Monday 3 December 2012

Which Anglicans Live 'of' Beverley?

In between Ramsgate and Sandwich on the Kent coast there is a rather non-descript area of land next to the Great Stour river. It is called Ebbsfleet. It is pretty much nowhere land if there is a nowhere land.

North of where I live is Beverley, which is an attractive market town that can hold its own against Hull, partly thanks to is easier car parking when comparing the two centres. Beverley is more defined; Hull is over bloated and spread out. Where I used to live was New Holland, and when Anglican (of sorts) I hopped over the parish boundary to Barton and its church; this place received visits from the diocesan bishop, and indeed the Bishop of Grantham, but much of the administration and decision making bishop-wise came from the Bishop of Grimsby, who has now retired and is no longer replaced.

Now each of these places are, in Anglican terms, sees, because a bishop has a bishopric.

Getting your Barton business done by one in Grimsby makes sense as it is nearby; even a visit from the one of Grantham makes sense (regarding youth things of his interest); and indeed both were under the boss from Lincoln, though the priest-in-charge (as was) was the bishop's representative, presumably the diocesan one. So the other two floated about a bit, but the boundariew were within Lincoln.

 But what happens if a bishop of one of these places says they have a see? Well, all bishops have one. A see implies a geographical spread, and the Lincoln one is the diocese. Clearly Grimsby, now defunct, had a geographical element but fuzzy boundaries, as does Grantham. Grantham is still there, so presumably its fuzziness extends to the whole of Lincoln diocese. He is, of course, a deputy to the boss, who can do the things the boss can do, and so helps do the boss's things among a wide geographical area.

Where is the See of Beverley? Is it limited to the diocese of York? Does the Bishop of Beverley do things coming to a fuzzy boundary with the Bishop of Hull? Apparantly not, however, because the See of Beverley is ideological.

Where is the See of Ebbsfleet? Are people around Ramsgate and Sandwich with villages west particularly well-served? Is there a lot of religious activity in those parts? Apparently not, because the See of Ebbsfleet is also ideological. So what does it mean when Bishop Jonathan Baker SSC, Fourth Bishop of Ebbsfleet, refers to:

So what, in our local context, can we – priests and people of the See of Ebbsfleet – actually do?

And as a second piece of advice he states the need to:

actively to work to maintain the bonds of charity with all those who are your partners in the mission of the Church in your area – clergy and laity of other traditions, male and female, all those involved in the life of your diocese and deanery.

This is interesting and puts him just on one side of a potentially new and different situation. He is obviously accepting that people in his See have also an existence in various dioceses and deaneries. But one 'solution' the anti-women bishops people are seeking are when he would refer to the people of his see and his diocese. Within the provinces of Canterbury or York, these sees spread, even cut, across dioceses because they are
ideological. The people remain in a diocese and thus the bishop retains unity, but one further nudge along the demands of opponents and you get geographical dioceses with holes in them, filled by the people of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet or, say, the Bishop of Beverley. At the moment they are suffragans, and no boundaries other than the province.

It works in that the bishop remains male only and male-derived. The problem for these opponents is that with female or female-derived male bishops, those in the See of Ebbsfleet could not be in the diocese of another bishop. The See has to become of a diocese, the suffrgan a non-geographical diocesan.

And that's the problem. In fact the non-geographic diocese isn't just a Church within a Church, but it relies on the Archbishop being male. That last link of sharing, in a doughnut Church, would have to become a Church of a flying Archbishop should the Archbishop be either female-derived of female.

It is this impossibility which must deny the outcome many traditionalists seek. But the reason it is denied is because the Conservative Evangelicals want the same, and they have GAFCON based international bishops and a council of its own. These in existence mean a forced entryism via the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, but to hand them a non-geographical diocese is to do this entryist job for them.

The opponents of women bishops simply cannot receive what they want. A flying bishop who's a suffragan will no longer be enough as a solution among women and woman-derived male diocesan bishops. So if they retain a blocking minority, it means there is no solution to thus introduce women bishops.

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