Please pray for the repose of the soul
Member of the Editorial Board of New
Obiit 25 June, 2002
The Archbishop of Canterbury may be retiring but, true to form, not retiring enough. He bowled into Rome last month and gave an interview in which he enthused anew about his achievement of introducing the schismatic innovation of women priests. He advised that there were 'lots of women in the Roman Catholic Church who would like ordination themselves'. Arguing that women priests presented 'a problem' but not 'a final break', he alluded to the depth of the problem he has created.
'Sometimes churches have to change and go with the leading of the Holy Spirit and sometimes this takes hundreds of years', he pontificated. No doubt as soon as the Roman Catholic Church gets the Holy Spirit it will catch up with the wisdom of the Church of England.
Privately many of the diocesan bishops that Dr Carey has created now acknowledge that the Universal Church of East and West will never accept this unscriptural innovation. Others use the more hopeful term, 'hundreds of years' in estimating the timetable for this conversion. In the light of this assessment most of them now want to foreclose on the promised 'open period of reception'. Indeed, for practical purposes, in the government of their dioceses they already have.
Strangely, Dr Carey did not advertise the side-effects of his usurpation of an authority he does not possess. For a few weeks more he will preside over a church which has first and second class citizens; a church which is almost wholly governed now by men whose sole qualification is that they believe what the Church has never believed anywhere or at any time; and a Church which, by the relativization of the Word of God and the deliberate confusion of the Holy Spirit with personal emotional response, will be, increasingly, a puppet not a prophet in a terminally decadent culture.
The Crown Appointments Commission has met. The names have gone to Downing Street and we wait with bated breath for an announcement. That is the usual pattern of this top-secret exercise. Not so this time. Scarcely had the postman arrived at No. 10 and the papers were full biographies of Archbishop Rowan Williams – heir presumptive to the throne of Augustine – apparently.
Whether this leak/speculation turns out to be true or false is altogether a secondary issue. What matters is that the Church has once again been part of a procedure which does it no credit and does nothing for the credibility of the next Archbishop. A secretive system designed to gerrymander a result is offensive. A secretive system that cannot keep its own secrets is a bad joke.
It is an open secret that the Canterbury Vacancy in See Committee wanted a pro - women priests candidate. As, according to the Act of Synod, offices must go to the best candidate, inquiries were made of Downing Street whether the selectors would be instructed to disregard this imposition on the Church. No reply was forthcoming. The lack of transparency on this key issue alone means we will never know if we got the best candidate or simply the politically correct one.
All so unnecessary. Lady Perry, after a thorough investigation, produced a splendid blueprint for reforming the ridiculous and corrupt system of appointment. The bishops, in high dudgeon, kicked it into the long grass and have declared 'business as usual'. Unfortunately for the rest of the Church it is a very unedifying business indeed.
The legal advisers to the General Synod – The Dean of the Arches (The Rt Worshipful Sheila Cameron QC); The Vicar General of the Province of York (the Rt Worshipful Thomas Conigsby QC); Standing Counsel to the General Synod (Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC); The Legal Advisor to the General Synod (Mr Stephen Slack) – have nailed down the coffin of the Scott-Joynt marriage proposals in a ten page appendix to an eight page Report.
A summary of their advice is to be found in this edition on pages 6–8. Two things need to be said about that advice and its consequences.
First, we need to ask if it is good advice. This is not to question the good intentions or the expertise of those who gave it. But European Human Rights Law (as the Prime Minster’s wife would tell you if protocol did not require her silence) is a new and specialist field. Are any of those who gave the advice sufficiently specialist?
Secondly, we need to question the salient premise upon which the advice was given, which seems to be that the present freedom of Anglican clergy to exercise a personal discretion about whom they marry a second time is fixed and immutable. Is it not at least possible that the law might be changed to show respect to the theological position of the Church of England as synodically expressed?
What appears to be operating here is a straight reversal of the principles which used to undergird Establishment. It was previously assumed (as Paul Richardson points out elsewhere in this edition) that Establishment guaranteed some influence of Christian moral teaching on the law of the land. What seems now to be the case is that the law requires the Established Church to bend its teaching to secular requirements.
All this is very Swedish. Recent legislation in that unfortunate country has rendered a spirited defence of the Christian principle of lifelong heterosexual monogamy actionable in the courts. You have been warned.
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