Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Last Rites of the Church of England?

Cranmer has been procrastinating on this story as he has had to consider the theological implications, and he is heartily glad not to be in the shoes of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, last seen lurking in the shadows praying for it all to go away. On 19th June, the Episcopal Church of the United States of America appointed its first female ‘Archbishop’ in nearly 400 years. Once again, as with the ordination of Gene Robinson, the Anglican Communion’s first gay bishop, it is America’s Anglicans that are pushing the boundaries of unity. Canada and New Zealand had already appointed female bishops, but not to this point of seniority. Bishop of Nevada, Katharine Jefferts Schori, becomes the first female to head the 2.3-million-member US church, and sets a direct challenge for the 26-million-member Church of England, both internally and globally. Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali commented: 'Nobody wants a split, but if you think you have virtually two religions in a single church, something has got to give sometime.' The Church of England is about to place a discussion paper before the General Synod in respect of female bishops, asserting that ‘admitting women to the episcopate in the Church of England is consonant with the faith of the Church as the Church of England has received it and would be a proper development in proclaiming afresh in this generation the grace and truth of Christ’.

Well, not according to Rome. Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has made very plain to the bishops of the Church of England that sacerdotal ordination should be a male preserve. This, he asserts, is faithful to Scripture and tradition. He has issued a challenge to the Church of England to side either with the ‘great churches’ of the first millennium, or with what he contemptuously refers to as the ‘communities’ of the sixteenth century Reformation.

He has threatened that if the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion ordains women to the episcopate, future discussions between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England could not have unity as their objective.

Do I hear a shout of Hallelujah?

Cranmer thought that Rome’s previous tantrum about female priests had already halted the ecumenical road to unity, so it is quite likely that this posturing is merely a temporary irritation. Having considered the options, and in light of Galatians 3:28, the ecumenical goal of accepting the ‘primacy’ of the Pope is a far greater evil than the development of tradition to ordain female bishops. In any case, Scripture is replete with female prophets whom God raised up when the men failed, and men have manifestly failed the Church of England for the past 50 years, so why not a woman? Yet, perhaps not this one...


Anonymous Rick said...

Why did the C of E not cast the americans adrift years ago ? Money. ECUSA is rich and funds all the junkets and conferences. Known as "The Church of the Big Cadillac" has been allowed to buy Indulgences for years.

As for Schorri she is a nutcase from a diocese with 5000 Episcopalians representing a Church which has a resident Imam in Colorado and Wiccans in many areas, and of course Integrity spreading the Gay Gospel within the priesthood.

The Church of England was just shoul drop the franchise business.

The C of E is so far adrift of the XXXIX Articles it may as well use Harry Potter as its Scripture..............but for those who see a link back to a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth claiming descent from Ruth and Boaz, there is a wide gap between what Affluent Western Christianity sells itself as and what the historic faith upholds and abjures.

5 July 2006 at 07:45  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Rick,

Thank you. One of the funniest posts Cranmer has seen in months.

I shall discuss with Archbishop Williams the possible incorporation of Harry Potter into an Anglican Apocrypha. Other suggestions would be gratefully received...

5 July 2006 at 08:00  
Anonymous Ulster Man said...

There is something both sad and disturbing about these developments. It is no longer clear what the CofE is for, let alone what it believes. The MP Ben Bradshaw had his gay marriage blessed by the CofE last week (contra agreed guidelines), albeit by a retired vicar, but all without comment (objection or otherwise) from anyone of seniority. Rome is increasingly perceived as the Rock of orthodoxy. Women bishops may be the 'lesser evil', but I'm sure the acceptance of one will lead to increasing acceptance of the other.

And as for texts to incorporate in to an Anglican Apocrypha, I suggest any volume of Delia Smith's recipes. Churches could then do something useful and become restaurants. Since they no longer feed people's spirits, they might as well fill their bellies.

5 July 2006 at 08:55  
Anonymous Olly said...

I suggest 'Gay Times' or 'Pink News' (I think that's what it's called..not being a subscriber..). The Church of England is clearly taking its moral/sociological lead from the agenda of these publications.

