Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Welcome a Schism?

Speaking of viewfinders, here is an interesting piece from the Telegraph. Damian Thompson opines that Anglicans should welcome a schism. In his view, what we call Anglican comprehensiveness is nothing less than "an ecclestiastical care crash."


Its looming demise is excellent news for members of the C of E, irrespective of their "churchmanship". To celebrate, Anglo-Catholic ritualists should pour themselves an even stiffer gin than usual; liberals should break open the organic chardonnay; evangelicals should treat themselves to a nourishing mug of Horlicks. But the people who have most cause to rejoice are those ordinary, middle-of-the-road English worshippers who just wish that fist-shaking Nigerians and politically correct Canadians would shut up.

Archbishop George Carey once described the Anglican Communion as "a major player on the international scene". (I was there when he said it, and even his aides had problems keeping a straight face.) It is also routinely described as a "worldwide Church". That, too, is wishful thinking.

The Communion is a federation of national churches bound together by British imperial antecedents, strands of Anglican theology and the nominal leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Until a few years ago, these ties just about enabled the Communion to present itself as the Anglican equivalent of the Roman Catholic Church; Archbishop Carey, in particular, adopted a hilarious quasi-papal manner on his trips abroad.

The reality is, however, that after the American Episcopal Church ordained women priests and then bishops - ignoring pleas for caution from Lambeth Palace - the Anglican Communion ceased to be a "Church" at all.

The lowest common denominator of any mainstream Christian Church is that its ministers accept the validity of each another's orders and therefore sacraments: that is the essence of "communion". Now that Anglicanism encompasses women and gay bishops (and, come to think of it, gay women bishops), roughly two thirds of its provinces do not recognise the ministry of bishops and priests ordained by the other third. That is not a Church: it is an ecclesiastical car crash.

How should the Church of England respond? The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, implies that all the fault lies with one side, the "unbiblical" gay-ordaining American radicals. He is wrong about that.


Read it all.

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