Brian Reganwrites to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP
Ihave read your article in the news and in Parliament relating to the vote on Tuesday. I would like to respectfully correct some misinformation about the traditionalist Anglicans and explain why Christians from the other side are equally passionate about their point of view.
Equal but different
As a barrister, and a learned parliamentarian I am sure that you must agree that the measure that was being proposed on Tuesday was poorly written and did not give fair and legal provision for faithful Anglicans who in all conscience cannot recognise female Episcopal orders. While the measure was acceptable for Liberal Anglicans, over a quarter of synod members said it was not acceptable for Traditionalists. I ask you to remember that this integrity was held by the vast majority only a few decades ago. Those of this ‘original integrity’ including Anglo-Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals, have painstakingly read Holy Scripture and come to a convincing conclusion that a bishop must be and can only be a man. Traditionalists are not being sexist. They acknowledge that men and women are equal and ‘one in Christ’ but because God made us different and with different functions, this equality does not mean we are the same. We see male and female equal but different. Traditional Anglicans have made their decision based on several facts; one is that Jesus chose only men as his 12 ‘Apostles’ [the Apostles being the forerunners of the Bishops]. As he was both a radical Rabbi and God incarnate if he had wanted, he could have easily chosen women as Apostles. He clearly did not! If God makes a decision about a primary issue such as the structures of Christian ministry, then who are we to challenge him or worse, change it. Secondly, St Paul says in the first letter to Timothy chapter 3, and in his letter to Titus, that ‘a bishop must be a man’ (KJV). This maybe is an area where we differ from the Liberal wing of the Church.
Guardians of the faith
The media wrongly think that Bishops are ‘managers or CEOs’ of the Church UK Inc. They are plainly not. They are, of course ‘the servant of the servants of God’ and the spiritual descendants of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. They are not to lord it over us but to be our shepherds, our guides and ‘guardians of the Faith’. Please note ‘Guardians of the faith’ and not innovators of a new one. Becoming a bishop is not about power but service.
Another important fact that we should remember is that the Church of England is less than 1% of the world’s Christians and yet we act as
though we are a majority. Even if we count all Anglicans worldwide we are still only 4% while the vast majority of all the other Christians (at least 80%) do not ordain women on these very same grounds.
Every Sunday both you and I say ‘We believe in one, Holy, catholic and Apostolic Church’. That means that we proclaim that we are a truly catholic and Apostolic. For Anglo-Catholics apostolic succession is of prime importance as it is the guarantee of our sacramental certainty. Our Holy Communion is a sacred essential part of God’s grace within us. In order to give us truly the body and blood of Christ we need to receive that Holy Communion from a priest who is without question apostolically ordained by an apostolically consecrated Bishop. Now if we in all conscience cannot accept a female bishop as a spiritual descendant of the Apostles, then any priest ordained by a female bishop is not apostolically ordained and consequently the Holy Communion, over which they preside, is at the very least, questionable. That is so very
different to today for at the moment we can live together in relative harmony and I can choose whether I receive my Communion in a church presided over by a woman minister. After women are consecrated as bishops I will not be able to know and will be forced out of the communion. Without proper provision this vote will disfranchise me and all those holding this integrity. That proposed piece of legislation was about to give us a permanent sacramental problem and by law make us second class Anglicans. You see, after women are consecrated, I will never be able to know if the male priest at the altar is apostolically ordained or not.
Another aspect is quite important. Through this proposed divisive legislation,wewerebeingencouragedto follow secular trends. Again, St Paul in his several letters unmistakably warns us not to follow secular worldly trends. He preaches against false teachers of the faith who follow such ways. This very week I heard a Church of England bishop say that the Church should reflect the nation’s modern ideas. This is so wrong. That is precisely why we are in the moral mess we are in today. Surely the Church is not here to reflect society – but the other way round – surely society should be encouraged to reflect the teachings of Christ. That is our primary mission as Christians. If Jesus had reflected the society of his day, we would be living in a fascist world with a state dictating what we can believe. No, Jesus was outspoken, teaching against distorted secular or religious ideas. Surely we cannot set ourselves to know more than Christ and his Apostles. I hope that this has been helpful and shows our passionate position. I ask you to give some time and thought to us, your brothers and sisters in Christ, equally pained but faithful Anglicans of the Original apostolic integrity?
Brian Reganssc ND