‘As this is now being implemented, we are trying to make sure that there is a joint group which will keep an eye on how it’s going to happen.’
Thus the Archbishop of Canterbury on the proposed Ordinariate, as reported in the Daily Telegraph. One is reminded of Dr Johnson’s famous definition of a patron: ‘...one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help.’ But is help what the Archbishop has in mind? Or is hindrance the more pressing aim? Both clergy and laity will be inclined to wonder.
What, they will be inclined to ask, could be the purpose of such co-operation, except to flatter the control-freak pretensions of the Anglican episcopate? Much could be done by bishops who genuinely sought to help those who can no longer remain in the Church of England. Where whole congregations are intent upon leaving for the Ordinariate for example, arrangements for the sharing or leasing of buildings, for example, would materially ease the transition. We trust that the Archbishop will set an example of best practice in his own diocese with St Peter’s, Folkestone. But other diocesans have already ruled out such generosity - even though most dioceses need to loose both clergy and places of worship simply to balance the books. In such a context the Archbishop’s proposals look less like good will and more like sour grapes. Noses and faces come readily to mind.
The Church of England has broken its solemn promises. We were offered safeguards ‘in perpetuity’ and ‘for as long as they were needed’. After a mere fifteen years those assurances have proved not worth the paper they were written on. Not a single proponent of women’s ordination (and certainly no bishop) has risen to rebuke the Synod for this shameful behaviour. Why should we now trust those who have so flagrantly betrayed us? And why should it be supposed that they now have any right to ‘keep an eye’ on the Ordinariate as it unfolds?
‘I was very taken aback that this large step was put before us without any real consultation,’ Rowan told the Telegraph. He needs to ask himself what form that consultation might have taken, and in what (other than the extant proposals) it might have resulted. The Church of England has turned its back precisely upon that party within it which has fuelled its ecumenical vision for unity with the great Churches of East and West. It has sunk any hope of the recognition of its orders either by Catholics or Orthodox. And now it wants to be granted a role in determining how those it has rejected should find a home within the Church from which it has further estranged itself. What a (diabolical) cheek!
There has been outrage on the part of many opponents of women’s ordination at the membership of the Code of Practice Drafting Group set up by the House of Bishops (see Letters, page 21). It is certainly true that representation on the group from this constituency is notable by its (virtual) absence. Rumours are also circulating about dissension in the House of Bishops itself, where it is felt that the bishops on the group are outnumbered by those who are not members of the House and who can properly only exercise an advisory role.
Opponents of women in the episcopate are not themselves surprised by the membership. A scorched earth policy has been apparent from the moment when the Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich was allowed to rewrite the Draft Legislation and pass off her new version as a mere revision. But a Drafting Group which does not take account of the needs and sentiments of opponents of the legislation is a bold political calculation, which could easily result in disaster. Not only will a narrowly drafted Code undoubtedly increase the numbers of those who throw in the towel and abandon the Church of England altogether; but it risks exciting anger and consequent ungovernability among those who are nevertheless determined to remain.
No one, considering its provenance, is likely to find the Society of SS. Wilfrid and Hilda much of a threat. But it would be a mistake at this stage to underestimate the anger of those who have seen the safeguards which were assured to them summarily threatened with removal. Women priests and their supporters do not enjoy a monopoly on righteous indignation. ND
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