as for 'disservice to the gospel':95% of the English public rarely or never darken the doorstep of Anglican churches; the majority of churchgoers are found in Catholic, evangelical and Pentecostal churches where there isn't much enthusiasm for women's ordination. There are more men in mosques in England than people in Anglican churches. Yes, the future is not what it used to be...
Have a look at Swedish Lutheranism for the triumph of secular ideology over Christain faith in post-Christian Europe. 'Touchstone' archives are very good on this.
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
Some of the churches you name are not having public debate over the ordination of women. My question concerns whether the public debate in the C of E is forwarding the progress of the gospel in England. As far as I can tell your comment does not specifically address the matter.

Suem said...

Yes, there might be more Anglo Catholic support, it still would be patchy and in pockets though. The ordinariate offers a better choice for such Anglo Catholics, I think. There are still problems though as joining Rome does mean they are under a new jurisdiction and may be seen as second class citizens, and will in many ways have less freedom. Stipends are much lower for RC clergy than for C of E clergy and not really adequate for a man with wife and children, unless the wife is prepared to largely support the family.

Anonymous said...

The disappearance of more Catholic Anglicans will accelerate liberal episcopal hegemony - which was the purpose. It will be like Tec in 10 years, because exacltly these trends happened there in the 1970s and 80s.
Al M.