Lost shepherds


The House of Bishops is much exercised by jurisdiction. This obsession with jurisprudence, and the power to exercise it, is a long way from their apostolic task. Are they concerned with pastoral care and evangelical integrity, or with having power and keeping it? In typical CofE fashion they are lagging behind the times. While secular leaders devolve power in the quest for effective subsidiarity – in the form of local management, primary care and local assemblies – the House of Bishops reorganizes dioceses around Eighties’ models of corporate centralization. There is one thing that is outdated faster than a theology thesis and that is an MBA.

In the episcopal debate about the Guilford report, the salvation of souls is sadly neglected. This is ironic to the orthodox in their episcopal care. While bishops seem obsessed by episcopal rights, the orthodox believer is simply worried about valid sacramental rites. While bishops fret about the erosion of their power, the orthodox are concerned that the ground on which they stand is being washed away beneath them.

If bishops really cared about the spiritual welfare of orthodox parishes, they would do all within their power and jurisdiction to create a safe haven for them, where they could live and move without fear or prejudice.

These are intelligent men but they appear incapable of dealing with this issue in a rational way. The avoidance of the new province option as set out in Consecrated Women? verges on the psychotic. Being corporately in denial, they thrive on myths: one myth depicts the orthodox as a small hard-core rump of extremists whom time will whittle away; another is that the orthodox vision is to erect iron curtains that will maim the map of England.

It is a dereliction of duty on their part not to seek a permanent and practical settlement – and pursue it with conviction. They are certainly capable of conviction, as they have manifested for the past decade in the consistent marginalization of traditional priests and parishes. History will be their judge. One fears that they will be judged as small-minded ecclesiastical officials rather than men of vision and charity. Pray for them.

W.N. Stanley

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