ACC Jamaica [see ‘Correspondents’ p. 22] will go down in the annals of world-wide Anglicanism as a missed – and tragically bungled – opportunity. The Chairmanship of Bishop John Paterson of New Zealand clearly left a great deal to be desired.
As a result many members of the Council were left confused about what they were voting for, and about where the Archbishop of Canterbury stood on the complex amendment which finally decided whether the Ridley revision of the proposed Covenant should be commended to the provinces for consideration or sent back for further revision.
But will there ever be a draft Covenant which is acceptable to all parties? Of course not. A Covenant that was acceptable to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would merely be a license for local innovation.
Richard Holloway [see ‘Correspondents’ p. 21] has got it exactly right: the liberal vision is of a Church which is so doctrinally indifferent that it can ‘include’ those of every theological opinion and none – a therapeutic club with aesthetic pretensions.
Such a vision has no connection with historic Anglicanism nor Apostolic Christianity. A Covenant which did not outlaw that vision would betray the faith once delivered to the saints, and destroy such fragile unity as the Anglican Communion retains.
The question must now be whether the attempt to retain The Episcopal Church within any kind of world-wide Anglican framework is worth the effort. Or whether this litigious, duplicitous and wilfully apostate body does not constitute a threat to the health and well-being of other more virile Churches – and hence to the ability of Anglicans in every place to evangelize and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The installation of Vincent Nichols as Eleventh Archbishop of Westminster was a challenge to Anglo-Catholics. Here was the pre-reformation rite for the enthronement of the Primate of All England celebrated with confidence and great beauty.
Mediaeval texts were set like jewels in fresh compositions: the fanfares, the Latin plainsong, the Roman Canon, and the newly furbished high altar, in a cleaned and restored cathedral, showed the beginning of the influence of the Benedictine reforms and the beauty of orthodoxy.
Vincent Nichols himself is a great encouragement to readers of New Directions. As Cardinal Hume’s auxiliary bishop, he was closely involved with conversations with Anglo-Catholics in the early 1990s, and, as Archbishop of Birmingham in 2000, he maintained the generous policy of incardi-nating former Anglican priests. But it is not welcoming individual priests that we notice so much as the Archbishop’s openness to new and imaginative gestures. Here is a pastor and evangelist, someone who knows that a cautious and insular church is one that loses ground and its place in the culture. The battle for the place of God in the public square is on, and being fiercely fought, with Archbishop Vincent in the vanguard.
The second decade of the twenty-first century, which we are fast approaching, is a very different time from the last decade of the twentieth century. Women priests marked a crisis for Anglo-Catholics but the ordination of women as bishops, without the provision for traditionalists we ourselves have sought, would be the end of the road for the Catholic understanding of Faith and Order which the Church of England officially confirmed in 1897, when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York replied to Pope Leo XIII’s bull Apos-tolicae Curae. That Catholic self-understanding of Anglicans, developed by the Caroline Divines and fostered by the Tractarian Fathers, was to inform all ecumenical conversations for the best part of a century and has only recently disintegrated.
Will the new Archbishop of Westminster, working with the Holy See and the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales, be able to embrace a new strategy for embracing traditional English and Welsh Anglicans – congregations as well as clergy? We hope so. The strategy may or may not look like the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s caravan.
It may or may not measure up to what the Bishop of Fulham calls ‘an ecclesial solution to an ecclesial problem’. It may or may not lead to the division of historic resources which the Bishop of Chi Chester called for in his address at the February Additional Assembly of Forward in Faith.
What we hope and pray for is some new settlement, that heals the historic breach with the Holy See, and allows all of us who are trying to live the Catholic life to do so in unity and love, so that the mission to our land, a mission in which Archbishop Vincent passionately believes, may go forward – forward in faith and hope and love – for the raising up and nurturing of new disciples of Jesus Christ, and the hastening of God’s Kingdom.