by “Archbishop Cranmer”
Note: I’m a little disappointed the CofE didn’t take the plunge, and allow any of its ordained NuLab bureaucrats in dresses and lesbian wiccans to become bishops. It would have been the perfect excuse to bring forward my own conversion to Greek Orthodoxy. SIG
In the inherent tension within Anglicanism, the vote on women bishops established simply that the laity is a little more Catholic than Reformed: the liberals had not quite done enough to persuade the traditionalists that there would be adequate protection and provision for the catholic wing if the legislation were to pass.
Anglicans are not freelance, theological pundits, but a valid part of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church. Like all expressions of ecclesiology, its orders are provisional, and this a theological, not a sociological judgment. The Church of England is historical and so mortal. It is a creature of continual creation; of adaptability in religio-political fluidity. It opposes immutability in theological expression, recognising that mobility is intrinsic to mortality: as believers are continually converted to God, there must be continual conversion to the nature of the Church, and those confessional bodies must be mutable, for none possesses exclusive ownership of the identity of Christ.
The Church of England was never designed to be Protestant, though it has elements of that movement within it. And it was certainly not Roman Catholic, though it drew on the strengths of that denomination to manifest the Church in a visible society. Its struggle has ever been how to permit freedom of the Spirit within ancient structures: how to put new wine into old wineskins.
This is why the Archbishop of York is right when he says there will be women bishops, because Anglicanism is a communion, and in that koinonia is toleration of mutual exclusives. At the core of Anglican identity is the belief that there is more than one church that is catholic; that there are non-Roman churches that are catholic; and that the Church of England is an expression of unity, catholicity and apostolicity. Of course, some will take issue with that – from within and without the Anglican communion – and this may lead to change, to transformation, either to centralised uniformity or to greater freedom and diversity. But the ‘bottom line’ is communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury who occupies the Chair of St Augustine. He is no pope with infallible authority to bind and excommunicate, but a bishop who tries to guide the life of the Communion in mutual loyalty and committed fellowship.
Catholicity is an aspiration, and women bishops are simply a continuation of the reformist movement which began in the 16th century. The Church of England departed not from the catholic Church, but from the errors of Rome. It was Whitgift who observed that the Church of England was ‘reformed’ not ‘transformed’ because ‘we retain whatsoever we find to be good, refuse or reform that which is evil’. Over succeeding centuries, Anglicanism has offered catholicism without Roman centralisation and authoritarianism. It has been, in England, the Catholic Church in this land, set free from subjection to the foreign King of Rome.
And ‘King’ is used purposely, because Anglicanism is conciliar, not monarchical: it is a parliamentary church with powers devolved, not an autocratic church with authority centralised. And, for as long as that remains the case (and there was an attempt last year to shift towards a binding papal model), there will be innovation, change and progression. You may not agree with it, but it is intrinsic to Anglican identity. You may hear talk of splits and schisms, but these are nothing more than the spats of human mortality. For as long as we can examine what sort of church we are and question our core principles and values, there will be discussion, debate, tears and joy. The moment we cease to disagree and hurt each other is the moment the church ceases to be church.