Comment: November 1997
IN THE MAY EDITORIAL of this paper we reported the rumours, then current on the Internet, that there had been something of a bust-up at the Anglican Primates' meeting in Jerusalem in February. 'It is alleged', we wrote then, 'that the recently elevated Archbishop of Singapore, Moses Tay, sponsored a motion recommending the expulsion from the Communion of the Episcopal Church of the United States on the grounds of moral and doctrinal error.' In June we published a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs denying any such thing. 'This rumour is entirely unfounded, and had you checked with any person present at the meeting they could have told you so' wrote Mr Deuchar.
In a church where things are seldom what they seem and hardly ever what people say they are, it is always wise to wait upon events. It now appears that Mr Deuchar was not so much economical as niggardly with the truth. In a speech delivered at Yale Divinity School the former Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Mark Dyer has spilled the beans. There Dyer confirmed reports that some Primates had confronted Episcopal Church leaders during the meeting. 'Some of you have heard of the Kuala Lumpur Statement and the South to South Statement, but it's wider than that. I was at the Primate's meeting in February, and we had to deal with it there. ..There was a movement, at least until the picture was clarified for them, to disinvite the American Church from Lambeth'. The 'clarification', it appears was provided by Dyer himself, who was fielded for that very purpose by Dr Carey.
The position of the Bishop of Singapore in all this can best be judged from a few lines in a recent letter to a correspondent in the United States.' The Church has come under the pressures of modernism and post-modernism, where relativity reigns...It is my conviction that faithful people of God must unite and stand against current proposals to appoint commissions...Such a wily approach must be resisted at all costs.' Since the Archbishop of Canterbury's favoured solution to present tensions is just such a commission there are clearly further storms ahead.
In May we said that we awaited official confirmation or denial of the rumours 'with bated breath'. We are breathless no longer. But, alas the truth appears to be quite other than Canon Deuchar asserted it to be. How sad if one cannot rely on Lambeth Palace for accurate information about the affairs of the Anglican Communion.
'YOU PEOPLE HAVE blighted my ministry,' the late great patriarch of MOW, Stanley Booth-Clibborn, was once heard to remark. 'You scuppered the Methodist Scheme and now you are opposing women's ordination.' Guilty! we are afraid; but we detect in the orthodox constituency a change of heart.
Methodist Reunion in the heady days of the late sixties was the preferred panacea for Church decline. It was set, as those who proposed it tirelessly made clear, to fill pews, draw in young people and make the Church relevant. But we now know better. Now that we have women's ordination to fill pews, draw in young people and make the Church relevant, reunion with the Methodists has a rather lower profile. The decline in the number of Methodists, however, has made the issue an urgent one. By their own predictions, not far into the next century, there will be no Methodists with whom to unite.
Recent meetings between members of the House of Bishops and Methodist leaders (the culmination of 'talks about talks') probably indicate that the Bishops are ready to put their weight behind emerging proposals. So long as those proposals continue the provisions of the Act of Synod for the original integrity in our Church (and extend those provisions where appropriate and necessary - for example, to deal with the order of Methodist women bishops which will be created), we believe that the original integrity in the Church of England should support them.
What we see emerging in the Church of England, and in the Anglican Communion as a whole (witness the proposals for parallel jurisdictions of Lutheran and ECUSA bishops in a recent scheme in the United States; Bishop Browning's doctrine of 'inclusivism'; Dr Carey's exaltation of unity above truth in his speech to the Philadelphia Convention) is a new post-modern ideal of ecclesial identity. A Church, it seems, is henceforward to be a body in which the members can think and do precisely what they like. So long as that inclusive view can also accommodate those who think otherwise, it is probably the best that traditionalists can hope for in the short term. We should make it clear that the price of any new arrangement is special provision for those who cannot accept it - and then we should go for it!
1997 MARKS THIRTY YEARS of the Abortion Act. Five million have died and the politician responsible for it has been ennobled. The entire population under 40 years old has grown up in a society which regards this practice as normal. The Act required the overturning of Christian ethics, the destruction of the Hippocratic Oath, the removal of the defence of the innocent and the wholesale contempt for the sanctity of life. Almost three thousand years of Judeo Christian civilisation were overturned by a barbarous combination of secular materialism, feminism and a sinister eugenics masquerading as a benevolent liberalism.
We now live with the victims - the mothers and fathers who were persuaded that abortion was a moral choice and a matter of personal rights and now live with guilt, anguish and regret. The Church has a huge pastoral task to encourage repentance and reconciliation with God and the unborn child.
Just as surely the Church has a huge political task: to persuade the nation and our legislators of the inherent wickedness and cruelty of this pagan practice. Just how difficult this task will be was illustrated during the recent General Election.
The number of Pro-Life candidates standing meant that they were entitled to one Party Political broadcast. The television companies, those fearless exposers of corruption, led by the BBC, refused to allow the broadcast on the grounds of taste. At the same time they did not demur at the required broadcast for an extreme right wing party.
Last month the Appeal Court refused the Pro-Life Alliance permission to challenge the BBC in court. For the court to uphold a grossly anti-democratic decision by a publicly funded body is a grave matter. It is indeed a contempt of the law which the court exists to enforce. For the case to be heard and dismissed would have been alarming. For the case not to be heard at all is a scandal to democracy. It is a foolish and short-sighted judiciary which teaches people that they cannot expect justice through the courts. For it is not long before it also teaches people that contempt cuts both ways.
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