Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Disturbing prospects after the Synod vote

As you all probably know, the General Synod of the Church of England failed to vote through the measure that would allow the ordination of women as Bishops. For those entirely baffled by the Church of England, Fr Longenecker has a good post on Understanding the Crisis in the Church of England. People not familiar with the Church of England (especially from other European countries) sometimes ask me "What does the Church of England teach about x?" to which there is no straightforward answer. Fr Longenecker's post will be helpful in understanding why.

William Oddie in the Catholic Herald examines some of the key points in an article today. As most Catholic commentators have observed, if women can be priests, there is no theological reason why they cannot be Bishops. With the ordination of women priests, it became clear that the Church of England allowed for an understanding of priesthood or ministry that was fundamentally different from that taught in the Catholic Church, and there is an internal inconsistency in allowing alternative episcopal oversight for those who have a Catholic belief in the priesthood. Many clergy realised this and became Catholics, either individually or through the Ordinariate.

We always need to remember that there are all sorts of personal difficulties to overcome before a person leaves the Church of England to become a Catholic. This was true for Newman and Manning and it is true today. If we say that all of them should have come over in 1992, we should also say that all of them should have come over with Manning and Wilberforce in 1850 after the Privy Council allowed the Rev GC Gorham to take up the living of Bramford Speke despite his denial of the doctrine of  baptismal regeneration.

A worrying development in the present controversy is the pressure from some MPs to legislate so that the Church of England would have to ordain women as Bishops in accord with equality law. This would obviously have serious implications for other Churches and religious groups.

Deacon Nick Donnelly was watching the telly last night and noted how BBC and Sky were enraged by the vote, with reported adding caustic asides at the end of the news reports. Several bloggers have pointed out that the democratic style of government is only in favour with the right-on media and politicos if the result goes their way. If it doesn't, some other solution is sought.

Although as a Catholic one might view the debate on women Bishops as rather "ho-hum" since there are already women "priests" in the Church of England, the enraged reaction of the metropolitan elite and the lengths that they they seem prepared to go so that they can compel the Church of England to accord with their view of what a Church should be, is disturbing in its implications for the way that the State is prepared to intervene in matters of faith.

You might say that it was ever so with the Church of England from its origin, but over the centuries, at least some proper sphere of action has been allowed to the established Church. The determination of those in power could overturn that arrangement with consequences that reach well beyond the Church of England.
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