Sunday, 6 July 2008


Well I thought I had a good interview, it specifically conducted under confidentiality conditions, but then I had such self-assessment confirmed in feedback for the last two, and they either had people set up already (would be obvious from the application form) or I did a test which showed I was transferring skills not coming from within. Interviews get conducted under rules of 'equal opportunities' but most are structures that cover up actual behaviour - employees about to be promoted who are told that the job has to be advertised externally under these rules but equally told "not to worry" - that sort of thing.

The sort of appearance and reality is one of those differences learnt in the Anglican world. Cultural variation, sensitivity, and what people actually think and do, account for appearance and reality being different. The importance of knowing the difference and understanding why it exists is what has escaped the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. They want to confess and add to the appearance of things, rather than allowing for the reality of things as they take place. The doctrinal and belief frontage of Anglicanism belies its reality, which is much the broader.

This ability to run a kind of parallel reality is evidence of maturity and of doublespeak. They do go together, and can be uncomfortable. Doublespeak, double structure in some cases, is a way of living with appearances. Sometimes, however, that ability runs out. An issue is forced, has to be faced, where the existing space of doublespeak won't work.

On the one hand, the FOCAs insisting on the reality of the appearance, and a bit more besides, and structures of monitoring such, force the issue for everyone else. Thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, in continuing the appearance, said how Lambeth would want to endorse what the GAFCON had produced. We know that much of it would not, not in reality. However, having produced alternative structures of the FOCAs, this group have left itself exposed to being shut out via those structures according to the standard procedures of schisms. Once other structures are set up, then the host body has the target to do the excluding.

Another place where appearance and reality have run out is with female ordination, to the highest level. This was indicated by the Bishop of Manchester not knowing the difference between bad muddle and good muddle. In other words, there seem to be few options to rig reality behind appearances.

The problem is that a separate non-geographical diocese is a step too far for the muddle, for the reality behind the appearance of full female ordinations and consecrations. They would not be equal with men. Either they should be or not. More than this, the non-geographical diocese would also provide a means of alternative oversight that the FOCAs want, and then the non-geographical diocese would be the means to compete with existing dioceses, a means to say boo to a bishop and run off to the safe haven. It would be like parallel universes where the holes in one cheese in one universe make up the cheese of another universe.

A Church that wanted to self-destruct might set up its own internal competition, or perhaps a Church that cannot make up its own mind and where full female ordination ends up being completely muddled as the extra diocese starts to call itself the real Church, the one approved by the Primates' Council abroad.

A crossroads is reached. In order to go on, the Church of England has to grasp a nasty nettle that it did not grasp before. Forced to have a reality and appearance that match on a key structural matter - gender not being an element in episcopal leadership - it has to make a decision that does force others who cannot agree to make their own alternative Church.

It is not as if there would not be a code of conduct by which some could still live life dealing with men only in robes consecrated by other men. But such ministry has to be arranged from one that is united. If the bishop was a male consecrated by a female or a female then such would still be the boss in that place, whatever arrangements were made. If that is unacceptable, then the policy requires acceptance or to leave. Sometimes the predicament is reached and has to be crossed.

Anglicanism and the Church of England is in a situation of stress at present that few organisations can handle. As it happens, its daily and weekly existence is repetitive, and there is a capacity to ignore controversies higher up. But these controversies soon catch up in the personnel and in the pulpit. The structures are shaking and in flux, and what ever way forward taken is painful. It just has to take the step.

There will be fall-out but the Church that comes from this will be leaner and more co-ordinated, and it will have spaces where it can again live between appearance and reality. To move on it has to do two things: one is to allow the ordination of women on the same basis as men, and the second is to exclude as legitimate the statements of an external Primates' Council.

Evengelicals will be weaker because they will have divided. The more extreme ones will either go or be marginalised within the Church of England. The pattern has already been set regarding Anglo-Catholics - ordaining women as bishops will in effect finish off the weakened traditionalist Anglo-Catholics (either gone or regarded as having too much duplicity). I have indicated before the likelihood then of liberals, no longer under internal attack, but having to meet certain role performances, themselves likely to divide, and a potential shaking out there too. No one talks about that because it seems so far down the line and unlikely. It's not though, and I say it as one who doctrinally barely hangs on now and probably would come under such pressure in a tighter ship, one where appearance and reality have come closer.

Incidentally on the day of the interview I popped into Waterstones. In its tiny Religion section, separate from Mind, Body and Spirit section (much larger), was one copy of Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope. They probably feel obliged to stock it: one isn't exactly a statement of flying off the shelf. So I looked at parts of it, sitting on the one seat in there they've allowed that isn't attached to selling coffee. I looked at its Easter argument, and was utterly unconvinced. The argument was not made. It was full of assumptions whilst accusing this of others, and seemed to jump from making an argument to throw-away sentences. I left wondering (it back on the shelf - I wouldn't buy it) who the book was for. In attempting to write an adult education based theology course, I am trying to indicate where these assumptions might be - for anyone. In a slimmed down Church of England, Tom Wright would be on its theological right wing, but as a layperson I might be on its far left wing. Maybe too far.


Erika Baker said...

"I did a test which showed I was transferring skills not coming from within."

What on earth does that mean?
It's about as intelligible to me as much of what comes out of FOCA.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Gosh, that is harsh criticism!

I was trying to say that those who did the Excel test from a position of doing that kind of work already had a better chance of doing it well than someone like me coming from outside relying on general Excel skills.

I highly competent Excel user would have done better than me, but someone doing the work already would have known what to do.

Erika Baker said...

Oh, sorry! I thought that was management speak I'm not familiar with!

And it is as nonsensical as what is coming out of FOCA.
Proper interviews don't only assess actual knowledge and skill but also potential to acquire skills quickly and comprehensively. Your interview sounds terribly narrow focused!
Same as....