5 July 2006 at 11:22  
Anonymous Ulster Man said...

I had another thought. Just include Papal encyclicals. It'll save on a lot of negotiating time.

6 July 2006 at 06:23  
Anonymous TT said...

I don't think the church of England needs the Bible anymore. It's basically a free-for-all; you can believe what you want to believe. Didn't a former Bishop of Durham start he rot by denying the virgin birth?

7 July 2006 at 07:03  
Anonymous Olly said...

No, TT, don't agree. It is not a free for all. It may have deviated from the 39 Articles, but it is not Buddhism. There is a God, there is a Messiah, there is an ecclesiology. It may be developing its moral teachings, but that's what the early church did in Greece, by 'absorbing' cultural practices to make its teaching relevant.

You do get the odd voice from Durham or elsewhere transgressing orthodoxy, but you can't damn an entire institution from the exceptions. The gay thing is relevant; so is discussion on the role of women. This is making the church more relevant to modern society.;

7 July 2006 at 08:48  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

Olly : A Messiah? If you are going to have Oratorios then why not include all forms of 18thc Music?

7 July 2006 at 14:24  
Anonymous Rick said...

Didn't a former Bishop of Durham start he rot by denying the virgin birth?

You mean David Jenkins ? he had the misfortune to a University academic just like Rowan Williams and totally divorced from reality............probably best to have soldier-priests which is probably why Pope Benedict is rooted in reality - life as a Flakhelfer gives you a grounding in life and death.

8 July 2006 at 06:57  
Blogger Gloria said...

What "tantrum"? If the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Churches will not ordain women then we should not presume to show them that we know better. We are supposed to have no sacraments, creeds, &c of our own, only those of the universal Church. Humility, if we had any, would dictate that it is not for us to define what the catholic creeds and sacraments are. Now Nazir Ali & Co have the barefaced cheek to berate the Americans for doing what they themselves have been doing for years, i.e. making it up as they go along.

8 July 2006 at 18:54  
Blogger Croydonian said...

I must say the standard of theological debate here is of a rather higher than at the BBC site.

8 July 2006 at 19:16  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Croydonian,

Better than the BBC? Cranmer's standard of theological debate eclipses the great universities. The BBC comes as absolutely no surprise.

8 July 2006 at 20:35  
Blogger Croydonian said...

Indeed, I just thought folk might find that rather content-free exchange of views illuminating precisely because of how unilluminating it was.

9 July 2006 at 12:22  
Anonymous Rick said...

I must say the standard of theological debate here is of a rather higher than at the BBC site.

but still not high enough............could be much better

9 July 2006 at 22:12  
Blogger Duckworth Lewis said...

"I shall discuss with Archbishop Williams the possible incorporation of Harry Potter into an Anglican Apocrypha. Other suggestions would be gratefully received..."

May I tentatively suggest Wisden Cricketers' Almanack? Apart from including Laws that participants take seriously, and a meticulous account of recent transgressions, it is more thoroughly grounded in traditional English values than the dreaded 'Anglican Communion', and, like the Bible, is full of inspiring anecdotes with a vague bearing on the human condition.

For example, see the 2006 edition 'Warne's Amazing Summer: From Laughing Stock to Legend' for a contemporary reprise of the story of Lazarus.

9 July 2006 at 22:29  
Anonymous Ajay C. said...

Olly: "This is making the church more relevant to modern society."

It's a well-intentioned, but theologically lazy comment.

There is a constant tension in all periods of Christian theology to incorporate what is good about a culture (and thus affirm the goodness of creation and its consistency with grace) while acting prophetically to reject what deviates from the good. Ideals, yes, but ideals are important.

Why shouldn't "modern society" accomodate Christian tradition on the point of sexual discipline and order? Or if a secular society prevents this accomodation, what is wrong with Anglicans accepting that being Christian will involve being "odd" respecting modern sexual mores? Some argue that to be prophetic is to reject these old Christian teachings: to go against the grain of the tradition. But you can reverse that argument and say traditional Christians act prophetically by going against the grain of modernity on such points.

'Relevance' is a weak standard for how Christian teaching should develop. Maybe Olly's suggestions are correct, but the true argument would have to be more involved and more interesting than that.

21 July 2006 at 13:53  

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