John Richardson has posted on his personal blog something which I do not consider to be a blog post, because he has disabled comments on it. Yes, I know he has me in mind with this post, but it’s not the one I am talking about because it does allow comments. But in his non-post he writes (his emphasis)
Andrew Carey is spot on in this article.
Now this Andrew Carey is apparently the son of George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury who oversaw the introduction of women priests into the Church of England, and the divisive “flying bishops” measures which satisfied some of the opponents of women priests.
John Richardson quotes extensively from Andrew’s article, which starts as follows:
What should have been a joyous new beginning for women’s ministry at General Synod on Monday has been spoiled. Most women I know will not welcome the fact that progress towards ordaining them to the episcopate has been soured by the prospect of an exodus of many traditionalists from the Church of England amid an atmosphere of bitter recrimination.
The choice facing Synod was simple and straightforward. It was to pass legislation with structural provision for traditionalists or not. A code of practice was neither here nor there, because it clearly failed to meet the needs of those for whom it was designed. …
Coincidentally, perhaps, Alastair Cutting presents a guest post on the same subject by another Carey, Kevin. This Carey is not George’s son or Andrew’s brother. Indeed I doubt that he is closely related, because he was brought up as a Roman Catholic. He is, however, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, and has an interesting, indeed bewildering, variety of experience. Kevin writes (extracts from his post):
I am prepared to live in peace and tolerance with those who think women should not be priests and to be patient with those who differ with me on the causes, nature and meaning of homosexuality but many of them, it seems, being “orthodox Anglicans” are not prepared to live with me. They want to destroy the Elizabethan settlement and turn us into a sect. …
Conservatives of both sorts face a difficult choice between mission and sectarian ecclesiology but the difference lies in this: whereas the Catholic conservatives are, by and large, so bound up in their sacramental pedigree that they have very little time for the mission to the unchurched, Evangelicals have a deep commitment to them which is being horribly impeded by their failure to see that whatever the Bible says about male headship, this is surely less important than what Jesus said about brining the Good News to the poor.
In my opinion it is Kevin, not Andrew, who is “spot on” here. Well, not entirely so, for my own position on homosexuality is I think not the same as his, but he is entirely correct in his point that Evangelicals should be preaching the gospel rather than being divisive about side issues like women’s ministry.
He is also right in opposing the attempts of a minority in the Church of England to turn it into something it never has been. The position of the traditionalist Anglicans who like to call themselves Catholics, rejection not only of the ministry of women but of the ministry of male bishops who have been “tainted” by ordaining women, is a betrayal of the Catholic principle of ex opere operato, which is also enshrined in Article XXVI of the Church of England. This reversion to the principles of the Donatists, who asserted the right to choose for themselves which of the properly ordained bishops they would accept, is bound to lead to sectarianism. The Church of England was wrong to make allowances for this position in 1994 and right to reject it now. A church can remain as a united body only if everyone in it accepts the validity of every ministry which it has authorised. People can be allowed to prefer to be ministered to by one group rather than another, but they cannot be allowed to reject the validity of the second group. A house divided against itself will surely fall.
Now I accept that a time may come when certain people in a church or similar body decide that it has strayed too far. For me that point might well be reached if a formal decision is made that homosexual activity is no bar to priesthood or episcopacy – an unlikely decision in the current climate. In such a position the conservatives would need first to try every channel within the church’s constitution to bring it back to the right path. If that fails, because the leadership or the majority have a clearly different position, those in the minority have a duty to accept the decision which has been properly made. That is to say, they should stop complaining about it and make their own clear choice: either to get on with implementing the decision of those in authority, or to get out.
This principle applies in this case, so I urge John Richardson and others like him first to work on making the Code of Practice as favourable to them as they can, and then make a clear decision to accept it or to leave. What should not happen, because it only destroys the church and its witness to the world, is for people like John to remain within the church as destructive grumblers. God’s position on those who do is clear:
And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
1 Corinthians 10:10-11 (TNIV)
Yesterday I visited Sheffield (three hours’ drive from my home) to attend the admitting of a friend of mine as an evangelist in the Church Army. Among those leading the service were two people who had played a major part in the General Synod debate two days earlier and not far away in York. One of them was Bishop James Jones of Liverpool. The other was Mark Russell, the surprisingly young CEO of the Church Army. Coincidentally I think, yesterday Tim Chesterton posted a link to Mark’s blog, on which the latest post gives the text of Mark’s speech in the General Synod debate on women bishops.
I don’t entirely agree with Mark – but perhaps his different tone is because he, unlike me, has close relationships with people who take different positions on this matter. Nevertheless his post is well worth reading. In one key part of his speech he writes:
I believe Synod can make a prophetic statement that we can walk together holding our difference. Today I have heard so much fear in people’s voices and in speeches in this chamber. They are frightened where they will fit in the church they love. Fear. Isnt it interesting the most frequent scripture, do not be afraid..fear not.
Indeed. Let’s walk forward from where we are not in fear but in faith, that while the church is not perfect God is in control and is using it for his own purposes. Mark concludes:
I am naive, because I believe in a God of miracles. If Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley can agree to work together, then surely it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we can solve this question and agree to live together under God. Then we can get on with the real business of this Church, telling this nation about the transforming good news of Jesus Christ.