Everybody is permitted to reproduce this column – but with a Health Warning:
NOTHING IN THIS COLUMN SHOULD BE RELIED UPON AS FIRM EVIDENCE FOR ANYTHING.
All facts or opinions expressed herein are purely interim. They are constantly under review by our team of experts and will be revised upwards as necessity demands or occasion permits.
Nobody should EVER AGAIN write articles which portray Anglicanism as divided, and doctrinally incoherent.
They should know that it is in fact warm, friendly, and inclusive (except for those bitter, twisted traditionalists, who are probably guilty of racism, sexism, homophobia
and all sorts of other things
that only a warm friendly inclusive Anglican would want to put up with).
NOW JUST LISTEN UP!
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There are, as I am sure you can imagine, occasions when I wonder why I write for this magazine.
Nude Erections, Monica Furlong calls it; but I call it New Depressions. It is so terribly negative. My problem is with the tone. Let me explain.
Anglicanism, as I see it, is about feelings.
What matters is not doctrine, but sheer unbridled sentiment. Anglicanism is, as Grizzy constantly reminds us, a place where ‘your truth’ and ‘my truth’ can meet. It is, as Peter Carnley has recently said, about ‘interpersonal relationships and interpersonal respect’. ‘I believe that our greatest asset in the Anglican Church of Canada is our ability to be in relationship’ writes Michael Peers. These are the wise words of three Great Anglican Primates with but a single thought!
If I were to unpack all that (and after all, that is my job!) I would say that Anglicans have come to a new and exciting place.
Previously people maintained that you can’t hold two quite different opinions at the same time. They supposed that there would be an inevitable parting of the ways between those who believed one thing and those who believed the opposite. That, they thought, was what the Reformation was all about.
But we can now see how wrong they were! Ecumenism itself has shown the way!
Take the doctrine of the Eucharist, for example.
The fact that one set of Anglicans have their monstrances, and another lot pour the left overs back into the bottle in no way precludes our coming to substantial agreement with the Roman Catholic Church (…and then not expressing the substance of that agreement in our new liturgies!) Of course not! In the past that would have been denounced as bad faith – dishonesty even – but in the new and exciting place that Anglicans have reached we call it ‘pluriformity’.
Take, again, that defining doctrine of Anglicanism, the ordination of women. It is true that we have a Canon which says that all those ordained to the priesthood should accept the orders of all others similarly ordained. But no one needs take much notice of that! In the New Church of England private judgement rules OK! We even have rules which contradict our rules, so that everyone can feel happy. ‘Person does not live by Canon Law alone!’, as I am sure Jesus himself would have said if he had had the benefit of our experience.
And then there is the Lambeth Conference.
How beautifully it expresses, in its very nature and constitution, where we are all at in our pilgrimage together: a decennial gathering of sexagenarians with a retirement age of seventy! Such an arrangement (as I am sure you will see) usefully ensures that every Conference will have a different Chairman and that hardly any of the delegates will have attended the one before! Added to that we have a well-established custom that really important business is done between Conferences (the deliberations of which nobody need heed in any case).
Now we at the Office of Public Enlightenment view all this in a positive light.
Anglicans, as we see it, are on the cusp of modernity – pioneering the new concept of Post-institutionalism.
In all past ages people have banded together because they had common interests and common aims (they wanted to play table tennis for example, or engage in a little harmless consensual sado-masochism). But we can now see how harmful and exclusive that was.
For us New Anglicans the Church has to be re-defined ontologically. It is not FOR anything (all that conversion and metanoia business with its unhelpful judgementalism!); it SIMPLY IS. It is an arena into which all people can come to achieve and celebrate their self-fulfilment.
Now that’s Good News! But of course there will always be people who cannot see it! And they are the people who write this magazine. They hanker after old certainties which have forever gone away. They want dogma instead of dialogue; authority in place of developing interpersonal relationships; they want to know if the tomb was empty, and whether a virgin gave birth. And they have the effrontery to claim that those things are liberating!
My job, as I see it, is to tell them (in the nicest possible way) that they are in the wrong place. The paradox that we have got to spin is the last paradox of all: the paradox that in a Church where anything goes, the only people who are unwelcome are the people who won’t accept that anything goes. In a Church dedicated to pluriformity and choice, the only people who have to be got rid of are the people who reject pluriformity.
Which is why I write this column.
* * *
But now for something altogether more cheering!
Did you know that when the Bishop of Salisbury advertised the post of Archdeacon of Dorset recently over six hundred priests (yes, that’s nearly six percent of the entire work force!) applied?
Colleagues here, I am afraid, showed an unacceptable cynicism. ‘Clambering onto the gravy train before the engine runs out of steam’ was how one young man put it. (We have sent him to Gordon Kuhrt for re-education). Someone even wondered if Michael Turnbull’s recommendation to the Archbishop’s Council that 60% (yes, that’s nearly two thirds!) of parishes should be closed down had been leaked.
But I view the development with the utmost optimism. The numbers of archdeacons has, over the last few years, been one of the Church of England’s most hopeful growth areas. It is affirming to find so many ordinary parish priests wanting to be part of that growth and that hope.
William Badger is Public Enlightenment Officer of the Archbishop’s Council. He is a Canon of Chattanooga.