In recent years the ecumenical movement seems to have come on in leaps and bounds and there has been much fruitful dialogue. It is fair to assume that this dialogue will continue if women are ordained to the episcopate, but it will clearly take place in a very different way. This has been spelled out very clearly by Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate. Writing to the new Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of his enthronement he offered a stark warning, a warning that those who claim to care about Christian Unity and would see the Church of England press forward with the ordination of women to the episcopate would do well to heed: ‘We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties co-exist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic.’ It was added in a later statement that the introduction of women to the episcopate would lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow Patriarchate recognizing the church hierarchy of the Anglican Church.
We cannot as a church ignore what our ecumenical partners are telling us. In the past the Roman Catholic Church has offered similar advice, warning that the ordination of women to the episcopate would jeopardize ecumenical links. Conversations will keep happening but they will not happen in the same way and it is simply to ignore reality to think that they will. If we are serious about Christian unity then we should not seek to take actions that will destroy hopes for that unity.
The Church of England seems to have lost its understanding of the concept of reception, that is to say that an understanding that ordaining women required the assent in time of the Universal Church, both of East and West. The reason for this is that the Church of England continues to claim that it is part of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Ordaining women to the episcopate will put this claim in danger, we need to be clear about that, we will have broken with what the churches of both East and West continue to teach regarding holy order.
It is clear then that for those of us who hold to the traditional teachings of the Church the decisions of the House of Bishops and the synod do not simply affect our own church as some internal matter but they affect how we relate to others. It is therefore imperative that we ensure that our voice is heard. It is important that we are part of ecumenical dialogue and that we are members of ecumenical societies such as the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, so that our voice can be heard speaking not just about order but about the Catholic heritage and understanding that is part of the fabric of our church.
It is also imperative that we take part in the elections of new Deanery Synod Representatives. It is these representatives who will vote for the members of the House of Laity in the next General Synod. Make sure that your parish is properly represented and make sure you use your vote. It is very important that we are represented at the key moment in the life of our Church.
Beyond the voting and the carping from those who would see us removed from the Church of England, life does of course continue and we must continue to work for the spread of the Gospel and of the Catholic faith. In order that we can do this most effectively we must continue to work together. Our parishes must share resources and events. Above all we must support our bishops, the bishops of The Society in their work, and encourage them to cooperate more closely. If you have not already signed up for The Society then do so and this summer try to attend an event run by one of the Catholic Societies in your area or nationally. If you have not been for a while consider going on the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham. These events not only encourage and feed us spiritually; they also encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ and show the Church that we are a vibrant body of people who care about their faith and the Church and believe firmly in its mission to our nation. We must continue to proclaim our faith and hold firm to the teaching that has come down to us from the Apostles. Above all we must continue to teach the faith and encourage others to turn to Christ their risen Lord. ND