Wednesday 14 October 2009

The Manglican Church

In alphabetical order these are the members of the General Synod Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate who decided to overturn the Church of England General Synod vote in draft legislation for statutory code of practice which meant a diocesan bishop (man or woman) arranging an alternative bishop to come in for those congregations under them who could not accept women bishops.

01. Alexander, Mrs April (Southwark)
02. Ashworth, Mrs Lorna (Chichester)
03. Baker, Revd Jonathan (Oxford)
04. Broadbent, Rt Revd Peter (Bishop of Willesden, Southern Suffragans)
05. Faull, Very Revd Vivienne (Dean of Leicester, Deans)
06. Gooder, Dr Paula (Birmingham)
07. Hardman, Ven Christine (Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich, Southwark)
08. Hargrave, Revd Canon Dr Alan (Ely)
09. Jarrett, Rt Revd Martyn (Bishop of Beverley, Northern Suffragans)
10. Killwick, Revd Canon Simon (Manchester)
11. MacLeay, Revd Angus (Rochester)
12. Magowan, Ven Alistair (Archdeacon of Dorset, Salisbury)
13. Mansell, Ven Clive (Archdeacon of Tonbridge, Rochester)
14. McCulloch, Rt Revd Nigel (Bishop of Manchester) (Chair)
15. Spencer, Mrs Caroline (Canterbury).
16. Stevens, Revd Canon Anne (Southwark)
17. Swinson, Mrs Margaret (Liverpool)
18. Tattersall, Mr Geoffrey QC (Manchester)
19. Willmott, Rt Revd Trevor (Bishop of Basingstoke, Southern Suffragans)

The Revision Committee decided instead to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute. In other words, the bishop in place, man or woman, would be bypassed in the case of a congregation wishing for alternative oversight.

Now there are a number of things wrong with this to someone who's a bit of an outsider. First of all a democratic (in so far as the tricameral General Synod is so) vote is overturned. This is only a limited criticism, because the altered legislation can go back and be altered again by the General Synod. It also ends up in Parliament, which has a stronger commitment to equality, though why Parliament wants to be interested in the internal affairs of a Church is quite puzzling in this day and age. I mean, until the link is broken, the few who could be bothered to vote about a Church in Parliament ought to just let whatever discriminatory legislation this Church chooses for itself go through (so long as it does not impact on the wider public).

What is on the table now is clearly discriminatory. It means that in the case of a woman bishop, and a male bishop bishoped by a woman, and a male bishop who produces women priests, a congregation can arrange its own alternative drawing upon a generally available statute. This rides a coach and horses through the diocesan principle, or rather uses a bypass.

There are times in Church life when a crossroads is reached, and where, whatever you do, an innovation is involved. Having ordained women as priests, and with only sectors of the Church of England objecting to women's headship (Protestant) or episcopal status (Catholic), the Church reaches a predicament of an innovation whatever it does. The point is, it cannot stay where it is: it is illogical being in an in-between state.

The first innovation is to have women as well as men bishops. That's it. These bishops might also decide on alternatives for some others, and even be required to do so, but it is their decisions.

The second alternative innovation, as by the Revision Committee, is to bust the diocesan principle via a general statute.

Another alternative could be to have separate male only dioceses, keeping the diocesan principle, as a sort of Apartheid solution of separate development, which busts the geographical principle of dioceses (it would produce dioceses with holes in them and other dioceses like a hand of many fingers).

The cleanest and simplest decision is once you decide on the equality of the sexes as bishops is to have both sexes as bishops full stop. Slightly more complicated is to require decisions of alternatives for those who want to sit in corners.

The objection to such simplicity is that people are forced to leave. The actual, real objection, is that ministers who are being paid a salary are forced to leave. They have to prepare a CV and fill in application forms, like the rest of us. But another Church might pay them, eventually. I think giving that salary up is rather a good test of conviction. Unpaid lay people might be involved too. Here is another test of convictions: set up your own meeting place and finance it, finding a suitable existing male bishop who can tap the head of someone else who is male to give the authority figure required for such a newly gathered congregation. If a few do this then a male bishop can organise male priests and all is hunky-dory.

Much of this is possible because there are other Churches who retain a male-only episcopate. There are 'sound' male only bishops available and other male only led Churches. These days we are free enough for people to choose denominations that come closest to their own convictions, or they can start their own and help is available from different sources and individuals.

Now the further objection to moving out is that these existing Churches to draw upon do not even recognise Anglican bishops and priests as bishops and priests. I would have thought this should worry many of the objecting last days Anglicans and their obviously one-direction ecumenical outlook (their tongue-licking of Rome and Orthodoxy is not reciprocated). But it should not be a problem because they can do as has been done with the Anglican Church of North America - set up your own Anglican Church.

Some would like the Pope to do this for them: an Anglican Rite offshoot. No doubt he could - he might. Actually, some of these last days Anglicans use the Roman Missal, so using Anglican rites inside Roman Catholicism might involve a culture shock. But then they would still have to be reordained. That would also be an innovation, because it would tell them that in all their recent past they were laymen behaving out of turn. That's what happens when a limited ecumenical outlook is not reciprocated.

The usually considered Protestant Church of Methodists are Anglicans with or without bishops, called Methodists because of their methodicalness in religious observance (High Church and Evangelical) at a time when Anglicanism was lazy. After Wesley's death, they became separated off. They might go back again. Go back further and under oppression the Puritans had the courage of their convictions and would not assent and consent to the Book of Common Prayer, thus setting up English Presbyterianism as a network of local ministers and congregations.

So really the Anglicans who could well split off soon need a new name for a new denomination that reflects their character.

I suggest The Manglican Church.

The Manglican Church can keep the appearances and forms of the old Anglican Church of England, and this way the cleanest innovation can take place in the actual Anglican Church, which is the equality of male and female throughout its ministry. It might just be that other gender definitions cease to be a barrier too, for example with whom you love and sleep, once this sex matter has been sorted out.

Oh dear. What superstitious lives some people lead.


Ormonde Plater said...

If you're going to have a Manglican Church, you also need a Womanglican Church in which all the bishops and priests have to be female.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Why? As far as I am aware, no woman is saying men cannot be priests or bishops.

In any case, if an all female Church was set up, I'd want to try to be in it.

June Butler said...

What about shortening Womanglican to Wanglican? It's less cumbersome.

Rowan may not understand the polity of the Episcopal Church, but I surely cannot understand the polity of a church which allows a small group in a larger body to undo the work of the larger body.