Wednesday, 28 January 2015

In Communion with Canterbury or the Church Commisioners

The Church of England now has its first female Bishop.  This is a source of great joy for most of its members and of much grief for a significant minority.  The major kerfuffle has oddly not been over the consecration of Libby Lane but over the forthcoming consecration of Philip North as Bishop of Burnley.  The proposed service has the unusual innovation of the consecration not being performed by the relevant Metropolitan (in this case the Archbishop of York) but by Bishops to whom he has delegated the task. While this is absolutely York's prerogative, it is being seen as enshrining a "theology of taint" in as much as only bishops opposed to the ordination of women will actually lay hands on Philip North.

As someone who was Fulham Jurisdiction/FiF at one point, I have to say this is a description of conservative Anglo-Catholic theology I don't recognise. The objection was never phrased in terms of taint but of broken communion. Stuff about "taint" so prevalent on "liberal" websites is as far as I can see fairly hysterical and mainly American.  I think the proposed arrangements are deeply peculiar and un-catholic.  Flying bishops (Provincial Episcopal Visitors) have been ordained in the C of E before but the Archbishop in whose Province they will serve always led the laying on of hands.  This new "hands off" approach seems to solidify the reality of there being a Church within a Church that has been hinted about for years but never before explicitly acknowledged.  References within Anglo-Catholic to things like "the See of Ebbsfleet" or "Apostolic Districts" have built his up, ignoring the legal position of the PEV's as Suffragans of the Archbishop.  That I find un-catholic and a bad idea.  If a portion of the Church is allowed to function with a totally parallel structure of bishops deeply disconnected from their metropolitan, then it is not so much being in communion with Canterbury as being in Communion with the Church Commissioners who pay stipend and pensions.  It's not so much ecclesial communion as administrative communion. And that is a sad state of affairs.

It also begs the question of who are we as Scottish Episcopalians in Communion with in England? The whole C of E or just most of it?

Monday, 19 January 2015


It's been almost a year since I last blogged!! I think it fell off during the busy-ness of the vacancy at Church and then in April I moved to a different post within the company and have found my hours rather  less regular and more flexible.  However, lets try again and see if this time I can keep up the habit! Our new Incumbent is settled in and some am I so a wee reboot seems appropriate.

Some thing are pretty much the same. The Church is still in a muddle over same sex relationships. Despite the law changing we still have an ill defined mess. We have had some "guidance" from the bishops and some reaction from the clergy  Shall we say I'm one of those less than impressed by the College's mind on this one.  I appreciate the clarification of the legal situation but the line taken on Canonical subscription seems unduly rigid.  I rather think that saying it's OK to have a Civil Partnership but not a marriage is dubious.  Given that they are so similar in legal content regarding rights, it smacks of a sop to the theological right wing to come over so heavy handed.  Anyway, plenty of clergy over the years have assented to the Canons without agreeing with every jot and tittle of them (like on Intercommunion) and have indeed ignored the Rules and got off with it. To pick this one out for potential "enforcement" seems more political than sensible.  It's also perhaps worth noting that over 30 of the 50 signatories are clergy of the Diocese of Edinburgh, so it might be rather fiercely debated at our next Synod with a view to accelerating changes to the Canons - which I suspect is not what the Bishops wanted. I suspect they want the much vaunted "Cascade" process to keep that contentious ball in the long grass for a bit longer.

If the Bishops fancy that Cascade is a solution to this issue, then I've some bad news: all it did was make me incredibly angry and utterly determined to change the Canons. Our "Cascade" at Synod was almost as unpleasant as a Forward in Faith conference I attended nearly 20 years ago which passed a motion in favour of a statement from Singapore condemning Same Sex Relationships.  My anger at that that and the hypocrisy involved switched me from Conservative Anglo-Catholicism and brought me back to Scotland on a journey that included accepting the ordination of Women, speaking at Synod in favour of Women Bishops and generally becoming a  lot more radical.  It strikes me as bizarre that an SEC sponsored and designed process should do the same. Bilge was spouted piously and the process did not enable it to be challenged.  If that's what they call an improvement, give me the old fashioned bloodshed of a Synod debate any day.

Anyway, it feels sort of therapeutic to be back