Church of England remains a bit more Catholic

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.

39 responses to “Church of England remains a bit more Catholic

  1. Well this sort of ties in with what I’ve argued about the Anglo tradition, which was that King Henry’s Church was neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant; the only time we had an overtly Protestant (Puritan) government, it was a horror not fit to the English spirit. It is the loss of that which has brought us to this sorry current state we live in.

  2. I would happily defrock all of the clerics of the CofE – because Queen Anne’s Bounty was not provided for the politically driven extremism practised in that church today.

  3. Unfortunately, Christian Socialist entryists wrecked it in the late 19th century.

  4. I’m not particularly interested in whether women can be bishops or not, but I do get some satisfaction from seeing the smug ‘forces of progressiveness’ and all the rest of the ‘modernising’ tossers being knocked back.

  5. IanB, I’m just a bonehead I know, but where the hell do you get all this stuff from? ‘…late 19th century Christian Socialist entryists!’

    You really should keep in mind that some of us ‘out here’ have not got the vaguest idea what you’re going on about. Please name me a few so I can try to catch up.

    What in God’s name do you do for a living by the way?

  6. Will Wolverhampton

    I’m saddened and bewildered, though sadly unsurprised, that, after we liberals have explained the position so clearly and carefully, the reactionaries and stuck-in-the-muds — and please note that I’m NOT accusing them of misogyny, racism, homophobia or any other kind of foul and wholly unacceptable form of bigotry or prejudice — have abused the democratic structures of the church by failing to vote in the correct way. What is the point of democracy if it produces results like this? What is the point of the Church of England if it fails to do follow trends in wider society and obey the line laid down to it by the Guardian? Search your consciences, reactionaries and stuck-in-the-muds. There’s a very real danger that your wilful behaviour will cause the Church of England to lose credibility and even start to look a little ridiculous.
    The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”.
    Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4’s World at One that the UK has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system. Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion. For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court. He says Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.

    • Nice irony, Will. However, you have to try and separate the essential message in Scripture from the context in which it was revealed. You also need to bear in mind that much of the relevant church tradition is an accommodation of faith to social realities that have since changed.

      There may be no reason in itself to oppose female ordinations and even consecrations. The real problem is that the women who actually push themselves forward for ordination tend to lower an already low average of both faith and reason in the Anglican Church.

      You can apply a similar analysis to the gay marriage issue. I see no reason in itself why two men, or two women, shouldn’t be permitted to have their union blessed by a consenting minister of religion. The problem is that the scheme currently pushed appears to make it inevitable that whole religions and denominations will be persecuted for not going with the PC flow. Peter Tatchell keeps insisting that no dissenting minister of religion will be forced to officiate at any ceremony. What he doesn’t explain is what will happen if, say, a bishop suspends a priest for conducting a ceremony in defiance of how his church interprets Scripture and canon law. Will the bishop or his church be open to claims for discrimination, or charges of incitement to hatred? I suspect the answer will be yes.

      I believe that, in a freer and wealthier society than our own, most forms of sexual and racial prejudice, though completely legal, will tend to wither away. Then, even the Moslems will find some /sura/ or /hadith/ to justify having female imams. At the moment, however, it is the duty of libertarians to stand up in support of these prejudices against those who would stamp them out by varying uses of state power.

  7. The supposed problem that the (current) Archbishop of Canterbury sees, which is to say: that he thinks that “the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”, is illusory. He would be mistaken, if the Political EnemyClass was not what it actually is.

    I think that the said EnemyClass _wants to_ perfect a New Britain in some image or other that it has, based on what IanB says about 19th-centry-Christian-Socialist-entryists, and which analysis is completely right.

    It is also clear, of one reads the comment-threads on all remaining daily newspapers that discuss this kind of issue even vaguely-evenhandedly, that the vast majority of inhabitants of Britain don’t want Sharia Law to form any part whatsoever of their traditional legal system. In the end, it makes a nonsense even of the GramscoFabiaNazi totem of “equality”. How cal all people be equal, if some are judged on (some) matters by one legal system, and some by another? it is quite ridiculous, even if it were not mortally dangerous.

