Chris Daubney now in his twenties and once the youngest member of General Synod urges the church of his birth to be fair and positive to those of his generation who wish to hold to the faith received
In the July 2005 General Synod, one proponent of the consecration of women as bishops quoted the words ‘Do not let the Church get in the way of your relationship with God.’ If the Synod proceeds to consecrate women as bishops, the Church will indeed be getting in the way of many of its members’ relationship with God. Some may be unable to see why others worry about ‘trivial’ matters such as the valid administration of the Sacraments; the reason we do is that relationship with God.
It is often suggested that young people overwhelmingly support such a move; this is by no means universal. We continue to have young lay people and priests in our parishes and ordinands in training, unable to accept the decision to ordain women as priests; in my experience, not people wanting to preserve their own tastes and way of life, but people who are committed to sharing the privileges they have received from God with others. This includes people who were, in 1992, too young to take any interest. Considering the numbers participating in Sheepdip, Walsingham Pilgrimages and other youth events, it may be assumed that rather than a dying minority, young people keep coming to faith through its traditional Anglican expression.
Confidence in truth
Many argue that, given the lack of young people attending our churches, we should change in order to engage with a culture in which women take on jobs of responsibility and which cannot understand why women cannot be priests. I do not know any young Anglican who is unaware of the need to witness to young people, who does not want to engage with this as a matter of urgency and who is not to be found doing so.
I would, however, ask whether concern for mission should necessitate the giving up of what we believe. I know that all young Christians are, from experience, aware of how frequently Christian truths are difficult for society to comprehend.
If we are to engage others in a relationship with God, we must have confidence in God’s truths, in Scripture, in the sustenance and unity given through the Eucharist, the renewal we receive in Confession and the grace given in the Sacraments, both that we may ‘abide in him and bear much fruit’ and that others may likewise develop a relationship with the risen Lord.
We can only witness confidently if we know we have a future within the Church. It would be disingenuous to draw others into a community which was time-limited in nature, and if we knew that we ourselves would be unable to participate in its life as we could not accept its ordained ministry. I believe that the Ministry of the Ordained is central to the individual’s relationship with God, the fellowship of Christians and the mission to which we are called.
It is clearly essential that the priest is beyond any doubt a priest of the Universal Church, as our Church has always claimed. As a lay person, it is of vital importance that I know that the priest is validly ordained by someone with the authority to do so, in order that when he stands in the place of Christ at the altar, he is able to celebrate the Eucharist, and when he absolves, sins are forgiven.
This assurance cannot be certain if the priest has been ordained by a woman whose orders are themselves a matter for debate. This extends further if they are ordained by a male bishop who was in turn ordained by a woman. Over time, the pool of bishops whose Orders were beyond dispute would inevitably dwindle. The implication that the issue is solely the gender of the celebrant misses the point that the central fact is the validity of their orders and their relation to the bishop. The only solution to this situation is for the PRBs to be able to ordain their own successors, selected from their own priests. This may seem to establish some degree of separation, but if it is not done, who will minister to those of us, in our old age, who are assured that we are today’s Church?
Such an arrangement must, in my view, have the potential for permanence. Many have suggested that this would be sufficiently established by a code of practice; however, without doubting the intentions of our bishops or Synod members, without these provisions having legal force, can we be certain that new bishops and Synod members would remain committed to the rights of those with whom they disagree?
For those who do not accept this innovation, life would, in many ways, be easier if we left the Church of England and yet we remain, because we are Anglicans. For myself I feel privileged to have been formed in my faith by the varying strands of Anglicanism. I believe that Anglican comprehensiveness is a blessing both to us and the wider Church. I do not wish to see a permanent and irreconcilable division, but rather the opportunity for us to learn and work together as labourers in the vineyard, trusting that the Holy Spirit will use us all to his glory.
It would be, I believe, a tragedy for our Church to lose any of its diversity. Some may feel that those who cannot accept such innovations, if desired by the majority, should find another spiritual home, particularly if such a wish is intended to grant ‘justice.’ I would wonder, however, how it can be justice to evict faithful Christians from the place within the Church to which God has called them, simply because they feel compelled to follow what has been its belief since its foundation.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus said that those who abide in him bear much fruit. The next few years will inevitably be uncertain and painful for us all; and young Anglicans such as myself will see no exception to this, but we know that we are called to remain faithful. We do not know what they will hold or look like, but I know that young orthodox Anglicans will remain united to Christ through the Scriptures, Prayer and the Sacraments and we will continue to bear the fruit he wills.