Wednesday, 20 October 2010

By Many or by Few

Simon Killwick addresses the Assembly

Great excitement in the Wifred & Hilda bunch (the soft-centre Anglo-Catholics), and Reform (the hardline Evangelicals). Between them these two strange bedfellows can derail the consecration of women bishops; that at least is according to a press release from the Christian News Release Service UK, reported and commented on by Damian Thompson in his Telegraph blog. Here is what is claimed:

"Subject: Women Bishops in the CofE now to be BLOCKED after latest General Synod Election
Following the Election of the new General Synod of the Church of England, Evangelical and Catholic Groups on Synod have now swapped lists of candidates.
The results show that 66 Clergy (32.10%) and 77 laity (35.46%) will vote against the current Women Bishop legislation unless it is amended to give those who for conscious/scriptural reasons, cannot accept WBs.
Only 34% is needed to block this when it returns from the dioceses. For the first time, it can and will be blocked by both fully ELECTED houses. In the clergy only a further 1.81% is needed, and that’s just ONE person. There are 21 new evangelicals on this new synod, and one out of a possible 58 undecided is a given!
The Bishop of Fulham’s departure to Rome, announced on Friday, was therefore a little too early and the Catholic Group on General Synod have distanced themselves from his position and will be staying within the CofE."

Well, we have been here before, notoriously in the General Synod on 11.xi.92. On that day we were to be saved by our clear 1/3rd in the House of Laity. And if they did not prevent the Ordination of Women as Priests, then the House of Bishops would. In fact, a couple of women (who had been elected because they were opposed to women's ordination) abstained and the Bishops, who thought they would leave it to the laity, caved in; hence women's ordination went ahead. Incidentally, one of those women who changed her mind has since been 'ordained' as a priest - and her priest husband is now a Roman Catholic.

It would only require one or two of the laity or clergy to be indisposed when the vote happens - a funeral, a heavy cold, something compelling of that sort - and all the prognostications could once more prove wrong. But in any case, should the doctrine of the Church be determined in such a way? Far from being 'too early', the Bishop of Fulham's promise could not have come at a better time.

Some of us have spent half our lives seeing the Church of England descend into chaos. The question is not primarily one of women's ordination; it is about Authority. The Church of God is not ours to alter at will, its future depending on whether a third of the elected members of a Synod is ready to stand firm. We already have women as priests, and no doubt we shall have them as bishops before very long. Then, whatever 'safeguards' can be squeezed out of a reluctant Synod, it will not alter the fact that the Church of England can no longer claim continuity with the Church founded by Our Lord.

And what are those safeguards likely to be? Reform and SSWSH have very different requirements. For SSWSH (as the Bishop of Burnley reminded the FiF Assembly last week) "a Code of Practice Will Not Do". For Reform, it is all about Headship; and provided their parishes do not have to accept the ministry of women bishops, it will not matter greatly to them who joined in the laying on of hands when their Vicar was ordained. He is a man, that is enough. For them, a Code of Practice (even without Jurisdiction) probably will do. There may be concessions made next time round - perhaps in a Synod in 2012 - but those concessions cannot satisfy Catholics in the Church of England.

I originally ended this with some pretty harsh comments about those who remain undecided; and that resulted in a couple of helpful rebukes (see comments below); so I have deleted that, and would simply say that we must go on trying to find the right way ahead for us, for now - but don't be too easily deceived into thinking there will be a rescue package from the C of E similar to the Act of Synod. Sooner or later, women are going to be admitted to the Episcopate; and sooner or later we shall all have to decide if a church which determines doctrine by majorities in Synod can honestly claim to be part of the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" which we have always said it was. Meanwhile all of us should be praying for discernment, our own and others'.

Remember, "nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.” I Sam. xiv 6

[This post also appears on the Anglo-Catholic site]


  1. >>This is a time for sorting out the men and women from the boys and girls.......... .<<

    Forgive me Father but I find this judgement with its implied lack of maturity too severe. It suggests making a simple blind choice. For some the choice to be 'men and women' has still to be seen to be available to them while for others, the choice may simply prove too difficult at this time.

    "The Church of England [may] no longer claim continuity with the Church founded by Our Lord" but the game is not up until the final whistle. Until then we should stand firm in the knowledge that right is on our side. Better to go down fighting than surrender, a point I developed on Father Michael's blog Let Nothing You Dismay:

  2. I'm somewhat dismayed by the tone that has appeared from the author of this blog (and others in similar circumstances)in response to the current situation in the Church of England (and in Wales!)- especially the tone veered towards many of those priests (and laity)who are, for now, deciding to remain (or simply seeing what happens or delaying making any decision. They are, after all, struggling in their own way and trying to find their way forward). I suppose I am quite happy to be called a 'soft centred Anglo catholic' rather than a hard hearted one. It's also particularly saddening since many of these 'soft centred ango-catholics' have provided a role over many years now for the PEVs and therefore enabled them to butter their bread (their increased stipend must have made such a difference to their way of life). Having said that, it must be a more comfortable situation to be in (or near) retirement and I suppose decisions can be more easily made (especially when there are no 'dependants') The gentleness, compassion and patience expected of some shepherds of the church appears to have waned. There are only harsh comments, snide snippets and very little love. And it is that which saddens me most, I think. Fr Dean Atkins (for now a soft centred ango catholic)

  3. Yes, I think I've been unnecessarily harsh, and ask forgiveness for this. I suppose when things seem so clear to me, it is hard to realise what a struggle others are having - and, true,it is much easier for us who are already retired. It is simply that I am afraid that SSWSH will prove a dead-end, and keep people hoping for something from the CofE,only to be disappointed in the end. Still, the Ordinariate will remain open and once the forerunners have prepared the way - I don't mean ancient fogeys like me, but young priests with families who are striking out in hope - then others will follow. Meanwhile I really do accept the rebukes of the two who have commented already and will try to do better in future. Please continue to pray for me, as I shall for you wherever we end up! +E