Flying bishops and the church within a church
The diocese is a millennia-old territorial entity which permits the diocesan bishops to identify and oversee the clergy within their jurisdiction. Clergy take an oath of canonical obedience to their bishop who exercises ecclesiastical authority within his domain. The idea is as old as the Roman Empire, and one which the Church adopted during the fourth century. After the Reformation, the Church of England saw no need to change the arrangement, for it was scriptural and it worked.
But the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed that those ‘traditionalist’ clergy who would rather not minister under the authority of a woman bishop may elect to be supervised by a ‘flying’ bishop – one who has no terrestrial unit of authority, but who will join the prince of the power of the air in flying hither and thither like tinkerbell. And these flying bishops will, of necessity, be male, so we are immediately presented with a level of episcopacy to which women will be barred. And the Archbishops of Canterbury and York – who is already acquainted with the exhilarating challenges of flying - will be charged with appointing them, so those vying to be the first ought to begin their licking and fawning.
This is not a via media, but fence-sitting of the most uncomfortable picket or iron railing variety. And one wonders how long it will be before the most uncomfortable point penetrates the anus. What is designed to prevent an exodus to Rome will be such an affront to the ‘liberal’ wing that it might see them declaring independence, or demanding some sort of ‘associate’ status. The proposal pleases no-one: women will still be discriminated against, and the ‘traditionalists’ will be deprived of their territorial diocesan bishop. Women will be perpetually reminded that their ministry is of questionable legitimacy, and diocesan bishops will cease to have authority over all the parishes within their diocese.
The Church of England has ceased to be ‘broad’: it has become amorphous. The Anglo-Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical wings have tolerated the liberal and progressive contingents for quite long enough, and the liberals have been equally frustrated by the ‘bigoted’ or ‘discriminatory’ views and actions of the traditionalists.
Is it not time for an amicable divorce, not only for the safety and wellbeing of the children, but for the peace and security of the realm?