Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Facing Facts

As its 2.30pm debate begins, it really would probably be safer and fairer to avoid any comment on this week's General Synod in the Church of England.  Having left the Church of England, the debate has no direct impact on members on members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, other than being a source of concern for those of our formerly fellow Anglo-Catholics who are very anxious at the moment.

However, it might nonetheless be topical and not too much of an intrusion to comment on one particular aspect of the debate.  Not the fundamentals, but the way in which the debate risks heating up unnecessarily.

There is much outrage about the seemingly unsympathetic attitude of some of the most notable proponents of the legislation to bring women to the Church of England's episcopate.  An article has appeared in The Telegraph, and the blogosphere is aflame (for example, see here, here and here).

It is true that some might have expressed themselves in more diplomatic language, for example the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin has painted things rather starkly in this recent Telegraph article.  This section in particular has caused much upset :
The Church is desperately trying to hold everybody together, and we haven’t understood that this is not going to be possible. To try to do that is to put on a sticking plaster that is going to curl at the edge and fall apart. It cannot be sustainable. The whole thing is a mess. We need to say, as a Church, 'We ordain men and women.’ Full stop. All the way to the top. For those who feel that they can’t live with it? They’re adults. By all means, go to Rome. Join the Ordinariate. Don’t stay and make demands of the Church. It’s wrong.
However, if one scrapes away the veneer of the tone and looks at the underlying message, is the Revd Hudson-Wilkin really saying anything that unreasonable or unrealistic?  All she is saying is that the Church of England has made up its mind about ordaining women to its episcopate, and that those who don't like it will just have to accept it and act accordingly.  There is no magic solution that will be acceptable to everyone.  As to the tone, well, after 37 years of debate, surely we can all (including the Revd Hudson-Wilkin) be excused a little frustration.

Is what she says in the article really any different from the message that Dr Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, was giving to his clergy when he made it clear that he did not wish them to use the new translation of the Roman Rite?  In what remains our most read blogpost by some margin, we wrote the following :
The difficulty is not so much that the Bishop of London is strongly critical of any of his clergy adopting the new translation.  Rather, it is his argument for taking this approach.  In short, he says that Anglicanorum Coetibus has called bluffs : those who wanted to use texts issued by Rome that express communion with the Pope have headed off to the Ordinariate, those who remain should not be following instructions issued by the Pope to those in that other communion.  His conclusion is that if people in the Diocese of London use the new translation, they are rejecting the instructions of both the Catholic Church and those of the Diocese of London.
The messages sound strikingly similar, and in fact are rather simple : this is what is happening, this is what the Church of England has decided, and if that's not you, then you need to look elsewhere for something that is. 

While instinctively and historically we have enormous sympathy with the comments of the Revd Ross Northing on a current post in the blog of the famous Anglican Bishop of Buckingham (Dr Wilson's tone is far more brutal and strident than the Revd Hudson-Wilkin's, especially in his responses to comments on his blog), despite coming at things from a different perspective of course, it is hard to disagree with the comments made by Erika Baker on the same post.
I still don't understand why those who are deliberately members of the CoE suddenly claim that it isn't the church ...... when they don't like its decisions. Yes, there are those who believe that the CoE doesn't have the power to make this decision.  But the CoE disagrees and it has made that decision and it has had women as priests for a long long time now.
We can do little more than refer once again to Geoffrey Kirk's excellent recent article in New Directions, and to a recent blogpost written by Fr Ed Tomlinson.  Links to both of these can be found in the second half of this recent blogpost of ours.

The reality is, and there is no point in debating the rights and wrongs of how we got here, that the Church of England has made certain decisions.  People can either live with them or they can't.  The levels of frustration, and sadly animosity, increase on both sides when there is an inability or an unwillingness to see the new reality.  As Mark Twain never said, Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt.

Enough intrusion.  For those in the Church of England who might join the Ordinariate, perhaps the next few days and indeed months will be an important step in that process.  Decision making can be difficult, and has always been able to be so (see this article on how it agonised Dr Eric Mascall): all we can do is assure you that we do not regret our decision for so much as one second.

For those in the Church of England who do not feel comfortable with the idea of joining the Catholic Church yet are unhappy with the likely changes, we hope very much that you find a way to respect and cherish the Anglo-Catholic heritage that has formed you.

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