Arthur Middleton on ‘that they may be one’

A former Synod member observing the July Synod said that the spirit of it was the most ‘vindictive’ he had ever experienced. This is what happens when politics supplants the faith of the Church.

Sadly, the spirit of Our Lord’s prayer ‘that they may all be one’ was not the dominating spirit of July’s General Synod. The unity of the Church was missing from the mind of the proponents of women bishops, when it should have been their first priority. Sadly, it has never been given any priority in the debate about the feminizing of Holy Order. Every attempt to make it a priority, whether from within the Church of England, or from outside, has always been rejected.

Since this debate began, the exclusion of women from Holy Order has been seen as discrimination, a political term now used in the sense of prejudice and unfairness in the secular world and so an infringement of human rights. In ‘my kingdom [that] is not of this world’, discrimination is the making of a discerning distinction and Jesus did this in the choosing of men for the apostolic ministry.

In Creation, in which ‘all things were made through him’, he made a discerning distinction between men and women in confining the bearing of children to women, among other distinctions. In the Order of Redemption he confined Holy Order to men. It is a dangerous and uninformed assertion to say that if Jesus were here today he would not make the same discerning distinction (which is different from what the word ‘discriminate’ means today); or in feminist language, today he would not discriminate against women. Is it forgotten that ‘Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever’?

In ‘Of Ceremonies’, the Book of Common Prayer states that ‘the wilful and contemptuous transgression and breaking of a common order and discipline is no small offence before God…therefore no man ought to take in hand, nor presume to appoint or alter any publick or common Order in Christ’s Church, except he be lawfully called and authorized thereunto.’

Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Ephesians, I exhort you to be in harmony with the thought of God; for Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the Father’s thought…hence it is right for you to be in harmony with the thought of God. And so you are. For your reverend presbytery, which is worthy of God, is tuned to the bishop, as strings to a lyre: and thus in your concord and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung…’

Michael Ramsey said, ‘Towards one another as Anglicans our unity will be one of giving and receiving… Towards other Churches we work for truth and holiness… What we may give is not our own, it is a treasure of scriptural and catholic faith and sacrament. As to the goal, it is nothing less than full communion in and of the Catholic Church of Christ’ [Anglicans and the Future]; and also, that any true development must bear witness to the Gospel, express the general consciousness of Christians and serve the organic unity of the Church in all its parts. This is classical Anglican divinity, that we should not, for the sake of local unity, do anything that would be an obstacle to the re-integration of the Church in East and West.