How to justify remaining in the C of E (?)

In the August edition of “new directions, the lead story explains how an opponent of the ordination of women to the episcopate can still justify remaining in the Church of England.

The argumentation is based on the Statement of Guiding Principles (originally known as the “shared vision”) which was officially welcomed by General Synod in its resolution of 20 November 2013:

1. Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;

2. Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;

3. Since it continues to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England acknowledges that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;

4. Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and

5. Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.

Here is a summary of the basic arguments:

    • Amazingly new directions finds the first of the principles, namely that women bishops will be the ‘true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy’ to be “unproblematic”, since it is possible to appoint even a layperson to the office of bishop. This person, although not sacramentally belonging to the order of bishops, would legally hold the office of bishop and would thus be owed canonical obedience. (This argument is seriously flawed, in that it will not be the intention of the church to appoint a lay person but rather to ordain a priest to the order of bishop with all its attendant rights and privileges. What is even more cynical is that a woman bishop thus “appointed” is compared in the lead story to an Ordinary in the Catholic Church who may in fact not be a bishop but commands canonical obedience.)
    • The requirement in Principle 2 to accept that the C of E had taken a ‘clear decision’ is made light of by stating that “no one can be certain that any ‘clear decision’ will not be questioned or even overturned by future generations”.
    • The argument concerning Principle 3 is that a decision of a Council or Synod (even a ‘clear decision’) is not absolute until it has been received by the whole Church. And by placing the current decision on women bishops within the discernment process of the ‘whole Church of God’ the bishops are in fact acknowledging the provisional nature of this decision.
    • Principle 4 recognises that those who hold the ‘theological conviction’ that women cannot be ordained priest or bishop are loyal Anglicans, that their conviction remains ‘within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion’ and that they should be enabled to ‘flourish’ within the church. (I have no argument with that interpretation of the text, although new directions itself does use the word “toleration” of the opponents by the rest of the church, which might suggest a certain scepticism about the genuine readiness of the church, specifically the bishops, not merely to allow them to exist but indeed to flourish.)
    • The arguments concerning Principal 5 are based on the “acceptance” of teachings of the Roman Catholic Second Vatican Council about the communion of all baptised Christians within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in order to explain full and impaired communion within the Anglican church as a result of the ordination of women (how illogical is that! And, by the way, it is hardly an oath of allegiance to the Anglican church to state that “the Church of England will continue to be composed of Christians who share a common baptism and live in fellowship with each other and therefore in communion — albeit communion that is imperfect” – and that within one and the same ecclesial body! WOW!)

I must admit to being less than convinced by this argumentation. I find it dishonest with oneself to try to justify remaining within the Church of England on the basis of

  • a pretence that the C of E has intentionally appointed laywomen to the office of bishop
  • a conviction that the ‘clear decision’ on women bishops is not absolute
  • the hope that this decision will be overturned
  • a deep-rooted scepticism that one is only tolerated by the rest of the church and that the bishops must prove their readiness to enable one’s branch of the church to flourish
  • no more than the basic communion of all baptised Christians, which in itself is even considered imperfect

There are indeed many perfectly valid personal reasons not to leave the C of E  but I am truly shocked that new directions should try to justify it in this way.

David Murphy

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17 Responses to How to justify remaining in the C of E (?)

  1. Rev22:17 says:

    David,

    You wrote: I must admit to being less than convinced by this argumentation.

    I’m with you on this. If one does not recognize a person’s orders, one cannot recognize sacraments celebrated by that person, either. The only practicable safeguard for those who cannot accept episcopal ordination of women is a “church within a church” model with its own diocesan structure overlaid on that of the main body and whereby new “Anglo-Catholic” bishops receive episcopal ordination only from other “Anglo-Catholic” bishops, thus guaranteeing an all-male lineage. The real issue is how long the so-called “progressive” elements will tolerate a cadre of members who don’t recognize the validity of ordination in the larger body.

    But my guess is that those in charge will not implement the safeguards in this way, with the consequence that Anglo-Catholics will leave and become the ordinariate’s second wave.

