Tuesday, July 08, 2008

On the Actions of General Synod (CoE) to Allow for the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate

For me, yesterday's vote of the Church of England's General Synod to authorize the ordination of women to the episcopate WITHOUT MAKING ADEQUATE PROVISION for dissenting traditionalists was a bigger blow to the stomach than GafCon. Now I made my peace with the ordination of women some time ago, so in a sense I didn't have a dog in this fight. After all, by my own choice, freely and without reservation, I was ordained into a diocese that ordains women. So I would hardly "qualify" as an Anglo-Catholic by comparison to the 24 karat variety of catholic in the Church of England or in the Continuing Church for that matter. (I don't count my previous ordination in the Free Church of England as valid episcopal ordination since it clearly lacked "intent.")

Still, I'm afriad that the Church of England lost something very precious and unique this week. The English Church has always been a microcosm of the Communion itself, comprehending within her the whole spectrum of Anglicanism. Not anymore. One might say that the Mother Church, if not all of Anglicanism, has suddenly become stingy, if not outright miserly, in what she is willing to present to the rest of Christendom as her "generous orthdoxy."

But who's to blame?

Think back, if you will, to the 1993-94 measure to ordain women as priests. Many moderates and "liberals" also supported a separate measure to keep Anglo-Catholic traditionalists under the same tent by providing Provincial Episcopal Visitors ("flying bishops"). This made sense. The Church of England was bracing itself for a MASS exodus of traditionalists. But the mass exodus turned out to be trickle. Why? Because adequate provision for dissenters of women's ordination was made.

I still recall a chapel sermon given in the Michaelmas term 1993 by Dr. Dick France, then Principal of Wycliffe Hall, who preached vociferously against Anglo-Catholic "bullying" on the issue of women's ordination. I was stunned, especially to find out how different English-style Evangelical Anglicanism was from my own experience of Evangelical Anglicanism in the USA (I was at the time a deacon in the Reformed Episcopal Church). Clearly, it was the moderates who came to the rescue of the Anglo-Catholics in that day.

However, the tide has shifted. Perhaps it is an overstatement to place blame on the "recent unpleasantness" in Jerusalem (i.e., GafCon). Okay, it is an overstatement to blame GafCon. But can there be any doubt at all that the same attitudes and events that led to GafCon also contributed to the cool reception of General Synod towards any measure that would provide "safe space" for traditionalists via a parallel structure in the Church of England? Certainly even before GafCon, the cross-jurisdictional actions of the Southern Cone and other provinces, not to mention Reform's incessant calls for Evangelical "flying bishops," along with the illicit ordinations of Evangelical "presbyters" in London, created a climate of distrust for parallel structures in England. GafCon was merely icing on the cake!

But whatever else may be said, here's what I know from my own experience in England. There is very little love lost between Evangelicals (of any variety) and Anglo-Catholics. A major difference between American Catholics and English Catholics is that the former are more at home with Evangelicals, which is why +Iker, +Ackerman, et al. are quite comfortable working hand-in-hand with them. The kind of cooperation we see over here (in the USA) between parties is not nearly as common as I think we Americans assume it must be over there. That's just the way it is. It would not surprise me in the least if many Evangelicals (the so-called "open" ones) voted in favor of yesterday's measure. Not at all.

That's my take. I'm not infallible and I'm open for critique. So please let me know what you think.

8 comments:

Death Bredon said...

Perhaps this is a rhetorical question, and I think it should be, but how can any Anglican conversant with Anglicanism's inherent catholicism remain in communion with Canterbury and York?

What double speak with FIF come up with now to justify its cowardice and poor witness?

Third Mill Catholic said...

I don't have any idea how this will all play out. There are many pastoral issues at stake as well. It's not as simple as all the catholic clergy leaving the CoE at once. The flocks under their care still must have shepherds.

The young fogey said...

Now I made my peace with the ordination of women some time ago, so in a sense I didn't have a dog in this fight.

WO ≠ Catholic.

My answer for 25+ years has been 'the larger church doesn't do it and that settles it for now and the forseeable future'.

That said improbabilism (the larger church might change it) is a perfectly good Catholic opinion along with impossibilism.

What it comes down to is Catholicism reduced to mere opinion let alone a style of clerical dress or of church services is no longer Catholicism, which is why Catholic Anglicans can no longer stay in the Church of England.

With the ecclesiola in ecclesiæ arrangements after the early 1990s (flying bishops) ACs could continue to hold their views weren't that but what they'd always believed, that they were the authentic voice of Anglicanism seeking union with the larger Catholic world and the other Anglicans were wrong.

(A long time ago in England I met somebody who was at one of the Anglo-Catholic Congresses when so many dared to dream of corporate reunion with the larger church.)

Of course you're right about the pond difference regarding getting on with Evangelicals. I'd only add that compared to England there really aren't Episcopal Evangelicals but people who in English terms are low-middle-of-the-road (low-Central Church).

How can any Anglican conversant with Anglicanism's inherent catholicism remain in communion with Canterbury and York?

Once this goes through and the first women bishops are on the scene, in about three years, they won't.

Most English ACs are Anglo-Papalists so obviously the destination is Rome (England's patriarch after all).

Pope Benedict is these Catholic Anglicans' friend and, so there won't be a repeat of the cold shoulder in the 1990s, may well go over the heads of the disloyal liberal bishops in his own shop to help them.

The bishops would become priests, all the clergy would at least be conditionally ordained and the married priests are no problem.

The only question is will the parishes stay together as they want?

Like immigrant Italian and Slovak RC national parishes in the US they want to keep a culture going within the Roman Rite that's perfectly compatible with the faith.

I don't think there's any question of keeping their current buildings (no) but you never know/it doesn't hurt to ask.

I imagine a few places will remain in the C of E. Like ACs in the Episcopal Church outside the two Catholic dioceses (your neighbours in Fort Worth and what's left of the biretta belt in Quincy) they will be isolated parishes of 'ritual congregationalism' or to put it more kindly 'if the Church of England would fail it would be found in my parish' (Keble), dying off like the Non-Jurors.

The Catholic Movement is over in the Episcopal Church and is coming to an end in the mother country.

Well, chaps, we had a good run.

Third Mill Catholic said...

Thanks, young fogey, for your thoughts. I am more in sympathy than you know.

Where I fundamentally disagree with the English A-C position is in regarding all ordinations performed by bishops who ordain women as invalid. Obviously, this is a self-serving position. But I also see merit in regarding the question as being in a period of reception. Obviously, Mother Church is no longer of that opinion.

Undoubtedly, we have lost an important witness to the universal faith and practice of the undivided church, and with it, any hope of rapprochement and fruitful dialogue with Rome and Orthodoxy.

Death Bredon said...

Spot on Fogey. I do suspect most English ACs (already Novus Ordo) will Pop.

But what of all three or four English Prayer-Book Catholics? :-)

The young fogey said...

Become Orthodox, which in England as in most other places means re-tooling for the Byzantine Rite. Use the Prayer Book at home.

BTW the Keble quotation is 'if the Church of England were to fail it would be found in my parish'.

Third Mill Catholic said...

I just visited your site. Great blog, young fogey! If I ever get around to updating mine, I'll be sure to add you to the blog list.

The young fogey said...

Thank you!