    The prevailing consensus, among “ordinary folk” trying to make a life for themselves and their loved ones, and who are pretty much not libertarians, is that they would rather like to live in a country where, when they die, stuff is rather the same as when they were born. Except of course for the usual capitalist improvements like better cheaper food, lower energy costs, more petrol, a warmer planet, iPods and phones, facebook, the internet, little computers that cost twopence and do more than Apollo-11’s control systems, ordering strwberries from Peru online in January, and so on. We are dead a long time: life should be good, not socialist-Nazi-always forging to “the future” – let’s enjoy what actually arrives (as opposed to “the next five-year-plan”, whose years are actually 666.

    The solution is to say; “Look GUYS…we love to have you here, and we are happy that you came to our country to live, for it reflects very very very very well upon us, and also shows that YOU personally have made a WISE choice in life. therefore it cannot be too much to expect that YOu will agree to live by OUR legal system in all respects. if you don’t like that quite as orgasmically-nicely as we do, then the airports are here, and here, and here and here…(and here), and there are various places where you can stone women to death, push walls of bricks down onto chained gays, publicly-behead other people that displease you slightly, or whatever”.

    The immediate result of this announcement, backed by the Courts, will be to rapidly moderate the philosophical and jurisprudential views of the agitators and other tools of the British Political EnemyClass who are amonbg the supposed-to-be-favoured group. It will be turned from a weapon of our real enemies, who are not only inside the State but have got inside the Church while our backs were turned, into an ally.

    There is nothing wrong with these British people that want things like Sharia Law (for some but not others) or female bishops of a Christian Church that is not heretical – only schismatic – , that a little classical-liberal-resolution will not cure absolutely.

  8. Sean, I feel utterly hostile to the women “priests” in the Church of England. It may be that the “essential message” of the Bible needs to be seen in context, but this is just a way of wriggling out of everything – the tradition of the church was maintained for 2000 years amid a shifting social context. Personally, I feel that the male leadership principle is part of the essential message of the Bible. “Gender quality” and the role of women in pushing forward political correctness have helped me to see that this is not just a culturally specific part of ancient Hebrew culture, but simply a part of every human society, that there is a difference between men and women, and women are more consensual, more spiteful/vindictive, less likely to have abnormally high IQs (as well as less likely to have abnormally low IQs), and more given to mealymouthedness of various kinds. As the prophet said in Isaiah 3:12, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.”

    • David – I appreciate that I may not sound entirely sincere one way or the other. However, there is something in what you say. I’ve often thought one of the purposes of systematic discrimination against women was to give men some chance of a bit of peace and quiet in life.

  9. It’s hard to tell how much of the social differences between men and women are “innate” and how much are cultural. For instance, the observed vindictiveness may be due to the absence of a female equivalent of “chivalry” in our culture; men feel socially obligated to be chivalrous, but women don’t. Vindictive and petty behaviour by men is considered spiteful and a sign of his weakness, but much less so for women. If women were taught from birth to be as ashamed of spite as men are taught, maybe the genders would equalise in that regard. Basically, women in our culture are *allowed* a greater degree of selfishness than men, and indeed there is a good argument that there is a generalised “princess syndrome”. (Which suspiciously is famously common among the Jews as well).

    There have been female priestesses and religious functionaries in other religions and cultures, and they seem to have done as good a job as men do. There’s no particular reason to think that as a gender they cannot lead rituals and advise and comfort the flock just as male priests do.

    In fact, I am trying to get started a Christian denomination in which the priesthood entirely consists of attractive women below the age of 30, who will work naked in order to signify their closeness to God, or something. Anyone interested in joining, please email

  10. Sacred prostitutes have been a feature of lots of old-time religions. It may be time that the Christian faith went along this path which , in theory at least, may well revive the Church’s flagging fortunes.

    In practice however, the women I have seen involved in the Church would mostly need to pay the punters to do the business rather than the other way around.

    Munters don’t bring in the punters as Popeye thev Sailorman might have put it, shortly after his appointment as Poet Lorry8.

  11. I wasn’t thinking so much of sacred prostitutes as of vicars who jiggle in a most delightful way.

  12. Having abandoned my collection of English dictionaries in despair this morning, I’ve been obliged to a little on-line research tonight. So, now having done so, I’d like to ask the following: What’s the difference between infiltration and entryism?

