The "embarrassing evangelicals" at Jesmond Parish Church (JPC), Newcastle, England - ordaining a bishop without requisite orders to do so - have stirred up a hornet's nest of posts and counter-posts, radio interviews (perhaps TV also), and have even made the news in Christchurch's Press. A good round-up of posts is at Thinking Anglicans
. TA also reports on moves towards a new structure here
Back to my post below: I finished it thus:
"I think in this situation there are also significant episcopathological questions about what we Anglican evangelicals understand ecclesiology is. I will leave that for another post, save for this teaser:
Is it not strangely "Catholic" rather than "Anglican" when we go outside our national church boundaries to secure the ordaining hands of another bishop in order to have a bishop "of our own"?
Needless to say some others have been getting there before me:
(1) On the matter of what the ordainers and their supporters think about what they have done ecclesiologically, see this paper, Credible Bishops
. Its fine and non-controversial point is that faithful leadership needs faithful uber-leadership. But what it misses, I suggest, is this idea: faithful uber-leadership to support faithful leadership does not require a bishop. A senior and respected priest will do the job. A General-Secretary (lay or ordained) or a relevant organisation for reform and renewal will assist greatly. Anglican history is replete with examples of faithful uber-leadership who were not bishops: Newton, Simeon, Stott, Watson, Green, Philip Jensen and here in NZ, Canon Orange.
(2) Andrew Goddard, the voice of centrist evangelical reason in the CofE today, exposes the irregularities of the ordination here
. And, SPOILER ALERT, makes the point that the ordination is not only not in accord with CofE canon law, it is not in accord with the canons of REACH SA itself.
(3) We voices from Down Under are plural, with Mark Thompson, Principal of Moore College, Sydney, chiming in with fervent support for the ordination and the reasons for it taking plac
e, but recognising that nevertheless the ordination is "irregular" which strikes me as precisely the point Andrew Goddard makes (though Mark Thompson does not understand how the ordination even breaks REACH SA's own rules).
(4) We had better balance the Goddards out by including the liberal one (if I may so speak) and Giles G makes a point here
which is not far away from the point I would like to make re the ecclesiology of this specific episcopathology (the study of the conditions under which episcopacy may be a flourishing form of life, including whether that flourishing is like the multiplying of bacteria or the multiplying of fruit ripe for harvest).
(5) [Added later]: JPC itself has published its thoughts in a Q and A document
about "new style bishops."
Here goes, and quite briefly because it is The Week of Clergy Conference and There Is A Lot To Be Done Before Heading to the Wilds of Mid Canterbury (and slightly less than flourishing internet):
(1) bishops oversee the church in large chunks (dioceses, provinces, national churches, Communions) and thus need to be drawn from the chunks by a process the chunk is agreeable to;
(2) bishops offer a focus of unity and work for unity of the chunks of the church they are appointed to oversee and thus their appointment (and ordination before appointment, if not already ordained a bishop) should be according to the agreed processes (orders, canons, liturgies) of the chunk concerned so that this focus of and work for unity begins with unity;
(3) bishops are definitional of churches which have bishops: (among other definitions and distinctions) Anglicans are not Presbyterians because we believe in individual bishops rather than the corporate episcopacy of the Presbytery; but we Anglicans are not Roman Catholics because we believe that (a) bishops may be married; (b) need not be submissive to the authority of a single bishop for the whole world, though should be submissive to some authority whether a more local/national archbishop/primatial bishop or to a local/national General Synod (Convention).
Wise owls among us will add further points, but three is a fine number, standard for sermons and bless by the Trinity. On the first two counts the ordination in Newcastle is jolly well irregular (at best) because it involves zero process of involvement according to agreed protocols of the wider church (whether that is the CofE, REACH SA or the network of churches Bishop Pryke will be bishop of).
That is, bishops, even evangelical ones, must have a catholic (agreeable to the whole church) character to them and in the case at issue, this character is missing. There is a strong sense in this case where a few have chosen a man to be ordained bishop and the ordination has taken place in a secret location, unknown to the many, that "everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes."
On the third point, I suggest that we do not beat about the bush or South African veldt working out whether the Overseas Bishops Measure or Canon X,Y or Z applies. When canons are disregarded in order to have a new bishop, we have a new church in process of being defined. (Cf. Giles Goddard's article). Let's not bewail the irregularity of Bishop Pryke's ordination. Let's beseech those who seek a better way for the orthodox in the CofE to leave now, following the new bishop. It is the honest thing to do.
However all the orthodox who want to stay in the CofE, who want to work within the rules of the church, who wish to both influence if possible and then abide by the resolutions of the General Synod, let them stay. Let them give their bishops a good old hurry up if they should stray from the way of Christ. But let them not go down the path of irregular ordinations ... unless, see the paragraph immediately above.