When Joseph was in Egypt
Ross Northingon why the Code of Practice will not do
Much to say has the Report of Working Party on the ‘Illustrative Code of Practice.’ The authors of 30DAys made much of this in the last edition of ND. The publication of this document, upon which much hope has been placed by those who believe that traditionalists don’t really mean A‘ Code of Practice will not do,’ has hardly led to cries of exultation as if it is the answer to all our prayers – it is patently not, and clearly will not do. One is tempted to ask, ‘What part of ‘No’ do they not understand? The N or the O?’
One of the problems with the report is that, being only illustrative, it serves to illustrate all too well that there will be a Heinz variety of Codes – if not 57 then at least 43 ... one for each diocese. For it is proposed that each bishop draw up his own Code of Practice based upon the ‘Illustrative Code.’ One can easily imagine the equivalent of the present PEVs struggling to recall which Code he is operating under as he travels from one diocese to another.
Instead of the much vaunted Statutory Code attached to the Measure we are now reduced to a series of options in keeping with the Church of England’s approach to Liturgy.
An impossible task
However, we cannot criticize the Working Party as they were given an impossible task by a General Synod that would not heed the advice of its archbishops. Indeed, the relief the Working Party’s members must feel at having finally produced this document is almost palpable when they write: ‘we believe that the attached document discharges the mandate given to us to produce a draft Code consistent with the present form of the legislation.’
The ‘present form of the legislation’ is precisely the problem. In not providing jurisdiction and legal safeguards, and being reduced to a single-clause measure with only a possibility of a Code of Practice, traditionalists have no honoured place, despite what some keep telling us. How can we
believe this when we constantly read and hear somewhat uncharitable calls for us to leave and where we see our views wilfully misrepresented without anyone remonstrating with the perpetrators?
Called to leave
Some of our members may well have heard the calls for us to leave the Church of our Baptism both within General Synod debates, on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 on 6 February, and read such an opinion expressed somewhat injudiciously in the Sunday Telegraph of 5 February where the Chaplain to the House of Commons is quoted as saying: ‘We need to say, as a Church, ‘We ordain men and women.’ Full stop. All the way to the top. For those who feel that they can’t live with it? They’re adults. By all means, go to Rome. Join the Ordinariate. Don’t stay and make demands of the Church. It’s wrong.’ How very gracious of her. The article is headed with the strapline: ‘Could she be the Right Rev?’ I will almost certainly not be called upon to make that decision, just as I do not have to decide who becomes a Canon of Westminster.
Forward in Faith and others have consistently argued that a Code of Practice is unacceptable because it would not be possible to devise a workable version. It has also consistently pointed out that it is jurisdiction that our bishops require.
To assume that somehow traditionalist bishops will agree to accept delegated authority from someone that they do not believe to be a bishop is to downplay theological
conviction to a matter of personal opinion, or to risk playing semantics at the expense of substance. However, this is not a matter of personal opinion, but one of obedience to Scripture and the consensus of the Church Catholic. It is not within our gift or authority to change what the Church has received.
There is grave danger in the current plan to bring forward a Code of Practice that is nothing to do with it being unacceptable. Those who, in my opinion, mistakenly believe it to be a generous and robust provision fail to realize that it may not even be possible to get a Code of Practice through the General Synod. Consistently, the innovators have prevented any motion that would have given jurisdiction and real provision to traditionalists from passing.
They have also secured the separation of the Code from the Measure that will permit women to be ordained as bishops. If the Measure as it stands passes through the General Synod and is eventually promulged there is no guarantee that any subsequent Code of Practice will be passed by that body. On past showing the reverse is very likely.
Any traditionalist that believes that this ‘Illustrative Code of Practice’ provides a way forward either displays greater faith than I have or could be basing their degree of trust on Bishop X ‘who is such a nice, honourable man.’ Indeed he probably is, and indeed many of the bishops who voted for and implemented the Act of Synod, itself a Code of Practice, were nice, honourable men who did not view it as time-limited and really did intend to make it work. However, that Code of Practice is now to be rescinded; and any new Code of Practice if it is passed could go the same way.
Nice and honourable men we do tend to trust, but of course the problem is that a new Pharaoh will arise who may not know Joseph, one who may well take away the straw.ND
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