We welcome particularly in this edition of NEW DIRECTIONS the contributions from our Evangelical brothers and sisters; so often the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate can be side-lined as only of concern to Catholics, the contribution of Evangelicals is welcome and we join with them in praying for a Church of England that is truly diverse and in which we can thrive together. On pages 10 and 11 of this edition of NEW DIRECTIONS you will have read about an initiative for prayer between Ascension Day and Pentecost. We are called to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church of England, our Church of England; a Church we look to as our mother, a Church we see as our spiritual home. We are truly entering the endgame for Catholics and Evangelicals within the Church of England, whilst there is still much political negotiation to do behind the scenes for many of us the best and most appropriate thing to do is to pray. To simply set aside time each day to pray at home or in church for the Church of England is a great thing that we can do, an act of witness and a sign of our trust in God. Perhaps in some areas churches will join together in prayer, there might be days of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament or Evangelical and Catholic parishes might unite in prayer and the study of scripture together. Whatever it is that we decide to do as individuals or as communities let prayer for the Church be at the centre of our lives during the Novena.
Our hope is that the Church of England can continue to be the diverse Church it has always been, that it can continue to reflect the Body of Christ; that it can continue to seek for deeper unity, that no one should be excluded. We seek to be able to thrive in the Church, to be able to get on with the work to which we have been called, that is the spread of the Gospel. This means working together as a Church, working with men and women lay and ordained. Admitting that there are divisions and problems but respecting one another enough to work together. It is time to put away the hurt of the past, hurt caused on both sides and to seek to move forward together in mission. Our nation desperately needs to hear the call of the love of God, we have an opportunity to show that despite division and difficulty the Church of England can work together, can keep together and strive for our common goals without seeking to create an environment in which some would feel unable in all conscience to remain members of the Church of England. Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals are dedicated to the mission of the Church of England, to spreading the Gospel in some of the most challenging parts of our nation, in caring for those in need and showing the love of Christ. Let us hope the House of Bishops hears that message: we want to work for the up-building of the kingdom please give us the space to do so.
In his speech to the General Synod in February the Bishop of Coventry spoke about the issue of delegation. Could a bishop delegate to another bishop without losing his or her authority? As the House of Bishops meets at the end of May we print the text of part of his important speech:
It will not deny the dignity of the diocesan bishop. It will not override the principle of the diocesan bishop’s invitation to another bishop to come and help, and to come to help, as it were, on the diocesan’s terms. But it will allow the ‘helping bishop’ to come with the commensurate dignity of one who, by virtue of participation in the college of bishops, has a shared responsibility for the life of the Church in every place. It will allow the ‘helping bishop’ to come with the dignity of one who has, by the formal mandate of the whole church, authority to exercise
such a ministry by the invitation of and conventions determined by the Diocesan bishop through the Diocesan Scheme. The question before the Synod today is simply: ‘need a word divide the Church?’. Is there not another way of expressing the same principles, a way that draws on the biblical and ancient practices of a genuinely shared responsibility for the Church by those charged with the preservation of its unity and the promotion of its health. Is it not worth asking your bishops to at least have one last a try? You ordained them for ‘just such a time as this’ (Esther 4.14). ND