Perhaps the most irritating thing about Anglicans is their unremitting smugness. I am sick and tired of the mantra about Anglican inclusiveness, as though there were anything in the Anglican past which demonstrated openness and tolerance of dissent. From the Tyburn martyrs through the Test Acts to the persecution of the nineteenth century ritualists the Church of England has had a proud and continuous record of persecuting (sometimes to the death) those who disagreed with it.
The notion of some broad sixteenth century compromise – the so-called Elizabethan settlement, which somehow anticipated all the best instincts of modern liberalism and current ecumenism – is an historical nonsense of massive proportions. Nor, to be frank, are many of those who embrace that ridiculous myth capable of giving it contemporary expression. The response to opponents of women in the episcopate (who have repeatedly said that A‘ Code of Practice will not do’), has been the less than eirenic: ‘A Code of Practice will have to do’. And contemporary inclusivity has had its finest expression in the determination to remove the provisions for dissent embedded in the 1993 Measure and the Act of Synod and to replace them with next to nothing.
The myth of a benign Elizabethan settlement, in its turn gave birth to the notion of the Church of England as a ‘bridge-church’, graciously spanning the divide between Protestant and Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. Nothing could be further from the truth. In embracing innovations equally repugnant to the Church of the first millennium and the teachings of the Reformers it has proved itself equidistant from both. Not a bridge but a gulf.
John Shepley ND