Which Carey is spot on?

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.

0 thoughts on “Which Carey is spot on?

  1. Peter, you need to be a little less “Gentle Wisdom” centric. First, the post you refer to absolutely did not have you in mind (though if the cap fits …). Secondly, the disabled comments thing was entirely accidental. Indeed, until I noticed your post about this I didn’t know (a) that I done it and (b) how I’d done it. Still, at least I know now.

    Why are you so repeatedly keen for me to leave the Church though? It does get a bit depressing.

  2. Well, John, I noticed the disabled comments thing long before you did, when I tried to comment! I honestly thought you had me in mind with the other post, and wondered if you had disabled comments deliberately to avoid me commenting again. After all, I am one of your most frequent commenters.

    Of course you are doing the same as me when you apply my post mainly to yourself. But it is true, I want you to leave the church if you can’t stop complaining about it. The same with everyone else who complains – perhaps including myself. No organisation of any kind can possibly succeed if it is full of complainers pulling the leadership down and distracting it from its main task. Well, with God all things are possible, but even for him it is a lot easier to bypass a divided church and use one which is united in purpose and vision. As for myself, I am biding my time.

  3. I am passionately committed to the ordination of women as bishops – well, I live in Canada and my bishop is Jane Alexander. My parents live in Oakham and they are strongly against the ordination of women, period.

    My father is a retired priest who gave over three decades of dedicated service to the Church of England. It’s thanks to him that I’m a Christian today, and I know many others who could say that. He and my mother don’t honestly feel that anything less than a separate diocesan structure will give them the security they need. It seems to me that the only people who think a Code of Practice is enough are the people who believe in the ordination of women. None of the people who the Code is going to be designed for think the Code will be adequate.

    I’m very disappointed that the synod didn’t see fit to make adequate pastoral provision for the traditionalists. At the moment my parents feel devastated. And I’m sorry, Peter, but to tell people like them, who are in their seventies (my Dad is 77 and has multiple health problems) that if they don’t like it they should get out is insensitive in the extreme, and not particularly ‘gentle’ wisdom either.

  4. Tim, thanks for your comment.

    First, let me say that my point about getting out is intended primarily for serving clergy. For lay people like myself and retired clergy like your father the issues are quite different. Indeed I really intend to apply it only to those who grumble publicly. I am happy for people opposed to women’s ordination to remain in the Church of England as long as they keep quiet about it, not rocking the boat but quietly seeking out the ministry of those they approve of. I am certainly not proposing a witch hunt.

    On the other hand, I would expect serving clergy to be prepared to do their job as assigned by the church, or at least to make arrangements for others to do it for them.

  5. Peter –

    The difference between the Donatists and principle enshrined Article XXVI has already been pointed out elsewhere, but you continue to mention the two things in the same breath. (Apparently Gamaliel doesn’t apply here).

    For Anglo-Catholics the issue isn’t primarily one of bishops who have been ‘tainted’ by ordaining women, but of maintaining the integrity of the Holy Order through Apostolic Succession. You don’t have to agree with them – I don’t – to still see that their view is consistent within the set of parameters they apply. As Anglo-Catholics want to at least leave open the door to closer ties with Rome it’s fairly obvious why they would object to a further move in this direction.

    Incidentally, i’m not sure the 10% figure is entirely accurate – it’s based on the number of clergy rather than the percentage of the church those clergy leads.

  6. Chris, I was careful in how I referred to the Donatists, not in the same sentence (and I usually breathe between sentences!) as Article XXVI. I do not say that anyone is falling into precisely the same error as the Donatists, but only following a similar principle in picking and choosing which bishops to accept as validly ministering, rather than accepting the judgment of the church as a whole on this matter.

    The integrity of the Apostolic Succession, as understood by Catholics, will be maintained if every bishop is consecrated by at least one man among the three bishops required by canon law. That would be a sensible part of any code of practice, perhaps to be balanced by requiring also one woman among the three as soon as there are a sufficient number of women bishops. The obvious exception, on the Catholic understanding, would be priests ordained by women bishops, but again I would suggest a code of practice that any man who doesn’t want to be ordained by a woman can ask to be ordained instead by a man. But would the Anglo-Catholics accept such a situation? I think not, but why not?

    Counting percentages of “the church” is a notoriously slippery concept. Do you take your sample from among all who call themselves Anglicans, all on the electoral roll, all who attend on a particular Sunday, or what? Do you assume everyone in a congregation has the same view as its clergy? But I would be very surprised if any way of counting could get your figure above 20%. After all, most people on the evangelical wing of the church have no problem with women’s ministry.

  7. only following a similar principle in picking and choosing which bishops to accept as validly ministering, rather than accepting the judgment of the church as a whole on this matter.

    Actually, the key to the principles of the Donatists was their rejection of repentence, rather than their accepting some kind of majesterial authority. It’s an offense against grace rather than democracy.

    The obvious exception, on the Catholic understanding, would be priests ordained by women bishops, but again I would suggest a code of practice that any man who doesn’t want to be ordained by a woman can ask to be ordained instead by a man

    It is the result of this policy carried over a couple of steps that they fear. Rightly or wrongly, they see the ECUSA as being captured by a militant tendancy and fear what this would mean in the CofE, take a look at this (see codes of practice):


  8. Chris, thanks for the links. I don’t see what anything proposed, even parliamentary legislation, will do to stop the church being “captured by a militant tendancy” which would soon get the legislation changed if it had full control.

    Bishop Andrew is right that “all a code of practice could achieve is the establishing of a ghetto of sexism”. The same is true of legislation. The C of E as a whole is not going to embrace sexism, however much this man who seems proud to be a sexist wants it to happen. His choice is to remain in a ghetto of sexism inside the C of E or disappear to an island of sexism, or to a continent with Rome on it. Well, at least he ends this letter with “So do not be afraid”, a message badly needed by all in this matter.

    In the other letter he writes of “a corporate journey going forth to [Jesus] outside the camp”. He doesn’t know where the journey will lead him. But the majority of the C of E is certainly going in a different direction. So he does indeed need to leave the camp, if that is where he believes Jesus is. All I can say is, bon voyage!

  9. Peter you wrote

    “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.”

    After Monday’s decision, it may not be so far away as you think….

  10. Well, Iconoclast, who knows? But the difference is that there is a large bloc of not so conservative evangelicals who support women bishops, at least in principle, but are opposed to homosexual clergy. So I would be pretty sure that any measure on these lines would fail to gain a two-thirds majority in each house of the General Synod, certainly with its current make-up. Also these evangelicals control the purse strings.

    I accept that the time may come when such a measure is accepted. Who knows what will happen in ten years? But if many evangelicals stay and their churches grow, whereas liberal churches typically stagnate, the balance is not going to change quickly. The main danger is of these middle of the road evangelicals going liberal themselves, following the woolly teaching of for example Bishop James Jones.

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