No pick and mix

From Fr Bernard Sixtus

Mary Gough [‘Solve this one’, March] is to be congratulated for putting with such admirable clarity and conviction what, I suspect, many Anglo- Catholics think. She has described (if by way of a list of negations vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic Church), the kind of church she really seeks: a church run close to home by ordinary men and women of all ages, a church that in defining doctrine and moral teaching pays close and compassionate attention to real life and its pitfalls and victims, a church that understands and practices eucharistic hospitality as a means of and road to unity (rather than its fruit), that ordains married men and that discusses openly and freely matters of fundamental change (such as women’s ordination).

There is just one problem, and I think we are all realising it only now: you cannot have such a church without it sooner or later behaving as the Church of England has in fact done. Women’s ordination in other words, is no accident (and neither are other changes): it is an (almost) necessary consequence of structural characteristics of precisely the kind that Mary Gough seeks. Have the church she desires in this day and age and society, and women’s ordination is (almost) a given.

What Mary Gough really wants – and I am sure she is not alone in this – is a time-machine (and that’s a tough one to ‘solve’). She would like to have the Church of England of the Seventies and Eighties back, a church structured and run much as today but one that had not (yet) changed Holy Orders. It is not going to happen – not through General Synod (or Governing Body/the Bench of Bishops here), not through Forward in Faith/Credo Cymru. The heart of the crisis in this moment of grace is indeed this: our realisation that the real question is what kind of church we are called to belong to, and what the nature and structure of the Church Catholic of the Creeds really is.

In the light of this question those who view us Anglo-Catholics from outside (be they fellow Anglicans or Roman Catholics) could just be right in saying to us, in effect: ‘make up your mind’. If the church Mary Gough wants is God’s will for you, embrace it warts and all, as it is and has become. If not, embrace the alternative just as fully and just as joyfully. In either case, however, it is a package deal: the days of pick and mix are over, and not just at Woolworth’s.

Bernard Sixtus

Holy Trinity Vicarage, Abergavenny NP7 5BH

Complicated? Surely not!

From the Bishop of the Northern Diocese of the Free Church of England

Lorna Ashworth’s motion at February’s General Synod has committed the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to explore further how the Church of England should relate to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). It is, however, not just the CofE which has to work out its relationship to the ACNA. It is a question that also needs to be addressed by the Free Church of England (FCE).

One of the jurisdictions that have entered the ACNA is the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), which separated from the then Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA in 1873. In 1874 the REC established a federative union with the Free Church of England (which had already been in existence for three decades), then two years later consecrated bishops in the historic succession for the older body. Shortly afterwards a branch of the REC was founded in the UK. This lived in parallel with the FCE until 1927 when the two bodies united to form the present-day FCE, whose legal title is still ‘The Free Church of England otherwise called the Reformed Episcopal Church’.

Since the 1870s the FCE and North American REC have recognised each other. There have been mutual participation in episcopal consecrations, and representation at each other’s governing bodies. On occasion clergy of one Church have occupied pastoral posts in the other. The incorporation of the REC into the ACNA means, presumably, that the ACNA has inherited the REC’s recognition of, and intercommunion with the Free Church of England.

The ACNA has been recognised by the GAFCON Primates. The FCE’s doctrinal stance is fully consistent with the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration of 2008. Moreover, clause 11 of that Declaration commits the heirs of GAFCON to ‘recognise the Orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice’.

The logic of this would seem to be that there already exists in the United Kingdom an Anglican Church with which ACNA is in communion. No doubt the FCE and ACNA will in due course work out the canonical niceties, but it would seem that there is a way for English Anglicans to be in communion with the ACNA without waiting for General Synod to decide on the matter.

+ John Fenwick

16 Windsor Crescent, Ulverston LA12 9NP

Wrong use of funds

From Mr Alan Bartley Bsc, Arcs

Anthony Saville is far too naive, accommodating and concessionary in his reflection on the extending of equal pension rights to the civil partners of clergy, as is being recommended to the Archbishops Council by the February General Synod [‘Only Equal in Law’, March].

The whole idea of civil partnership is a nonsense unless there is some special covenant-type agreement between the two parties. It is sheer casuistry that this is to be excluded from the legal form. If it is not implicit then there is no reason to give them any special privilege that should not be possible between any two members of society, whether married to others or not, whether of the same family or not, whether of the same sex or not.

Civil partnerships, being a creation of the State, have a questionable moral existence and certainly no moral right to anything beyond what the State has legislated. To endow them beyond what the law demands has nothing to do with morality or justice. It is an act of benevolence, and to my mind an act of benevolence that General Synod and the Archbishops Council have no duty to bestow.

They should remember they have no additional money but what the laity gives and it is arrogant to presume the laity wish to second the iniquity of the government in giving preferential treatment to some in society at the expense of others, especially when this privileged group of which we are speaking just happen’ in general to be practising homosexuals.

Alan Bartley

17 Francis Road, UB6 7AD

Blame shared

From Dr David Wetherell

Open Doors USA is incorrect when it blames the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem on ‘Yasser Arafat’s repressive government and the ascendancy of Islamist groups such as Hamas’ [ND February].

While it is true that Bethlehem’s Christians have been emigrating in alarming numbers, the only survey concerning the reasons for their flight was conducted in 2006. It found that 73% of Bethlehem’s Christians believed that the Palestinian Authority treated their heritage with respect, and 66% believed that Israel treated their heritage with brutality or indifference. More tellingly, it also found that more than three-quarters of those surveyed said the main cause of Christian emigration was Israel’s occupation.

While some of the claims regarding the persecution of Christians by Muslim regimes made by Open Doors USA are certainly well-founded, its misrepresentation of the plight of Palestinian Christians under Israeli occupation seems to indicate a double standard.

David Wetherell

Faculty of Arts, Deakin University, 3217 Australia

Glee plot

From Mr Henry MacHewitt

We Anglo-Catholics are famed for our appreciation of fine music and beautiful, yet understated choreography. I therefore assume that everybody has been turning on their televisions and watching angsty teen musical drama Glee. Similarly, I cannot be alone in noticing our hero’s show-choir in the programme is named New Directions.

How did this sponsorship deal come about? Does the Bishop of Fulham have artistic input on the scripts? In which episode should we expect the Anglicanorum coetibus plot-twist? We should be told.

Henry MacHewitt

Limited autonomy

From Canon John Burrows

Colin Buchanan is right in saying that Anglican provinces are autonomous. But autonomy does not mean that they can rely entirely on their own understanding of Scripture, as can for instance an Independent Baptist Assembly.

All Anglican churches (as far as I know) accept the 1662 Prayer Book as their basis of doctrine. And that book, in its title-page and preface, sees the Anglican Church as part of a wider body – ‘the Church’, or ‘the Church Catholick’. That this does not simply mean all Trinitarian Christians is indicated in the Preface which accuses the Puritans of the Savoy Conference of wanting to alter the doctrine and practice of ‘the whole Catholick Church of Christ’.

In permitting deacons to preside at the Eucharist, the churches in New South Wales are not only un-Catholic, they are ceasing to be Anglican.

John Burrows

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