    If there is a difference would it still be correct if I said, that should I be sufficiently virile – or merely handsome enough – to successfully pay court to Mr Donald Wind-Horn’s daughter, would I be classed enterismist? Should I retain sufficient stamina, after pleasing her, to then marry the unlucky girl, would you then class me entrismist?

    With my feet now well planted under old Windhorn’s dinner table; far enough under in fact for me to risk doping the old fart before dropping him in the ocean from, let’s say… 2,000′, would that then finally make me an entryismist?

    If it would, would it be entryism in the way Ian mentions? Or would I have to be a bit-player in some political or religious group… or be the entire group?

    Or, should I be found out and executed, would it be said at my trial that I’d infiltrated the old farts family with murder being the prime motive? Or can it be reasonably said that some of you love showing off with a few carefully rehearsed words and phrases?

    Write. please, so that the majority of readers can understand what it is you’re trying to say. Sean, your’e a novelist, isn’t that the very first thing a writer needs to understand before he can call himself one?

  13. … and don’t tell me that you’re not writing a novel. This stuff is all novel in that the things we write about vanishes like chaff in the wind even before it been digested. We only think that it matters. It’s entertainment and that’s all it is. Entertainment’s good though…

    Another couple of quids worth…

  14. Sean, a while ago I described Mr Warren’s attitude to something or other as being “boneheaded”, and it seems to be keeping him awake nights.

  15. “I think I should remind Ian B that God is following this Blog – in a very real sense”.
    Since He created both the act of copulation itself and the desire to do said act it seems unlikely that the Almighty is po-faced about his own creation, regardless of the bizarre concepts embraced by some of His more uptight followers.

    Also Sean you would seem here to be asserting either that
    A- you have direct knowledge of said Almighty–if that is so please let us know how you came by such a valuble circumstance
    b-that you yourself are God. I maybe misconstruing your meaning here(The “in a very real sense” is what bothers me–it could be a figure of speech or it could be a David Icke moment) so apologies if I am. If I am not misconstruing please either:
    1-Make an urgent appointment with the physician of your choice.
    2-Please arrange for me to receive , with harm to none, many millions of pounds to finance a lifestyle of ease, comfort and joy. I have always been a believer and I take this opportunity to be the first to praise the new face of divinity in UK PLC.
    PS I would also like to be the next Bruce Lee despite my advanced age and lack of Oriental features–any chance?.

    I think that covers all the possibilites.

    • Oh, if only I could run the Libertarian Alliance as a cult with me as the Supreme Prophet of God! Mrs Gabb wouldn’t let me have my way with the virgins, but would appreciate the tithing of the devotees. She might also lift her prohibition on facial hair. I like to think I’d miss the lack of respect I often encounter on our official blog. However, I am told that you soon grow used to unconditional veneration.

  16. Oh dear, I’m afraid that if being a Gabbite means no facial hair, I’ll have to leave. I shall have to start a rival schismatic sect for the facially hirsute.

  17. Get thee behind me, Satan!

  18. Oh yes, and thou and thine shalt be fair game unto the seventh generation.

  19. Get thee behind me, Satan!

    Is that so you can get a clearer view of the Reverend Trixie McJiggles?

  20. Sean, there is an important point here. Some people might think libertarians should support “gender equality” – in line with the view that in a truly free economy all discrimination would naturally be ironed out without intervention of the state – but what if gender inequality is the natural situation that any free society would naturally gravitate towards, owing to the mental differences between men and women? This is the real reason why supporters of equality support the state – equality can only be enforced and is not a natural state. I don’t mind if Ian B/Sean Gabb create their own churches with naked priestesses etc, but it is not on for people to take over the CofE and turn that institution into something it was not. However, given the relative lack of people in the CofE who would be able to re-establish it as something more worthwhile, it is difficiult to see where we go from here – the entire culture has come apart and simply calling for everything to be put back together Humpty Dumpty style as it was in 1950 is not realistic and not an approach capable of achieving anything either. Maybe this is the true reason why libertarianism is better – we can accept our culture has wilted and the institutions of society will never be put back together as they were, but if we didn’t have to pay for our own oppression and didn’t have to answer to the state bureaucrats, the situation would still be a lot more bearable!

