How different Anglican difficulties look from outside not within!
The latest difficulty, and it is explosive, being the rogue consecration of a curate in Newcastle conducted by the clergy from a break-away Anglican body in Africa. A provocative power play undertaken by Conservative Evangelicals who are simultaneously dismayed at the position of the Church of England hierarchy on matters of sexual morality and feeling marginalised where preferment is concerned. So they are now ‘making their own bishops’ in clear opposition to Downing Street and Canterbury. And what is that but schism?
Were I still Anglican I would undoubtedly be getting my knickers in a twist at the impossible ecclesiology of it all. How can you have bishops ‘created by faction’ each out of communion with the other? But then the Church of England invented this messy scenario when, facing similar schism over women priests, it created flying bishops for Anglo-Catholics; those consecrated not for the ministry of the whole body but to cater only to a subsection within who might otherwise leave.
So this is a continuation of a theme, the difference being permission was not granted. Doubtless it will lead to conflict; but then conflict has raged in the Church of England ever since it embraced the modernist mindset. How could it not? You may opt for fidelity to the Gospel or to the Spirit of the Age but to attempt both is madness. Political game-playing, masterful fudge and subterfuge might dupe people for a while but eventually trajectory becomes obvious. And it is now so clear, to all but the wilfully blind, which path the Church of England is on. You do the maths; there exist just a couple of conservative Evangelical bishops (suffragans) and just a smattering of Anglo-Catholics meanwhile the diocesan appointments are mainly liberal. We might consider how the appointment of +Philip North was blocked from the diocese of Sheffield.
So it was always going to happen. Not least because beneath the presenting issues of women priests and gay partnered clergy is really a battle for the soul of the Church of England. A battle of fidelities. And the Evangelicals are not stupid. They know that unity is only hanging by a thread since the liberals emerged, bloody but victorious, from battle with Anglo-Catholicism over women priests. They also know that if they allow the liberals to recover then they will be the new targets. So they throw down the gauntlet and fire the shot across the bows. And what is the modernist hierarchy going to do. Does it cave in and thus lose ground ideologically or does it take up the gauntlet and do battle? Which would be folly financially given that, unlike the defeated Anglo-Catholics who were spirited but impoverished, the Evangelicals rule over the biggest parishes. I sense a mexican stand off….
I began the article stating things look different from without than within. That is because- from outside- one easily discerns the problem here is -again- one of authority. The curate-bishop of Newcastle is only doing what Henry VIII did before him! Because when the C of E rid themselves of one pope they created a million new ones; which explains why schism after schism after schism has ever defined the protestant landscape. Movements rise and fall but always the body fails. The original spirit of rebellion has never been quashed. The absence of authentic authority being the Achilles heel of Protestant theology.
It saddens me to see the Church of England divided. It saddens me that a body, once so gentle but broadly orthodox, is now modernist to the point that orthodoxy struggles to flourish within it. But then that is, in part, why many of us are now about the business of preserving the very best of Anglican patrimony but on a different shore. In that place where unity is secured upon the barque of Peter. Dare I suggest it will be here, in the Ordinariate, not within the rapidly mutating Church of England, that authentic Anglican spirituality will be located a generation hence?