    Norm.

  2. Joseph Golightly says:

    There’s an opportunity here to write a database of “real” ministers (=Anglican ‘priests’) You will need to know men who have been ordained solely by men who would have themselves and their ordaining men only have been ordained by men – right back in history. It’s illogical and a nightmare scenario and is certainly not Catholic. I have heard that because I have to be reordained if I want become a Catholic Priest, I cannot possibly cross the Tiber – well you can understand why!

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Joseph,

      There’s an opportunity here to write a database of “real” ministers (=Anglican ‘priests’) You will need to know men who have been ordained solely by men who would have themselves and their ordaining men only have been ordained by men – right back in history. It’s illogical and a nightmare scenario and is certainly not Catholic.

      That’s precisely why I speak of the “Church within a Church” model as the only practical way to satisfy the Anglo-Catholic contingent. If only Anglo-Catholic bishops, who obviously will be male, participate in the ordination of new Anglo-Catholic bishops, and only those bishops ordain clergy who will serve Anglo-Catholic parishes, there’s no problem and no need to search through the archives since the all-male lineage will maintain itself. As a practical matter, this would mean organizing the Anglo-Catholic parishes into dioceses or equivalent entities (pro-dioceses?) led by Anglo-Catholic bishops.

      The question nevertheless remains how, and to what degree, the Anglo-Catholic wing will recognize the ordination and sacramental ministry of clergy ordained by bishops of the larger body. I really think that even the “church within a church” paradigm will inevitably lead to practical separation at some point, whereupon the Anglo-Catholic contingent probably will come into the full communion of the Catholic Church, but the separation could be decades away rather than months away.

      Norm.

  3. Joseph Golightly says:

    Norm The Anglo Catholic movement is in free fall. As reported else where (The Tablet a few weeks back for example) the “National” Pilgrimage to Walsingham this year apparently attracted 2000 people whereas before the women were ordained ‘priests’ there were years close to 20000. Go to some of the London churches and you will find less than 50 at the principal services. Forward in Faith has less than 4000 members down by 50% since its start, the number of ‘safe’ parishes that they have is down by 50%. It’s decline on a massive scale. So your decades might be looking through rose coloured specs?

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Joseph,

      You wrote: Forward in Faith has less than 4000 members down by 50% since its start, the number of ‘safe’ parishes that they have is down by 50%.

      How much of this reflects the departure of the present membership and clergy of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham?

      You wrote: So your decades might be looking through rose coloured specs?

      Not if the ordinariates draw Evangelical Anglicans — and I think that they will, in due course.

      Norm.

  4. EPMS says:

    Although your larger point may be valid I think it is unwise to equate Anglo-Catholicism with opposition to the ordination of women. In North America, which began this process 25 years earlier, a new generation of Anglo-Catholics has arisen which seems to have decided it can live with it. It is the “Continuing” movement which arose in opposition which is dwindling to a handful, and we can hardly say that the OCSP is going full speed ahead. Congregations of fifty would be considered very robust in either quarter. Meanwhile the historic Anglo-Catholic parishes are largely still up and running.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You wrote: Although your larger point may be valid I think it is unwise to equate Anglo-Catholicism with opposition to the ordination of women. In North America, which began this process 25 years earlier, a new generation of Anglo-Catholics has arisen which seems to have decided it can live with it.

      Yes, I agree. The scriptures do not speak explicitly to ordination of women, so many “bible believin’ Christians” are willing to accept it. The ordination of clergy in active homosexual relationships and the promotion of same sex unions, however, are another matter: there’s no ambiguity in the scriptures with respect to homosexual unions.

      You continued: It is the “Continuing” movement which arose in opposition which is dwindling to a handful, and we can hardly say that the OCSP is going full speed ahead.

      And where have the people gone?

      Many are now in the ordinariates, some have come into the Catholic Church apart from the ordinariates, many probably have gone to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which seeks to remain within the Anglican Communion, and the “Continuing Anglican” bodies that remain are so fragmented that getting a count is a real challenge.

