A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Women as bishops?

The Church of England has long been a body that can encompass a wide range of ecclesial viewpoint. However, the boundaries are stretching and the unity is disappearing. We live now with what is called "impaired communion" due to the ordination of women across the Anglican Communion. Some churches do, some don't. Whatever one's view and belief, the subject of women's ordination will, for all time, remain a controversy. This is because both Scripture and Tradition do not give us any lead here. Only Reason can give any comfort to the changers.

Most Anglicans probably don't mind or are reasonably in favour of women as priests. Some are a bit nimby-ish about it so long as it doesn't affect them. However, traditionalists (from the Latin traho = to hand down) do not believe the sacraments can be altered to suit the shifting sands of time - to suit the current fads and fancies of the world.

Interestingly, supporters make their stand on the way the world thinks. Tory MP Julie Kirkbride said: "I am delighted by the action they have taken to bring the Church into the 21st century." As if Truth needs a re-write every so often! Surely the Church's teachings are for all time. Jesus said "Before Abraham Was, I Am". What my grandfathers believed is what I believe! And it is what I should be handing down to my children.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Tom Butler, has said there were "good ecclesiological and theological reasons" for ordaining female bishops. But these two don't necessarily go hand in hand. Ecclesiology is about the Church, her role and mission, and how this body of people should be governed. Theology is about discussing and discerning the Faith in order to bring it to people of faith and of none.

The Bishop of Reading, Stephen Cottrell said the change would prove very popular. "My sense is that the vast majority of people in the Church of England do support this," he said. My sense is that most will accept it because they don't have deep reasons not to.

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Andrew Burnham, looks after parishes who have rejected women priests said that he would consider becoming a Roman Catholic were they to be ordained. "A woman bishop wouldn't be a bishop because a bishop is someone whose ministry is acceptable through the ages to all other bishops," he said. "A Church of England with women bishops would no longer have a united episcopate. Bishops would no longer be what they say they are. I would have to leave." And the Bishop of Fulham said "The introduction of women bishops without proper provision for opponents would be intolerable."

So this traditionalist hopes that Bishop Burnham will stay to help found a third province that can retain those Anglicans who cannot accept women within the Sacrament of Holy Order, as bishops and priests. Unity is not at any price, but unity must be sought over disunity. If the proponents of women as bishops seek to compromise our understanding of the Catholic Faith within the Anglican church, then we are left with no option but to leave. Those churches that have taught the Faith will either be closed, fall into disrepair, or gradually have the new ideas foisted on them. Whatever, it could be the end of the Catholic inheritance of the Church of England which will become a kind of Woolworths pick 'n mix church.



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