Southwark manifesto

Martin Hislop offers a splenetic rant after a recent diocesan synod

The Diocese of Southwark prides itself on being at the cutting edge for the Church of England. A self perpetuating urban myth is centred upon the prophetic voices that emanate from London's South Bank. Issues of social justice, inclusiveness, equality roll off the tongue of assorted Southwark hierarchs as they jostle to embrace the latest social cause, as the torch bearers for this affirming movement for change hector the General Synod or endless Southwark clergy conferences.

In reality Southwark Diocese manifestly fails to practise what it preaches and in its doctrinaire drive for hegemony and

conformity it merely seeks to act as the Thameside cadres for TEC.

This inconsistency was demonstrated at the March session of the Southwark Diocesan Synod when the leading layperson, April Alexander, delivered the Southwark Manifesto for ecclesial cleansing.

Ms Alexander is a Southwark representative on the General Synod and until recently chaired the diocesan House of Laity and has just been elected to chair the Vacancy-in-See Committee. Her allotted task was to provide a report on recent proceedings at the General Synod.

What transpired was a polemic on the inevitable and desirable arrival of women bishops, and a manifesto on how dissent from this innovation would be managed.

With a zealotry that would have done credit to the Committee of Public Safety, Citizen Alexander declared that the 'so called' period of reception for women in the priesthood was over and the new order that was to follow would include the repeal of the Act of Synod, and the requirement for any candidate for ordination to declare their recognition and acceptance of the validity of women's orders, and to end any questioning of the actions of those who ordain women.

In a grudging concession that some pastoral consideration may need to be accorded those obviously blighted

individuals and parishes unwilling fully to embrace this new world of equality and justice, Southwark's Commissar for Implementation and Uniformity invoked the Diocese of Rhode Island in the United States as 'best practice'.

Clearly any such pastoral arrangement would be purely temporary and transitional and very much vested in the supremacy and discretion of the Ordinary. No place for external interference from any flying bishop, let alone the notion of rights to appropriate and guaranteed extended or alternate episcopal care.

Ms Alexander's abuse of synodical procedure to enable her to use what is traditionally an objective and balanced reporting on General Synod proceedings for a partisan polemic went without any

intervention from the President of Synod (Bishop Tom Butler) or the presiding clerical Vice-President of Synod.

At the conclusion of Ms Alexander's tirade, a point of order was raised by FiF Southwark Lay chairman and General Synod member, Barry Barnes, and was accorded from the top table with the lame response that the synod business committee would look at the guidelines for future agenda items of this nature.

Actually, I am grateful for Ms Alexander's efforts. For here at last is the end of the pretence that the Southwark hierarchs have any interest in a level playing field, or that there can be an honoured place at the table for those of us unable to accept the innovations of Holy Order and scriptural revisionism.

Relentlessly this agenda is pursued in the Diocese of Southwark, and insidiously traditionalist voices are marginalized and eradicated. Vacancies in faithful orthodox parishes are manipulated and participation in the decision-making councils of the diocese is denied to our tradition.

To those who define their construction of church in terms of secular notions of justice and equality, such as Ms Alexander and the Southwark politburo, then logically there can be no acceptance nor toleration of those whose desire to remain faithful to the apostolic deposit of faith. For to do so would be to endorse values and attitudes that are deemed to be the outpouring of injustice and inequality, and therefore an anathema to contemporary political correctness.

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