Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Ahead to Where?

So, women bishops should be consecrated in the Church of England by about 2014, six years from now after the decision of the Church of England General Synod meeting in York.

I look at that date and wonder what on earth I'll be doing then. I've no idea what I will be doing, where I will be living, what will be my state of health (concerns arising, problems having been experienced), what will be my significant relationships (most having suffered distance or taken a battering), whether I can survive financially, and what I will even believe. Everything is transient.

Presumably traditionalist Anglicans believe in more permanence that this, but they might just be shivering from a greater sense of transience today than earlier yesterday. The institution of the Church of England has shifted, and away from them, and presumably General Synod elections for the really hefty votes will move in the direction of the majority. The path is being cleared.

Now the traditionalists said 1300 clergy could walk, including some ten plus bishops. They don't have to go presently. Now they could resist a vote in favour of women bishops, but the vote is not now. They might have a strategy of continual resistance, but the course is set and they would protect themselves through large minority defeats of legislation requiring a two thirds majority. Then when they lose that, they are exposed: exposed if with corners of behaviours that allow them not to be 'polluted' by immediate women clergy, but never sure who was ordained by a woman, who participated with a woman, and potentially giving an oath of obedience to a woman while having a man round to do the ecclesiastical washing. It wouldn't work, so resistance is all they have got.

Either that or it's ahead to some sort of planned alternative of their own, or something provided. One wonders how many would go now if the Roman Catholics promised something generously, even if it did involve something like reordination.

We don't even know what state the Church of England will be in: never mind, say, numerical decline and loss of influence, but the picking off that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) and its Primates' Council might very soon begin. Will that body start to operate a kind of collecting service for malcontents of different varieties, those who wish to maintain different kinds of purities? Once again there is an issue of property and money: it is generally thought that a few super-congregations can afford their own upkeep and therefore can afford to buy new properties and join the FOCA, but the traditionalists would end up like episcopi vagantes having to pay their own way through, say, secular jobs or retirement pensions.

If I was like one of them (and I could be if, for example, the Anglican Communion and the Church of England was about to introduce a highly restrictive Covenant - but that's about as likely as a fish riding a bicycle) I'd be planning arrangements with soul-friends from now.

Some decisions involve predicaments that just have consequences, and this is one of them. It represents the effective finishing of the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic so that now just the Affirming (or, roughly speaking, liberal) Anglo-Catholic has a future in the Church of England. Soon a situation could well arise where Conservative Evangelicals are leaving and evangelicals are weakened. They in effect are choosing to leave, where the traditionalist Anglo-Catholics might be compelled to leave - with a few staying on in odd corners for personal or financial reasons.

By 2014 the Church of England should look rather more like The Episcopal Church in the United States, the Anglican Church of Canada, the New Zealand Church, and the others in these islands.


michael jensen said...

You mean... empty?


Doorman-Priest said...

And the key source of rejoicing, surely, is that you are now unlikely to be reunited with Rome.

Shame about that then.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

If it defines itself as welcoming, broad and tolerant, open to variation, intelligent and reasonable, it won't be empty but will encourage spiritual maturity and pathways. Liberal minded Christians come through the Church by reading and study and discussing, dropping old beliefs and picking up others. Churches that can develop this service identity, of space, can actually build an active, conversational congregation, and develop a number of projects of some creativity.

Ecumenically, the sorting through of the Church of England will make it easier to draw in the denominations of England. You could end up with a C of E that is more like the Churches of India. A broad C of E will attract those of like-mind to be working ecumenically with each other, just as evangelicals are likely to join each other.

There must be a good chance that Rome will offer traditionalists a deal, if not a structural deal.