    In the 17th century, Anglicanism was a very male thing – a lot of Old Testament fulmination etc. By the 1800s, church attendance depended on female transmission of tradition – the church was becoming feminised in that its most passionate adherents were female. We have now reached the point where there are few vocations for the priesthood from men anyway, and so the “job” of insincere selfrighteousness that the priesthood has become is in many ways more suitable to PC women.

    If we shut down the church, what should we do with the buildings? Make them the communal heritage of English people – museums available for high for weddings and tasteful functions?

    • David – Everything comes back to the realisation that the dismantling of England reached a point of no return some time after 1940. I did hope, until about 1990, that a policy of stern, unbending reaction could put everything right. But there will be no such policy; and it is now obvious that we can’t simply put the hereditaries back in the Lords and undo decades of profound institutional and legal and social and economic change.

      I think it’s agreed by all on this blog that the first steps of a libertarian/national revolution must be to smash the current ruling class. After that, though, we need to rebuild rather than restore. And we shall be faced by external threats far more powerful than those faced by the Jacobins or even the Bolsheviks. Unless it’s in the United States – fat hope of that, I’ll observe – libertarianism in one country may need some rather unlibertarian accommodations

  21. Well, in its early days Christianity was a girlie religion. Not only were its most enthusiastic members and financial supporters Roman matrons, but Pliny the Younger (or possibly the Elder, I cannot be arsed to look it up) wrote to the Emperor Trajan, or possibly another emperor, whatever, about trying to suppress the new superstition by torturing “Deaconesses”. It also is worth mentioning in passing that the Celtic strand of Christianity was considerably more gender equalist in terms of church functionaries than the Roman Catholic strand, and this was one of the reasons they disagreed with one another, the other being the date of Easter.

    The truth is, it’s always been a pretty girlie religion. I really don’t see anything particularly wrong with that. It comes down to how far back you want to go for your definition of “traditional”.

    Perhaps the main point is that there is no traditional Christianity. It has constantly changed over the past 2000 years. The earliest form, for instance, appears to have centered around having a sacred meal, hence Julian The Apostate complaining that “The Galileans gain converts by giving them cakes”. Bottom line is, if 2000 years ago women were getting tortured to death for Jesus as deaconesses, and they were probably baking the cakes too, I really don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to officiate at a church service as a vicar these days.

  22. I don’t agree with this talk of “smashing” things.


  23. All of our Page 3 Vicars will be absolutely smashing!

  24. There you go again IanB; flattering yourself.

    Let me put it this way: From the safety of an arm chair, you seem to believe that you can refer to people that you don’t know, that you’ve never met, in the most crude and obnoxious ways. Any that take your fancy it seems because no one has a right to feel offended on this site (what a load of tosh that statement is. The only time we’ve a right not to feel offended is when we are in the midst of knowingly inoffensive people). You recently insulted another person whose view didn’t accord with yours (it was during the debate on America dropping the a bomb. Being boneheaded I naturally can’t recall his name and haven’t time to start looking it up).

    And who exactly is Ian B? My real name is right there at the top of this comment – what’s yours?

    Let me put it this way: had we been sitting in a bar and you’d called me boneheaded and naive, then gone on about Christian Socialist entryism as though it was some well known, well used topic for debate, then I’d be obliged to assume your little more than an arrogant, piss-taking arsehole who fancifully considers himself to be an intellectual. At the point old son, I’d have invited you to stand and you’d have found my right knee having an accident with your testicles before your shell-suit bottoms reached the tops of your no doubt scruffy trainers.

    And I suppose nothing ‘keeps you awake nights’… and why should it, when you seem, to me at least, so helplessly moronic? (Awake nights – so American. I take it you’ve done the package trip to Florida then?)

    Actions have consequences… so does blind rudeness, so perhaps you should be a little more careful how you tread around we boneheads in future. By the way, this bonehead directly employs almost 1,500 people, how many do you employ Ian? You just have to be employed within the safety of one of the ‘parasite’ brigades that you so often drone on about. Freedom – such a wonderful thing Ian isn’t it?

  25. Will Wolverhampton

    Sean Gabb wrote:

    I believe that, in a freer and wealthier society than our own, most forms of sexual and racial prejudice, though completely legal, will tend to wither away. Then, even the Moslems will find some /sura/ or /hadith/ to justify having female imams.