      You wrote: Meanwhile the historic Anglo-Catholic parishes are largely still up and running.

      Technically true of some, but what was once a Rolls Royce is now a Yugo.

      Also, many of the Anglo-Catholic parishes are now part of ACNA. Note that both the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Diocese of South Carolina left The Episcopal Church (TEC) substantially intact.

      Norm.

  5. EPMS says:

    Let us not forget that Mgr Steenson was ordained in TEC in 1980, four years after the first women were ordained there, and consecrated bishop fifteen years after Barbara Harris became suffragan bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Massachusetts. His Anglo-Catholic credentials were otherwise pretty good. My observation has been that ACNA is essentially an Evangelical movement, at least in its Canadian incarnation.

  6. dralmarsh says:

    “Not if the ordinariates draw Evangelical Anglicans — and I think that they will, in due course.” How can this happen? There are very serious and unresolved theological differences between Evangelical churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Can such differences be tolerated within the Ordinariates?

    • Rev22:17 says:

      dralmarsh,

      I said: Not if the ordinariates draw Evangelical Anglicans — and I think that they will, in due course.

      You responded: How can this happen? There are very serious and unresolved theological differences between Evangelical churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Can such differences be tolerated within the Ordinariates?

      By “Evangelical Anglicans,” I was referring to Evangelical Christians within the Church of England, like the current Archbishop of Canterbury, and, more broadly, within the Anglican Communion rather than to members of Evangelical Protestant bodies. The theological differences between Evangelical Anglicans and the Catholic Church are a lot less than between Evangelical Protestants and the Catholic Church.

      And even among Evangelical Protestants, there are various factions. The Fundamentalists are the most hardcore, and many remain ardently anti-Catholic. Other Evangelical Protestants, by contrast, tend to have a lack of theological development relative to that of the Catholic Church in certain areas — especially in ecclesiology and in sacramental and liturgical theology — rather than true divergence. Many Evangelical Christians who have found a Catholic parish where the gospel is preached effectively — including a good number of former pastors — have come into the full communion of the Catholic Church, but they typically require relatively extensive catechesis in these areas before reception into full communion.

      Norm.

      • William Tighe says:

        “By ‘Evangelical Anglicans,’ I was referring to Evangelical Christians within the Church of England, like the current Archbishop of Canterbury, and, more broadly, within the Anglican Communion rather than to members of Evangelical Protestant bodies. The theological differences between Evangelical Anglicans and the Catholic Church are a lot less than between Evangelical Protestants and the Catholic Church.”

        Norm, you seem to be referring here to those whom I would term “Liberal
        Evangelicals” or “Middle-of-the-Road-Anglicans,” and you pass over those “Conservative Evangelicals” who form a strong constituency in the Church of England and in other places (such as the Archdiocese of Sydney in Australia). Anglican Evangelicals of this stripe are very strongly “anti-Roman” and often regard themselves as the genuine embodiment of what the Church of England/Anglicanism was meant to be in the 1559 “Elizabethan Settlement.” I see very little difference between “Consevative Evangelical Anglicans” and those whom you term “Evangelical Protestants.”

        Such Consevative Evangelicals are usually anti-WO and orthodox (in Catholic terms) on such matters as abortion and homosexual practive – but they really have no interest in Catholicism at all. Anglicans such as “your” Evangelicals are more (as I see them) Liberals than Evangelical: strongly pro-WO; in the process of accepting homosexual practice; if anti-abortion, then reluctant to act upon it or even to voice their views; and completely at ease with divorce-and-remarriage. They may “make nice” with Catholics and with the Catholic Church, but I think are as remote from it (in matters of dogmatic belief and moral teaching), if in different ways, than your “Evangelical Protestants.”

  7. William Tighe says:

    As I wrote above:

    They may “make nice” with Catholics and with the Catholic Church, but I think are as remote from it (in matters of dogmatic belief and moral teaching), if in different ways, than your “Evangelical Protestants.”

