It has taken some time for the gloom in the second half of 2006 to dissipate. We could not have predicted how depressing that July Synod would prove to be. The Archbishop of York’s disapproval of Cardinal Kasper, the Bishop of Durham’s flippant display of biblical exegesis, and the casual abandonment of the moves towards women bishops – it was not the Church of England at its best.
The failure of the TEA proposals was a cause of unexpected disappointment to many clergy and laity of our constituency. Many men and women had, after much prayer, discussion and reflection, girded up their loins for the final crisis, and could echo without rancour the words of Our Lord, Tf you must do it, do it quickly.’
Even more extraordinary, however, than our own gloom was the manner in which it was not shared by the rest of the church. Was Watch, for example, as a prominent campaigning organization, upset that the women bishops project had been put on hold? One must suppose that individual women were disappointed, but the only evidence was silence. And the rest of the supposed vast majority in favour? No one appeared the slightest bit worried that the revolution had been delayed sine die.
The only people (so it seemed) unhappy with the present interim compromise were those who oppose the innovation. It is not for us to explain the apathy that has overcome the proponents, but it does need to be highlighted, for it does nothing for the proclamation of the Gospel.
We welcome the appointment of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group, and we pray for the Bishop of Manchester and his colleagues as they begin their work. We would urge them not to be held back by the seeming lethargy of the majority.
They are all busy people, with other responsibilities within the Church of England, but their shared task should not be onerous. The task, in itself, of drafting legislation is not a difficult one. Our own constituency has – though we say it ourselves – been open and helpful in putting forward workable suggestions. There are reasons to be hopeful.
It is the tragedy of the Archbishop of Canterbury that he is not quite a constitutional monarch. How convenient it would be (for him and for the rest of the Communion) if, like Elizabeth II, he could change opinions as she does when changing realms or governments. She can be a Presbyterian in Scotland
and an Anglican in England, inoffensively and simultaneously. The Queen’s Speech is socialist when her government is Labour, and less so when it is Conservative.
If only the ABC could be a traditionalist in Nigeria, a liberal in the US, a fence sitter in the UK, and another sort of traditionalist in Papua New Guinea! But an Archbishop, alas, is a pastor and teacher, and not a mere figurehead or clan totem. What he himself thinks is integral to who he is and how he discharges his office.
Hence, as we see it, the complaints of the Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (see Correspondents, p. 20). No one doubts that Rowan possesses all the necessary Celtic equipment of charm, verbal fluency and obfuscatory emollience. But none of this can suffice when opposing parties are seeking a lead from him, and will accept no lead which is contrary to their own previously declared positions or objectives.
Provincial autonomy (see The Way We Live Now, p. 17) cannot embrace any advice or opinion which is in any way contrary to the democratically adopted view of the province. But such a ‘polity’ – an in-word with TEC – demands just this ‘constitutional monarchy’ which Catholic ecclesiology cannot supply, and Rowan has no intention of conceding.
Poor Rowan is condemned, it would seem, to the position to which Oscar Wilde relegated George Bernard Shaw: ‘He hasn’t an enemy in the world, and one of his friends like him.’
Two invitations have recently arrived on the editor’s desk. The first, to a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Community of the Holy Cross on May 3 in Southwell Minster, reminds us of all we owe to the religious communities which sustained the Catholic movement in the Church of England with example and prayer from its inception. We salute Revd Mother and the Sisters CHC for all they have meant and achieved in their long and fruitful ministry.
May 5 sees the celebration at the Church of St Agatha, Portsmouth of the thirtieth anniversary of the consecration of Robert Mercer cr as the fourth Bishop of Matabele-land. Bishop Robert, afterwards Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, is a hero of the faith. It will be a privilege, amidst the current trials and tribulations of the Church in Central Africa and in Zimbabwe to celebrate with him and in his person, the great Catholic tradition of the church in those parts. I