    Or to put it another, equally sensible, but rather more tuneful, way:

    “Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high…”

    If you believe in utopian moonshine like that, you really don’t understand history or society or human nature or (in so far it’s different) human biology. We are not going to have a freer and wealthier society while the groups that complain about racial, sexual and religious prejudice have power, let alone increasing power. Moslems are becoming more reactionary, not less, and if you can produce an example of how their presence promotes freedom and wealth, I’d be interested to see it. There are some rich Moslem nations, but they’re not rich by their own contrivance. For a free Moslem nation, see over the rainbow.

    At the moment, however, it is the duty of libertarians to stand up in support of these prejudices against those who would stamp them out by varying uses of state power.

    The duty of libertarians should be to understand where liberty comes from and what promotes it. As it is, libertarianism has done a good job of encouraging individualism in societies under collectivist attack.

    However, you have to try and separate the essential message in Scripture from the context in which it was revealed. You also need to bear in mind that much of the relevant church tradition is an accommodation of faith to social realities that have since changed.

    But the context and the social realities, to a traditionalist believer, were and are under divine control and diabolic influence. Given those premises, there is no reason to change tradition to meet secularist, egalitarian standards. I don’t accept theology as a serious subject, but I do see that traditionalism preserves institutions and liberalism destroys them. The Church of England once believed that God approved of burning people alive, executing sodomites, hanging children for theft, practising torture and slavery, and all manner of other unsavoury (by modern standards) things. If Giles Fraser and other liberals had been born a few centuries ago, they’d’ve seen nothing wrong with any of that. But because they were born in the 20C instead, they’ve been taught to be self-righteous about “obvious” truths of another kind. It’s a ludicrous spectacle.

    For a sample of Giles Fraser’s self-importance, see this gem at the end of his Guardian article:

    Within a couple of hours of the vote being announced, my own church council celebrated the eucharist together then gathered in the pub to sit with our curate and to let her know how much we love her and value her ministry. It felt ever so slightly last supperish. Not least because, like then, we all feel so thoroughly betrayed.

    So he invokes the slaying of the Son of God because a set of rich, pampered and thoroughly spoilt liberals haven’t got their own way.

    There may be no reason in itself to oppose female ordinations and even consecrations. The real problem is that the women who actually push themselves forward for ordination tend to lower an already low average of both faith and reason in the Anglican Church.

    But that IS the reason for opposing female ordination: women in authority are bad for the institution. For any institution, in fact. So are certain other groups.

    Ian B wrote:

    It’s hard to tell how much of the social differences between men and women are “innate” and how much are cultural.

    Reasoning a priori and ex armchairo it is. But that is not the only kind of reasoning there is.

  26. John-

    I appreciate that my refusal to engage with your desire for a feud will only wind you up further, but I really am not interested. It is amusing however to see the common assumption by people making empty threats on the internet that their physical prowess far exceeds that of their target. Heh.

  27. Ian-

    Still no real name. No indication of how you earn your crust of bread in order for those interested to help guess your true worth. All you seem to be fond of is pouring personal insults all over those who disagree with you. I didn’t start trading insults… you did, just you remember that old chap?

  28. John, my real name is none of your business, and neither is my “true worth”. All that matters in this context is what I have to say, the merit of which you and anyone else are free to judge. For instance, from what you say, you come across as rather arrogant, rather snobbish, and the kind of tiresome bore who doesn’t know when to let something drop. But that is just my judgement. Others may disagree.

    If you really cannot cope with somebody else criticising your stated opinion (just to be clear, I described the opinion you presented as “boneheaded naivete”, not you yourself- there is a difference) then maybe internet debating isn’t the hobby for you.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sympathies to the 1500.

  29. Ah ah, so my words did strike a nerve after all.

    I’m well used to criticism, it’s part of my job, what I’m not used to however is being insulted on a personal level. There, let’s allow this tedious and sordid business to rest…

  30. Well no, they didn’t “strike a nerve”. I just thought I ought to type something because you seemed to be getting awfully worked up. People are strange. They often demand a response, just so they can then act dismissively and gain what they perceive to be some form of closure.

    Whatever. So long as you’re happy.

  31. – “for none possesses exclusive ownership of the identity of Christ.”

    Maybe Jesus. You’d have to assume that he holds at least a 51% share.