Harry Entwistle offers an Australian perspective
The consistent mantra which resonated throughout the Emmanuel Centre, Westminster UK during the recent English Forward in Faith Assembly was, ‘A code of Practice will not do.’ This Code, or Protocols as the Australians call it, refers to the General Synod vote to press ahead with the consecration of female bishops without offering the Catholics in the CofE the structural solution they sought, and removing the provisions they presently enjoy with respect to the presence of female priests.
Supporters of this ‘development’ believe it to be a matter which has been left over from the Reformation and needs addressing in the present time. However, they are prepared to allow the orthodox opponents of this development to remain in the Church through the exercise of a Code of Practice. Its equivalent in Australia has no statutory protection and its implementation depends entirely on the good grace of the diocesan bishop.
The use of Protocols
The Protocols assure Australian Catholics that they continue to have an honoured and valued place in the Church, but that honoured place does not attract
any meaningful provisions to allow them to do so without considerable theological compromise. What is offered by the bishops is for the Catholics to be able to choose which bishop visits their parish. If they do not want a female bishop, they may be allowed a male one.
This provision is a total insult to the integrity of Anglican Catholics because it accuses them of sexism. It allows for episcopal gender choice, but does not address their real concerns of sacramental certainty, nor allow an orthodox bishop to cross diocesan borders, nor does it deal with the issue of a continued supply of clergy to enable the Catholic constituency to continue to hold a valued and honoured place in the Church.
The fact that in Perth, Western Australia, all the male bishops in the diocese took part in the consecration of Australia’s first female bishop means that there is no male bishop in the diocese who has not turned his back on the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. So if the Protocols are more than episcopal gender preference, where will a male bishop come from to minister to orthodox Catholics?
Given all this, it is quite astounding that some so-called Catholics in the Anglican Church in Australia are prepared to live with these Protocols and still believe that the liberal bishops are doing their best to look after them. The Protocols were imposed by the bishops on the Church in a ‘take it or leave if manner with no consultation with those for whom they are intended. They followed the 4:3 majority opinion of the Appellate Tribunal which opened the path for women to be consecrated as bishops in Australia.
Smoke and mirrors
The Archbishop of Perth, the Most Revd R.A. Herft, was a member of that Tribunal and was the principal consecrator of Australia’s first female bishop. Understandably he has been extremely supportive of the Protocols and believes they generously allow opponents of women’s ordination to remain within the Church.
In his 2008 Synod Charge to the Perth Diocese, the Archbishop announced that his assistant, Bishop Mark Burton (consecrated in 2006) would become the next Dean of Melbourne.
While congratulating the Dean elect on his appointment, he said, “There is disappointment too that the Protocols established by the National Bishops’ Conference concerning clergy remaining for a minimum of four years in any appointment has not been observed.’
So Protocols really are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. They are the empty promises of hollow men. If the bishops will not honour a Protocol agreement made amongst themselves, why would anyone believe they would honour any concerning the provisions for the opponents of women’s ordination?
Protocols are not worth the paper they are written on. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.
A Code of Practice will not do -Alleluia.’