COMMENT APRIL 1999
The present Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, has, according to a national newspaper, let it be known, albeit privately, that, if and when women are consecrated bishops in the Church of England, he will resign his office and become, once again, a parish priest.
In the same week the former Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, writing to another publication, ventured his view that such consecrations would artificially foreclose the period of reception and effectively precipitate schism.
Much the same effect he believes would be consequent upon the creation of a Third Province. These are significant contributions to the continuing debate but several things must be said.
First, on a pastoral level, Dr Hope may well be retired before any such decisions are taken and, if Dr Habgood is correct, he will be subjecting himself to the same schismatic leadership that most parish priests have had to endure for some years now. How endurable he will find this is open to question.
Second, both Archbishops seem to ignore the fact that Lambeth, this year, was graced by the presence of several women bishops. They are already part of the Anglican Communion. Either this communion is, as claimed in weightier moments, a world-wide church or it is simply the tattered remnant of imperial adventure held together by nostalgia and friendship exercising provincial autonomy in a way that fatally undermines any doctrinal coherence or integrity.
Third, Dr Habgood does not seem to realise that the supporters of a Third Province do so because they agree with him. Women bishops will cause schism. But they are logically and theologically inevitable so it is important to lay the groundwork for the survival of orthodox Anglicanism.
Dr Habgood, and many of the other bishops who voted for women priests, seem shy of the consequences of their action. If he now believes that the ordination of women to the priesthood was a mistake, he must say so. Such clarification would be welcomed way beyond the orthodox constituency. If he believes it was right then it is difficult to understand the logic of his position.
Dr Hope, on the other hand, voted against and remains resolutely opposed. If he truly believes in the period of reception and the rightness of his position he can give some decisive and immediate signals. The Bishop of Whitby and the Archdeacon of York must shortly be replaced. The appointment of two respected traditionalist men with strong pastoral records, theological intelligence, and a fearless commitment to orthodoxy would be the clearest possible indication that he is prepared to put his money where his mouth is.
Such appointments, let it be said, would not be without a degree of self interest. After all if Dr Hope does eventually reduce himself to the ranks and become Vicar of Langtoft with Foxholes, Butterwick, Cottam and Thwing, he may be glad of a sympathetic bishop on diocesan staff.
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