Tuesday, 3 August 2010

On the one hand - and on the other

Fifteen of our more catholic-minded bishops in the Church of England have penned a letter to the clergy. I am not sure quite why they did it. Apart from encouraging us all to attend regional meetings in the Autumn, and saying we must not be uncharitable, there is not a great deal which I can discern there of leadership.
Perhaps that will come later, when those who have made decisions will declare themselves and call on the rest of us to do the same. I hope and believe this is so, and reckon the waiting is simply in order to get the visit of the Holy Father behind us. That's very laudable, for we would not want the media focussing on Anglican turncoats (as they will call us) rather than on the visit of the Pope and what he has to say.
Yet it is frustrating to be told by those who are thought to be our leaders "we must be honest and say we are not united as to how we should respond to these developments". We all know there are catholic-minded CofE bishops who have those four letters written down their spine, and they will find ways of staying CofE even when an Imam is installed in Canterbury. We have come across men like them before, who claimed to be catholic, but once they were in high office simply failed to help us. Such men are not our leaders; they will go on playing games until kingdom come. We do not want or need their advice.
These are the ones who say "the closeness of the vote on the Archbishops' amendment for co-ordinate jursidiction suggest (sic) at least a measure of disquiet in the majority". But they also say that even if that amendment had been accepted, there were "concerns about its adequacy". Concerns! I'll say there were concerns! It was a pathetic sop, which no one with any integrity could have swallowed. It gave no jurisdiction to any bishop appointed to care for us, and no certainty about what sort of bishop that might be - male, yes, but nothing at all about what he believed, or whether or not he himself participated in women's 'ordination'. What is more, he would be wished on us by a women 'bishop'. We said, and many of these fifteen bishops agreed, that "A Code of Practice will not do"... and now they seem to be saying, 'Well, maybe we will have to put up with that, and it will all be alright in the end'.
So the Bishops turn to consider those who will stay "perhaps even reluctantly because of family circumstances". These are those who "cannot currently imagine themselves being anywhere else but within the Church of England". Surely it is for our bishops to say to such people, "Well, you'd better start imagining". There will BE no Church of England, or rather none that can feasibly call itself part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, after women are consecrated as Bishops. The shell may remain, appearances will be kept up here and there, but it will all be a sham. A Church, a real Church, served by priests who were once called without any irony "stupor mundi" - that will have gone.
"Those who are not actively seeking a home elsewhere must work to defeat the currently proposed legislation". Oh dear, what can we say to such dreamers? The legislation is all but through. Any amendment accepted now will be no more than applying a fresh coat of paint to Titanic's deckchairs - even less worthwhile than rearranging them, and a great deal more trouble. Those bishops among the signatories who think there is any hope of defeating the legislation are not capable of leading anyone anywhere. Sorry, it is just too late. And it is cruel to encourage people to stand for Synod knowing that their role will be to be abused, ignored, and mocked.
We are told that even such people 'not seeking a home elsewhere' must be respected. "Each of the possibilities we have outlined has its own integrity and is to be honoured". I do not think it is a kindness to encourage people to live like Mr Micawber, hoping against hope that something will turn up. It will not, and it is no kindness to pretend otherwise.
Why was there this special meeting of bishops who disagreed with one another, called in order to put out a statement? We have enough of that from the official C of E. What we want is leadership; and I pray we may get it, for like the Holy Father I am too old to be patient.

[I have also submitted this piece to the Anglo Catholic blogsite]


  1. Bishop Edwin thank you for this. You have summed it up beautifully. There seems to be a distinct lack of leadership around at the moment amongst some of those who are supposed to be our Fathers-in-God. As for suggesting standing for General Synod to defeat the legislation are they on the same planet? The mind boggles!

  2. If the Apostles and early disciples were as spineless as these bishops, there would have been no church!

    They need leadership such as yours, +Edwin.

  3. Dear +Edwin,
    once again, how right you are! But you know as well as I do that the cavalry are coming!

  4. Thank you for yr critique of that document - spot on!
    If only a diocesan wld say he's joining the Ordinariate and invite his priests and people to follow... but then + Chichester and +Blackburn are 'sons of Eric' and we know that he had that old High Ch aversion to Rome. Like father, like son I suppose. But it's about time they grew up and overcame their Oedipus Complex.

  5. Dear Bishop Edwin,

    I respectfully suggest that you read, ponder and reflect upon the good sense and wise words contained within the Bishop of Ebbsfleet's latest Pastoral Letter - "Electing a New General Synod".

  6. Thanks, Fr David. I think what I have written is simply spelling out, less elegantly and perhaps more robustly, what Bishop Andrew wrote in his August pastoral: "for now at least we know where we are; it is time to stop making bricks without straw". Of course go on praying about all this; but don't let's pretend a new Synod will make one whit of difference.

  7. +Edwin's right: everything the CoE does 'officially' seriously irritates - and it just gets worse. It's now hopeless thinking that something acceptable just might turn-up. We either shit on the pot - or get off it. I think we need to get off it; maybe not immediately, but the clock's ticking to 2014.

  8. A northen chapter of SSC discussed the Archbishops' amendments the other day; all regretted that they had failed. Nobody was convinced by the observation that, even if they had been passed, we should still be much worse off than we are now. Nobody so much as mentioned the Ordinariate. I gathered from individual conversations that "nobody round here wants the Ordinariate. It is a southern thing."