    And now add:

    Probably the difference in attitude towards “Romanism” stems from the fact that while Conservative Evangelical Anglicans, like Evangelical Protestants, regard “Rome” as the enemy and hold “rejection of the errors of Romanism” as a fundamental aspect of their “foundation myth,” your “Evangelicals” fantasize, as do so many religious liberals and “liberalizing Protestants,” that “Rome” will itself eventually join them in accepting liberal innovations, and that then, on the basis of a common liberalism they will be able to “live together happily ever after.”

    • Dear Professor,

      Do you have any explanation why Forward in Faith in the UK now sees itself as an

      “association of Catholics and Evangelicals
      – female and male, young and old –
      seeking to renew the Church in the historic faith.

      We are committed to the catholic faith as the Church of England received it, and to proclaiming it afresh in this generation.

      We uphold catholic order and the catholic doctrine of the sacraments, and in particular the threefold ministry in historic succession, which the Church of England shares with the Church throughout the world and across the ages.

      We long for the visible unity of Christ’s Church, and especially for communion between the Church of England and the rest of the Western Church.”? (quote from their website)

      • William Tighe says:

        FiF has always presented itself, tight from its beginning in 1993, as an “asociation of Catholics and Evangelicals,” although its Evangelical membership appears to have been pretty negligible. The late John Richardson (d. March 20-14), aka “The Ugley Vicar:”

        http://ugleyvicar.blogspot.com/

        was one evangelical clegyman who occasionally contributed to New Directions. He was strongly opposed to WO, but, like many English Conservative Evangelical Anglicans, was okay with “lay celebration” of the Eucharist. I suppose there are several reasons why so few Evangelicals have been involve in FiF: (1) many Conservative Evangelicals dislike Anglo-Catholicism as much or more as they dislike “Rome,” seeing A-Cism as an alien and erroneous presence in true (Protestant) Anglicanism, and as such to be opposed as strenuously as they oppose “liberalism;” (2) “moderate” Evangelicals generally have no problems with WO, and rightly see FiF not only as an Anglo-Catholic organization, but (correctly) as one whose basic raison d’etre is opposition to WO; and (3) Conservative Evangelical Anglicans have their own association, “Reform,” which embodies their own theological views. Some might wish to add (and others to deny) that FiF has never taken the strong stand against homosexual practice that English Conservative Evangelicals take. FiF has certainly not taken a “revisionist” stance on this latter issue, but as one who has closely observed English Anglicanism for over 35 years, I think it is fair to say that FiF has more than a few members who might wish to ignore this particular moral issue, for reasons about which I will not speculate.

        Besides, how many English Anglican Evangelicals would be able to agree with the last two of your last three paragraphs, even if they might claim, regarding the first one of them, that “the catholic faith as the Church of England received it” means nothing other than Protestant Evangelical Anglicanism?

      • dralmarsh says:

        There is no evidence of any Evangelicals continuing within Forward in Faith (which is rapidly aligning itself with the Affirming Catholic organisation in England and with its liberal approbation of same-sex “marriage”). There were a few Evangelicals who belonged to FiF when it was formed twenty years ago – but not now.

      • Joseph Golightly says:

        Threefold ministry now includes lay bishops. The stance of New Directions is now anti catholic and it attacks frequently the Ordinariate which was formed by the Pope who they (FIF) simply adore. One might even be tempted to think that such representatives as Podmore, Goodall, Webster and Baker are in the process of becoming “stooges” of Lambeth and in fact anti catholic (please discuss!)

  8. EPMS says:

    I think we can say categorically that the OOLW has drawn its membership exclusively from Anglo-Catholic parishes, with the exception of a few individuals who may have wandered in from lapsed Catholic or other backgrounds. I can imagine an Evangelical coming to terms with Catholic ecclesiology, through a process of prayerful discernment, but I don’t see this including a sudden enthusiasm for lace cottas, birettas, and Healey Willan. The liturgical style of a typical OF mass would probably be far more congenial to someone formed on “Shine Jesus, Shine,” and he or she would give an Ordinariate group a very wide berth.

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