Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Have I lost the plot?

The answer to the title question is nearly always 'Yes'!

But I am - seriously - wondering if I am losing the plot a little re the rejection in the English GS of the immediate possibility of there being women bishops in the C of E. To an extent my response has been cool, calm and collected: the motion wasn't a good one so it was defeated; a better one will be brought in due course. It wasn't a good motion because it didn't provide for the minority position, so a little more discussion between majority and minority and, hey, presto, all will be well (though maybe not "most well"). Further, with very cool detachment, one can mount, as I have done below, a critique about the theological paucity of the arguments for the motion. As best I can tell, however, few observers in England are being cool, calm and collected today. All are in a tizz and this is very, very serious for the C of E which is now in a crisis on several fronts. As a simple measure of how big this is over there, our own Christchurch Press devoted the whole of its first "World" news page to the situation.

The crisis on several fronts includes the possibility of parliament intervening, the prospect of disestablishment taking root as reality, the need for the Archbishops' Council to come up with an imminent and fairly immediate solution (even if that means another vote in as short a span as a year from now), the threat that the minority will (somehow) be swept away in a cataclysmic deluge of majority voting scorn which sweeps away any notion of 'provision', and, most significantly, a strong sense that this might constitute a moment when the C of E's irrelevance to English society is embedded for a long time to come, with consequences for the hearing of the gospel proclamation. Or not. History, of course, will have to tell us one day in the future what all this means.

My post below, re Gerald Bray's Anglican Ink article, has received more "hits" than anything I have posted in a long time - it now has in the comments a rejoinder by Gerald himself.

I wonder if the crisis in England is linked to a general crisis in global theology: how do we live in this world in which respect and dignity for all human people (itself a fruit of the gospel) is out pacing the ability of the vessel of the gospel (the church) to communicate the gospel to new generations?

A savage irony might be that if the C of E fades terminally in English consciousness, the Roman church will quietly continue its steady work on 'the conversion of all England'!


Tregonsee said...

I like to remind my impatient friends that for an organization which deals with Eternity, 50 years constitutes short term planning.

hogsters said...

Re: I like to remind my impatient friends that for an organization which deals with Eternity, 50 years constitutes short term planning.

Yes but, and stepping right outside the issue of debate in this thread, we must never loose sight that in 50 years many people will face eternity, 1 every half second, 172,000 a day.

That the church is not dropping the ball in matters of life and faith as it debates, plans and sometimes procrastinates, is of ultimate importance to the, (if we were to take todays daily death rate and project it over 50 years), 3 Billion 139 million who will exit this life.

MichaelA said...

British Labor MP Frank Field is a strong supporter of women bishops. He has strongly criticised those who put forward this measure, for failing to give concessions to traditionalists, which would have ensured the passage of the measure. At present, the majority of supporters of women bishops in CofE seem to be blaming everyone but themselves for the failure of the message. Frank Field MP would beg to differ - from the web-site Anglican Mainstream:

"On BBC Newsnight tonight, Frank Field MP criticised "the reformers", those who brought forward the Women Bishops Measure, being "ungracious and ungenerous" in failing to meet the objections of those who disagreed.

He claimed that "The state has an interest in ensuring that the Church does not go off and behave in an absurd manner. Most people will think that its actions over the last few days show a real lack of politics in the church. Why did the reformers fail? They have some serious questions to answer here in satisfying those who were upset and disquieted by the proposal for reform."

He added that the crucial question about women priests was decided decades ago. He urged "The real issue is that the reformers were ungracious and ungenerous in meeting the objections that many in your position actually hold. My advice to them, which was ignored such as it was, is that the crucial thing to establish is the principle of women bishops. Whether they are curtailed in certain ways, that does not really matter. One should actually stuff the mouths of the opposition with gold to get the major reform through. They failed to do that. The Church must now very quickly reconvene on this issue, listen very carefully to those that it failed to persuade, meet them in those objections and get the general principle agreed"."

See: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2012/11/22/frank-field-urges-women-bishops-reformers-to-meet-the-objections-of-opponents-to-get-the-major-reform-through/

liturgy said...

It would be good, Peter, for you to expand on the “two integrities” you refer to, and how that might solve anything. How do you have an ecclesiology where some bishops do not recognise others as bishops in the same church? A decade of a particular style of leadership and approach to disagreement have come home to roost. Some might find it savage that the RC Church continues its steady work; others might note that those being ordained in Christchurch will continue not to be able to function as ordained in some of the CofE because the rite will have been performed by someone lacking a Y chromosome.



Anonymous said...

