Top down bottoms up

THE WINDSOR REPORT is not all bad. Everyone, traditionalist or revisionist alike, can read paragraphs 38 and 39 (on Subsidiarity) with profit.

The principle of subsidiarity — the notion that decisions should be taken as close to the local level as possible — is, of course, the darling of the eurosceptics, who fear the grasping tentacles of Brussels, and romanticize about the shire-moots and hundreds of yore. But applied to the Church the idea is infinitely less attractive.

The Church of God is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. It is structured top down, not bottom up; that is to say that its unity and sense of purpose and mission derive from what is held in common because handed down from the apostolic age, not because of a consensus among a number of autonomous local churches.

The principal legacy of the Apostolic Age, which has hitherto assured the unity of the Anglican Communion, is the three-fold gift of Holy Scripture, Holy Order and the Catholic Creeds. They are an inheritance which no local church, or even the Church Universal, can add to or amend.

But, first, with the advent of women priests and bishops Holy Order was abandoned. (‘It is frequently argued’, writes Fr Jonathan Baker, ‘that to ordain women as bishops is to not to change the episcopate, but rather simply to enlarge its scope ... On the contrary, it is a wilful departure from the tradition with the expressed aim of amending the faults and eliminating the prejudices of those who initiated and formed it’ (Consecrated Women?, para 8.2.2)).

Then, with the failure to discipline Jack Spong (who denied all the doctrines of the Catholic Creeds, unrepentantly and simultaneously, and still remained a bishop in good standing with an invitation to Lambeth 1998) the creeds were abandoned.

Finally, with the failure to discipline and admonish Charles Bennison (who publicly proclaimed that the scriptures could be rewritten at the convenience of the contemporary church) the Canon of Scripture was abandoned.

Small wonder that any two-bit diocese now believes that it has the right to decide any issue which has drifted to the top of the pile: gay bishops, same sex unions, or whatever next - With the framework in tatters, subsidiarity, rules OK.

GK

 

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