he publication of Consecrated Women? and of the Rochester Report has produced the expected chorus of pastoral concern for traditionalists. In newspapers, on the radio and all the rest, we have been treated to the outpourings of all the usual suspects: Christina Rees, Chairman of WATCH and Bishop David Stancliffe, President of Affirming Catholicism, to name but two, have made it clear that they see no place in the Church of England for the likes of the members of Forward in Faith.
But a new voice has been trying to make itself heard – that of InclusiveChurch.net, an internet-based pressure group. According to its website, InclusiveChurch is a ‘worldwide network of church-goers that represents mainstream Anglican opinion’ – so obviously we must pay attention to what it thinks: apparently, it ‘ardently believes that . . . a single clause which allows for the appointment of women as bishops’ is ‘the only way forward’; it believes that ‘the Act of Synod has set a dangerous precedent for the Anglican Communion that must be overturned’; and it rejects ‘wholeheartedly any suggestion of a so-called third province for those unable to accept the ministry of bishops who are women’. Pastoral Concern indeed. But there is more: ‘InclusiveChurch recognises that some are at present unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops. Arrangements for those members of the Church should be recommended through Pastoral Guidelines and a Code of Practice for Diocesan Bishops, following the example of the Scottish Episcopal Church.’ In other words, make no provision at all!
So who exactly comprises this ‘worldwide network of church-goers that represents mainstream Anglican opinion’? The InclusiveChurch website is instructive, for all the 9,000 who have signed its online petition are listed. Like most petitions, there are one or two names which fail to convince. Is there really someone called Claude Fiddler, who worships at a church called St Nero’s in Rome? Then there are names that seem to have little, if anything, to do with mainstream Anglicanism: H.E.+Charles M G Guth II THD, Primus of ICCUSA (sic) particularly catches the eye, as does our old friend Bishop Jonathan Blake of the Open Episcopal Church. There are Roman Catholics and members of the Free Churches and there are dozens who profess to attend no church at all!
But even if one overlooks those who are by no stretch of the imagination Anglican, one still has a significant number who ardently believe that there is no place for the readers of New Directions in their inclusive church. Where in the world do you suppose they are? Unsurprisingly, large numbers of them are in the USA – which is not to say that Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong et al. are unrepresented.
But what will really interest the readers of New Directions is just how many – out of 9,000 – are actually members of the Church of England. And the answer seems to be around 5,250. (Very significantly less than the membership of Forward in Faith!) And where, one is bound to wonder, are these people located? It would take too long to analyse precisely which diocese each of them comes from, but one particular fact does strike even the most casual observer. There are many – very many – from the diocese of Southwark – a rough count suggests around 1,070. Or, to put it another way, the other 43 dioceses of the Church of England boast between them just over 4,000 signatories – less than 100 signatories, on average, per diocese. If InclusiveChurch is what you’re after, South London is clearly where you should go. Just as long as you don’t expect to be included when you get there . . . . .