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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury in goalpost moving exercise

The Archbishop of Canterbury has gone to Rome. Not over to Rome. Just a short visit to speak his mind. However, it seems to me his mind is tortuously flexible these days. He spoke at length when giving an address in Rome, as the guest of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The address was part of a symposium being held at the Gregorian University, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Willebrands, the first president of the Council. Much of the address contained reference to women's ordination in relation to traditional catholic understanding.

The Archbishop's prose is sometimes heaving going on the reader, but the gist of his argument is that local churches without the whole catholic church can makes "local decisions" without deviating in any mammoth way from core beliefs. This is a bit like stretching rubber to see when it will break. He also suggests now that female ministry is based on baptism and on vocation, as a measure of equality. It all smacks a bit of changing the ingredients in a well-established recipe because some people think the recipe makes a bad cake.

He says this, "All ordained ministers are ordained into the shared richness of the apostolic ministerial order – or perhaps we could say ministerial 'communion' yet again. None ministers as a solitary individual. Thus if the ministerial collective is understood strictly in terms of the ecclesiology we have been considering, as serving the goal of filial and communal holiness as the character of restored humanity, how much is that undermined if individuals within the ministerial communion are of different genders? Even if there remains uncertainty in the minds of some about the rightness of ordaining women, is there a way of recognising that somehow the corporate exercise of a Catholic and evangelical ministry remains intact even when there is dispute about the standing of female individuals?" (Use of the word gender instead of sex is telling). The implication is that only a few have uncertainty over ordaining women whereas the opposite is crystal clear. He also seeks to find a way of incorporating female ministers into some kind of nebulous collegiality without really addressing what he calls a "dispute about the standing of female individuals".

The goalposts are being moved and the players are being given to think that the new rules will have no affect on the play in the field. The Archbishop also asked that the Roman Catholic Church give an answer as to what exactly is wrong with what some "local churches" are doing. I'd say if he doesn't know now he never will.

In a nutshell, this address was a convoluted way of asking whether there was a possibility of putting the current impaired communion of Christians together in a quick-fix solution ignoring disputes and disagreements. We all know we have to heed the Dominical request that we "all be one". Rowan Williams' suggestions sound laudable but it would surely be at the expense of conscience and catholic (universal) tradition.


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