John Turner reflects on the operation of ‘two integrities’ in Japan
THE OUTCOME was unpredictable when in November 1992 the Church of England’s General Synod came to vote on the ordination of women to the priesthood: till almost the very last, traditionalists could hope that the innovators would not gain the required majority in each of the three houses. It was otherwise in May 1998 at the General Synod of the NSKK (the Anglican Church in Japan), for everybody was expecting a decision to admit women to the priesthood and the episcopate. In fact, ten bishops voted in favour and one against, whilst in the House of Deputies (clergy and laity) thirty voted in favour, thirteen against, and one member was absent.
Even though they had been anticipating the result, I am sure that those who belong to the Association of the Apostolic Ministry in Japan (AAMJ) must now be feeling much the same as future members of Forward in Faith felt shortly after 11 November 1992. I have heard from Japan that probably some traditionalists will leave NSKK during the next year or so, but it is anticipated that most will remain.
Certainly AAMJ is very far from giving up. Indeed on 7 June, Trinity Sunday, a letter signed by the Chairman, the Bishop of Yokohama, by two retired Bishops who are Deputy Chairmen, and by Fr. Emmanuel Kinoshita, the General Secretary, was sent to supporters and friends, in order to inform them of the resolution passed by members of the General Synod. The English version of this letter continues:-
They also approved ‘Guidelines’ to protect the conscience of those opposing the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, but ‘Guidelines’ is not a part of the canons.
We will continue opposing Apostasy and Paganism, and seek to found ‘a separate province’ and to have solidarity with traditionalists of overseas countries. There are two integrities within our Church.
We in the Church of England can be thankful that NSKK did approve ‘Guidelines’, presumably similar to our ‘Act of Synod.’ But readers of NEW DIRECTIONS are aware that in spite of the ‘Act’ those who belong to the orthodox ‘integrity’ in this country do not always have an easy time, and to put it mildly, things are unlikely to be easier for our fellow traditionalists in Japan. How can we and they encourage one another? What can we do together?
We must, of course, support each other by prayer, and perhaps it would be of help to our brothers and sisters in Japan if we let them have information about what in practice it means to have two ‘integrities’ in one Church. If one or more AAMJ members came to England, would one of our ‘flying bishops’ allow them to accompany him for a few days when visiting parishes, conducting services and attending meetings? F-in-F and AAMJ might be able to arrange something of this kind, perhaps on a reciprocal basis – personal contacts are an expression of solidarity, not only in making it easier to discuss problems, but also boosting the moral of those of us who are liable to feel marginalised, whether in Britain or Japan.
Furthermore, the AAMJ. reference to ‘a separate province’ deserves serious consideration. Writing while the Lambeth Conference is still in session. I do not know whether what I say will be overtaken by events. However it seems to me that quite apart from the desirability of a ‘third province’ in England, there is much to be said in favour of working for a global ‘separate province’, both Anglican in ethos and orthodox in belief and practice. The dioceses of such a province would be themselves formed through the decisions of congregations and clergy to have as their father in God a bishop whom they could trust. But because it would be an ‘integrity’ within Anglicanism, a ‘separate province’ of this kind would emphatically not yet be one more schismatic Anglican body. If members of AAMJ are thinking along these lines, I sincerely hope that some from our ‘integrity’ in England will be able to join with them in making plans.
The novel concept of two ‘integrities’ must not, of course be envisaged as something permanent; we pray and hope that the whole Church will again become orthodox in faith and practice. Nevertheless our experience here over the last few years has demonstrated that, although far from ideal, the provision made for an orthodox ‘integrity’ has enabled a good many traditionalists, from a variety of Anglican backgrounds, to remain in the Church of England. How will this novel concept be put into practice in the NSKK? I hope I shall not offend friends in Japan by saying that we in Britain often admire their skill in taking over ideas or inventions from abroad, improving upon them – cars and cameras are examples that spring to mind. And so now, within Anglicanism, let us hope that through A.A.M.J. traditionalist Japanese Anglicans will affect something similar as regards ‘two integrities’, thus benefiting us in Britain and others elsewhere.
John Turner is a retired priest with long-term contacts with the Anglican province of Japan.