Monday, November 16, 2009

Pope says "Let my people go" CofE says "you can have ém"

Breaking news from London is that the Church of England has effectively evicted the Anglo-Catholics.

In a statement that has the potential to go down as one of the most important in English church history, the Church of England's Revision committee on Women in the Episcopate declared:

"After much discussion, the members of the Committee were unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which commanded sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development. As a result all of the proposals for vesting particular functions by statute were defeated." (italics mine)

The phrase in italics essentially tells the Anglo-Catholics that no provision will be made for them that allows them to fully separate themselves from the ministry of women bishops. This was the minimum that groups like Forward in Faith were asking for.

This particular committee was formed to draw up the legislation that would allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. Groups like Watch and Inclusive Church want simple legislation that makes it possible for women to be bishops.

Groups of traditionalists like Forward in Faith and evangelical groups want to be separated from the ministry of women bishops. First prize for them would have been a separate province, effectively what the Pope has established with the Anglican Ordinariates. Their second prize was a "statutory provision" that created an easily legally enforceable provision that would allow them to separate themselves from the ministry of women bishops while remaining within the Church of England (and not becoming a separate province).

Crafting this compromise has proved very difficult. The best that the committee could come up with was a Code of Practice. One of the key objections to this was that the female bishop herself would have to allow for provisions to be made for "traditionalists". Those who want to understand the minutiae can have a look at "Why the Code of Practice is no good for traditionalists in the C. of E."

In general the committee has been more sympathetic to the Anglo-catholics than the General Synod has been. On October 8th they stated that they had "voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice." This caused hopes to soar in the Anglo-Catholic camp. It appeared that they could be looking at a second prize.

Those hopes soared higher still when on the 22nd October the Vatican announced the creation of the Anglican Ordinariates.

Anglo-Catholics felt a bit like a neglected lot on auction. No one was showing much interest and then a mysterious buyer called in a phone bid that was three times the best bid from the floor. Would the bidders on the floor match or even offer a better bid? The ball, as they put it, was now in the CofE's court. Would the CofE return it with interest and give them what Rome had offered but within the CofE?

The answer now appears to be a firm no and the Pope's offer is the only game in town.

As we all no doubt know from our personal lives it is not always easy to change for purely positive reasons. We need negative pressures to move us in the right direction. The decision of the revision committee appears to be the stick actually beating people out of the Church of England. The carrot that the Pope is holding must look a lot more attractive to-day.

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