We owe the language of "Two Intergreties" to +David Hope but it is often spun into the idea that the C of E has two positions on the actual question of women's ordination.It does not. it recognizes two positions of integrity. The C of E ordains women..that is part of its canons and Constitutions.It also recognizes conscientious dissent from that position.However the Act of Synod muddied the waters...esp when anglo-catholics pushed extended episcopal care to mean alternative episcopal oversight and then some flying bishops ( notably Ebbsfleet) started talking about "the Diocese of Ebbsfleet".
But I agree with Bosco..we live with an incoherent ecclesiology which only works in practice because rather erastian factors hold things together.

re Frank Field ( a former parishoner of mine)..he has done a rather sudden about turn in his TV broadcast..he wasnt saying that before the vote.

Perry Butler Canterbury

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I speak only of the English situation. I would prefer, were I a worshipping member of that church, the CofE to be a church with two integrities about bishops rather than two different churches (i.e. because the two integrities led to schism).

Yes, the ecclesiology of a two integrities CofE might be incoherent, muddled, etc; but so is the ecclesiology of a global church fallen into many different denominations.

I work with local Catholic clergy even though they do not recognise my orders nor admit me to their communion. In the greater ecclesia of God, that is a muddle (how did She allow it to happen?!?). In the local sphere of churches working together as a group of Christians that muddle can be overcome to a degree (providing no joint eucharistic service is proposed!!).

In these few remarks I am not, of course, pretending that I have squared the circle, solved the riddle or unlocked the key to 'Church Union'!

Simon said...

And now here is Paul Roberts' proposed motion for the 44 diocesan synods to register a vote of 'no confidence' in GS and get it dissolved early.
Paul is a former member of GS and the Liturgical Commission and teaches at Trinity College, Bristol.

carl jacobs said...

There is no way to encompass two mutually exclusive concepts of authority within a single organization. The majority tried to slide by the issue by giving traditionalists male bishops who accepted WO. And then only for a short period of time. This would mean that all the bishops recognize each other and can function coherently. It also meant that traditionalist clergy in the CoE would have a known expiration date. The majority considered that fact a feature, and not a bug. Their entire idea of 'provision' was built upon the idea of its transience. That is what was unaccepable, and the proximate cause of its failure.

Unless there is a separate authority structure created, there is no solution to this problem. Since the majority will never countenance a separate structure, the solution must eventually reduce to imposition by power - with all the attendant consequences. The power will be applied in process to prevent a blocking majority fron being elected.


Anonymous said...

They have radically different ecclesiological understanding and structures, but other churches do allow for different views and practices to co-exist. This is done in part by having a much stronger understanding of the importance of the local church , and by not having Bishops, which complicates things for Anglicans.

Both the Vineyard Christian Fellowship and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church allow each local church to decide the issue for themselves.

It might help if Anglicans could give up some of the obsession with both ecclesiology and institutional unity. The Ecumenical movement, which has wasted vast amounts of time and resources pursuing the delusional notion that the Roman, Eastern and Protestant branches can restore institutional unity, has failed utterly. It's only "achievement" is the creation of the badly misnamed World Council of Churches, a massive and useless beaurocracy that was long ago captured by Cultural Marxists who turned it in to a vehicle and voice for supporting genocidal third world tyrants and terrorists.

The best thing we could do with the WCC is burn it's buildings to the ground and salt the earth as a warning to future generations about the dangers of hubris.

Ecclesiological structures are not found in Scripture and are thus not authoritative in the life of the Church. If we allow for more innovative thinking on this, and less delusional daydreaming about reunion with Rome and Constantinople, then we may find a way forward.

MichaelA said...

On the Law and Religion blog, Frank Cranmer (no, I don't know if its his real name!) has published an excellent summary of the reasons why Parliament is unlikely to intervene in this matter: http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2012/11/25/women-as-bishops-should-parliament-intervene/

Anonymous said...

Frank Cranmer (no, I don't know if its his real name!)

It is his real name...I supervised his MA thesis comparing Establishment in England. Scotland and Sweden. He is or was a Clerk in either House of Lords or Commons...he knows his stuff.
Sadly he has left the Church of England for the Quakers.

Perry Butler Canterbury UK

Anonymous said...

"Sadly he has left the Church of England for the Quakers."

We can only hope the Quakers will see sense and make him Archbishop.

Martin (not Luther)

Anonymous said...

"Actually I've been inside the Church of St Felix in Tunis, behind its plain walls, while the cry of the minaret droned above"

My failing memory - I meant Sousse, not Tunis - a scruffy town with a fine beach and interesting souk. Interesting that persecution drives Catholics and Protestants together. Times will get darker for the Christians of Egypt.