Two views of the future of the Church of England

The Rev George Pitcher, Curate of St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London in an op-ed in The Telegraph:

It looks as if Dr Williams will continue to strive for worldwide Anglican unity in the face of the lightning-rod issues of dissent – women’s and homosexuals’ ordination – that so mystify secular society and so enrage the extreme factions of his church. Paradoxically, that suggests he may be facing options that split the Anglican communion on specifics in order to maintain its overall unity.

I don’t think he can achieve that kind of compromise. More important, I don’t think he has to.

A schism in the Anglican Communion would drive its fissures through the Church of England and elsewhere, but secessionists such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and those of the “alternative” Lambeth Conference, Gafcon, which will meet in the Holy Lands at the end of June, seriously overstate their power and influence, especially in congregations such as the Church of England’s.

Some 20 per cent of the Lambeth Conference may go AWOL in a boycott, but it does not speak for the broad swathes of Anglican congregations in countries such as Britain.

The Church of Middle England’s silent majority is far more tolerant, fair-minded and, yes, even liberal, than the fundamentalists give it credit for.

The household of faith may blush at matters of sexuality, as it blushes at the heavy mysteries of theology, but it is altogether more pluralistic than is commonly imagined. It is part of the genius of the Church of England that it doesn’t lose touch with the mindset of this constituency.

My prediction? Women bishops will follow as an inevitable consequence of women priests. As a consequence, some will split away and make their own arrangements but, as part of the miraculous survival of the Church of England, we’ll soon wonder what all the fuss was about.

In the current melee, it’s a future to which Dr Rowan Williams’s leadership should aspire.

Theo Hobson blogging at The Guardian:

What explains such jelly-headedness? Why has the church failed to put its authority behind this reform, to see it through?

Could it be that there is a fundamental incompatibility between ecclesiastical authority and modernity? Maybe the very idea of an authoritative spiritual hierarchy is irredeemably pre-modern. That is why the reactionaries can’t be defeated: they are always more in tune with the logic of the institution than the progressives. The fact is that the feminist movement is ecclesiastically subversive – and the gay rights movement, too. For they both expose the fact that church authority has a different logic to secular liberal principles.

There’s an analogy with the monarchy. To call for it to move with the times, and give equal rights to female heirs, as Vera Baird at least appeared to do the other week, begs a larger question: if equal rights are so important, why is the succession limited to a particular posh white family? In the same way, to press the question of why a woman or homosexual shouldn’t be a priest raises the question: “why should anyone be a priest?”

Well, why? The question can only be answered from within a particular church tradition. From a secular liberal point of view, it’s meaningless. The fact is that progressive Anglicans have failed to win the church round, to give a compelling account of priesthood that opens it beyond straight males.

Past Posts