July 12, 2010
More leaked information from the Crown nominations Committee meant that the attempt to derail serious consideration of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Southwark was successful. Most of the press and blogosphere seems to blame Rowan Williams for another ‘betrayal’. I doubt that is fair as I cannot imagine him supporting John’s candidacy in the current circumstances anyway.
What has happened since then that has led to calls for his resignation is that the Synod of th Church of England meeting in York has defeated his proposal for some kind of compromise on the question of women bishops. In essence the proposal in which he was vociferously supported by the Archbishop of York (and made clear that he hoped that it wouldn’t be seen as a loyalty test) was that male bishops should be able to work alongside women to provide ‘care’ for parishes and people who decline to accept the ministry of women bishops. Given that he appears to have thrown his weight and authority behind getting the compromise passed it is not surprising that it has been seen as a loyalty test. They synod narrowly defeated the proposal.
Now the press is predicting a schism in the C of E as traditionalists who seem to believe in the depths of their being that it is wrong for women to be ordained at all, let alone as bishops, sort out whether to jump ship and take the well traveled road to Rome on the red carpet that Benedict has laid out to help with his bolstering the conservative flavor of his church while dealing with the clergy shortage at the same time.
I think that schism is more likely when institutional unity is made into a false God. This kind of unity appears to come at the expense of relationship-across-difference and is one in which my view of the world is ‘more important than yours even though the tides of opinion in the church are making me a minority’. I continue to hope that Anglicanism can serve as a catholic communion based on that kind of right relationship around the Lord’s Table rather than a purely hierarchical institution.
I am among those who have been disappointed that Archbishop Williams has chosen to try and hold things together by placating conservatives rather than using his full moral authority to teach what we thought he believed and urge all kinds of people with minority views (on an international basis that would include TEC) to stay at the table. Unfortunately what we now call ‘traditionalists’ (even though that is a name I would happily use to describe myself in some definition that was not part of the political spin) have a different vision of church. They appear to want to hold back the kinds of shifts in power that appear tome to be part and parcel of the consequence of gospel. And that drives them into the position of wanting to be part of some kind of purity sect.
I have, until quite recently, held all kinds of minority views within the church and can testify that it is not such a terrible place to be. I hope that Bishops will lead from conviction about something other than unity through placating those with whom they disagree and that traditionalists will set aside their desires to control the vision of world and church which is unfolding and find ways to stay in relationship with their brothers and sisters.
If that were possible then perhaps church gatherings could be about our response to the persecution of Christians around the world, the possibility of right relationship with Muslims and others, and even some kind of contribution to the work of peacemaking in those places where there is war.