Friday 20 November 2009

Archiepiscopal Infallibility

One of the stumbling blocks to unity with Rome, so it is asserted, is Papal Infallibility. Yet if reports of ++Rowan's address in Rome are correct (and who could doubt Ruth Gledhill) the Archbishop of Canterbury is claiming something even stronger for himself. According to Ruth 'yesterday the Archbishop made clear that there would be no turning back the clock on women priests in order to appease critics.' Now, his predecessor in Office said that women's ordination was reversible. In this he was staying true to the Eames Report and the decisions of the Lambeth Conference. It was because of this that some of us, with great difficulty, remained Anglicans, hoping that there might yet come a time when the experiment of women as priests would be shown to have failed. In this Rome meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear that the matter is settled; and since there has been no Synodical debate on this, it must be that he has resolved the matter by personal fiat. How envious the Holy Father must be, hedged about as he is by definitions which declare him infallible only in very special and limited circumstances. Unlike him, Rowan is always right.

This means the Archbishop of Canterbury is selling his Suffragans of Ebbsfleet and Richborough down the river. He is telling all who believed that we were in a period of reception, until there was agreement by the whole Church, Eastern and Western, that we had better give in or go. That was just a smokescreen to get the legislation through. Now the time for compromise is over.

Well, thank you, dear Rowan. It is good to know where we stand - though really that has been becoming daily more apparent since the volte face of the Manchester Commission. When you come home, please encourage the General Synod to go for a single clause measure, and start preparing the financial package which will enable priests to move on as quickly as possible. It was lovely knowing you - except that in reality, none of us did.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Church Buildings

Once again a bishop has asserted that Parish Churches cannot be alienated: Nick Baines did not use precisely those words [which come from Archbishop Rowan's interview], but the gist was the same. [See when he was responding to Ed Tomlinson.]

So perhaps we need to get this straight; those churches which were left after the depradations of Henry VIII, mainly parish churches, continued to be used by the Church of England as parish churches. Some monastic churches like Sherborne Abbey and Tewkesbury Abbey [pictured above] were bought from the Crown by the parishioners - in Tewkesbury's case only after pressure which included the demolition of the Lady Chapel to show just what might happen if they did not pay up.

Since then, the Church of England has disposed of many of its buildings. Some are cared for by Redundant Churches bodies. Others have been sold off, to be turned into restaurants, private houses, libraries (St Peter's Oxford) and even a Hindu Temple (St Luke's Southampton). So, inalienable they are not.

The continuing ownership of the remaining parish churches, including many like Fr Ed Tomlinson's St Barnabas' Tunbridge Wells, is with the parish. This is, unltimately, because the State says so. Before the Reformation they were often almost private property - hence even now a few surviving cases where a lay Rector has the duty of maintaining part of the building, and hence too the remaining vestiges of Private Patronage. If the State were persuaded that the Church of England no longer genuinely represented or served the whole nation, then it might decide to disestablish and disendow it, and hand the proceeds out to others - while taking a large share for itself, as Henry VIII did. Edward VI made his depradations look very charitable, by endowing schools - with money he and his father had taken from numerous monastic schools and colleges. No doubt a 21st Century government would have little difficulty in persuading people that the church's money would be better spent on Hospitals or Universities.

In short, it would be to the advantage of the Church of England to hand over some of its buildings to the Ordinariate, or to rent them at a peppercorn rent, rather than give the State ideas about nationalisation. It would appear very dog-in-manger indeed were it simply to hold on to buildings for which it had no use.

Clearly there must be talk and negotiation on this important matter. In the 1970s in the Parish of Farncombe we began a sharing agreement with the local Roman Catholic church. They had asked about using our school as a Mass centre. The parish church seemed to me, Rector at that time, more appropriate. So between our 8am celebration and the later Sung Eucharist, there was a Catholic Mass. The friendship and understanding which developed between our two congregations was marvellous. It did not happen quickly; the bishops, of Guildford and Arundel & Brighton, took some persuading. Yet today, thirty years on, I understand the 'experiment' continues and flourishes. Surely we can develop solutions at least as generous for those who are leaving the Church of England, giving them somewhere to worship, and letting the Church of England proceed unhindered with women as bishops?

Monday 16 November 2009

Refuting the Bitter Pill

Since the news of the Ordinariates, there have been several snide and uncharitable comments, none more than in 'The Tablet'. They have annoyed Roman Catholics as well as Anglicans, and there is a particularly good piece at the website "The Cause for the Canonisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman". It is a good piece in its own right, and deserves wide attention:

Sunday 15 November 2009

After the Storm

We have been blown about these last few days; tossed to and fro and carried about, you could say, by every wind of doctrine. So after nature's gale yesterday, the sky this evening on the Solent coast came as a great consolation, a reminder that after the storm there is calm. Some have already come to see the disappearance of the lifeline which the C of E had promised us as a great relief; for others, it has plainly been a shock. Fr David Houlding was given a roasting by Damian Thompson for expressing his disappointment at being betrayed by the Manchester Group. Some of the comments on that blog were so vituperative it is hard to think they were written by Christians. The fact is, it is very easy for those on the sidelines to remain calm and reasonable; for us, whose very foundations of faith are being tested, it has not been so easy.

In his blog, Fr Aquilina was also shaken: 'The C of E seems [it] cannot hide any longer its real intention to unchurch those who like me hold dear what Christians held always and everywhere across the centuries'. And Fr Trevor Jones was saddened by the passing of the church he had loved, "Tell me it is a dream" he wrote," this cannot really be happening to the Church of Hooker, Laud, Keble".

At the cost of sounding like the last chorus from the Life of Brian, I really do think the clouds are breaking and we get a glimpse of a marvellous future. The church we shall belong to will be truly a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It will contain within it the treasures of a glorious past - Hooker, Laud, Keble - and also Newman and Pusey and Kemp and Ramsey; and the promise of a more glorious future. As the Church of England plc makes it clear that it wants to clear out its traditionalists to make way for the great new liberal agenda, so the Church of Rome offers us a welcome more generous and heartfelt than we could have ever expected.

It is going to take time, and prayer, if we are to explain to our people just why this is a time for decision, and bring them with us. Our Provincial Bishops and the Bishop of Fulham and the handful of other orthodox bishops, are giving a lead. We have the duty to support them - and thank them for all they have done on our behalf so far. There is a long way to go yet, but ... well, I might as well say it: ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE!