16 July 2010

England, bishops and authority

At issue in England last week was the way that the Church of England will begin to make women bishops. The question was never if, only how this will happen. And, unsurprisingly, the issue was power.

English traditionalists have three requirements:
1 No female clergy in their parishes
2 No control of their clergy by women
3 No one in their clergy's succession who is, was ordained by or has ordained women.

The now storied "archbishops's amendment" would have made the delegation of sacramental and licensing from a female bishop to another a matter of canon. That did two things, first it removed any women from direct authority to delegate and it allowed establishment and maintenance of an all male line of succession.

It of course, also made women bishops less than men. Their orders would not confer the leadership and authority males get. And that is a problem that probably explains why the amendment was defeated. I cannot imagine myself voting that women are somehow inferior to men when made bishops and clearly a lot of /English women and men could not either.

Perhaps this is the new anthem for the church.

I confess my own internal division. I find it difficult to accept the idea that the communion cannot exist with some churches ordaining women, gays, lesbians and blessing various families and with others not. Others are less something: tolerant, wishy-washy, open, conviction-less? They are not all traditionalists. There are progressives who see the need to enforce their views on all.

This event exposes the problem of the entire communion. The failure of the amendment exposes the failure of the archbishops's approach. There are real differences out there, sometimes real people honestly cannot agree even to disagree. Dr. Williams has sought over and over again a sort of unified division. His "two tiered" or "two track" or "two levels of membership" approaches to the communion mirror his 'co-ordinate' approach to the CoE.

My problem with the archbishop's approach is simple. The idea is not that the conversation continues, it is rather that everyone declares victory and ignores the other. That violates the rules of hospitality aggressively. It permits both sides to claim they have no need of each other while preserving some claim to their "win." It won't wash.

Some progressives dismiss me and my friends who want to continue the conversations. We are not 'committed' I hear. We do not understand the need to move forward now. We do not in short want to finally decide.

"Traditionalists" often won't even concede that progressives might be real Christians. They are not even sure about each other across the lines between Anglo-catholics and Evangelicals. In fact, the effort by ACNA to unite the two wings into one cooperating body draws considerable condemnation from purists (cf. Anglicans Ablaze. )

For both the CoE and the communion the question is, "Did you ever have to finally decide?" This is hard to do. I would prefer an ongoing fight but perhaps it is time to decide. If it is, there will be tears and pain as there have already been. If what we are experiencing is the birth pain of a new vibrant Anglican community, maybe, just maybe it is worth it all.

No comments:

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page