‘There is a big hole at the centre of Anglicanism – its authority. I don’t think it’s a church; it’s more of a religious society.’
Dr Edward Norman, of course, has hit the nail on the head.
With the Bishops’ second report on human sexuality behind us and the Rochester Commission’s report immediately ahead, we can be in no doubt as to the unfolding pattern of Anglican authority (or rather the lack of it). The bishops simply cannot reach a common mind on anything and so can give no clear guidance. To the question ‘What does the Church teach…?’ Their answer is next to worthless: ‘Some of us teach this… and some of us teach the other… both are respected opinions in our inclusive polity.’
This is often disingenuously described as giving a lead in tolerance. ‘Our attempt [to live with difference]’, said the bishops of the 1993 Act of Synod, ‘has significance not only for ourselves but also for the wider church and for the world, which desperately needs to learn that art of living together with difference.’
Such self-approving nonsense is tragic. All the signs of the last fifty years have been that Anglicanism exists, in the minds of its episcopal minders, merely to baptize secular opinion in the hope of arresting numerical decline. The very techniques adopted to make the Church ‘relevant’ are evidence for all to see of its total irrelevance. To tell people what they want to hear is to abrogate the God-given task of telling them what Jesus wants.
‘Anglicanism is going to tip into the sea’, says Edward Norman, in a strange but powerful image; which is true if it has not already done so.
In the nature of the case there can be no statistics about the unspoken. But if Edward Norman – not one whom friends would hitherto have described as a ‘natural’ for conversion to Rome – has for years been moving inexorably to defection (‘Catholicism is what I have always believed, though I did not have the wit to realize it,’ he told Damian Thompson), how many others sit in obscure parsonages in the same frame of mind?