In a recent broadcast of Thought for the Day, Canon Angela Tilby offered a robust defence of the Christian ideals of marriage. She argues: ‘The point about sacraments is that they can’t be made up. They work because they are a precise configuration of the material and the spiritual.’ Many readers of New Directions we are sure would want to support Canon Tilby’s views on the Sacrament of Marriage; they might also wish to extend her argument. Surely
if we cannot tamper with the material of the Sacrament of Marriage and the spiritual nature of it then we need to be very careful about our understanding of the Sacrament of Ordination. Readers of this magazine will want to urge the House of Bishops not to close the period of reception on the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. The Church of England must continue to discuss theologically these issues; she must continue to engage with other churches to ensure that the ecumenical dialogue remains open.
Gavin Ashenden was not called to speak but we reproduce here part of his speech as we feel it reflects some of our hopes for the House of Bishops’ discussions in May:
‘The first place we might look is at the profound interdependence of Our Lord and his mother. We don’t find either power, or symmetry or equality there, but something more deeply and lovingly nuanced in the templates of the masculine and feminine they embody for us. We find a mutuality set in a dynamic of self giving love in separate but mutually dependent roles. How does this alternative patterning of relationship translate into a solvent to unglue us in this Synod at this impasse? The Church of England has had two particular charisms of great quality.
Firstly, it has lived and prayed beyond the confined claustrophobia of linear logic; and secondly, it has proved a wide environment to explore the theology of the whole Church: Catholic roots at one end and the energy of reformation at the other. How has the Church lived beyond the confines of logic and dialectical conflict? The largesse of Anglicanism has allowed people to make pilgrimages of discovery. But today we are debating a measure that will draw the boundaries of Anglicanism in considerably.
No longer will it be possible to go on a journey that encompasses the traditional faith of the historic Church and also be an Anglican. This restrictive ‘take’ on gender relations will also define our ecclesiology, and unless you can accept it, there is no place for you here. Justice can never be administered on its own in a vacuum or else it engenders a tyranny of its own. What we are asking for is that this justice be tempered by mercy.’ ND