TEC, Canada, Scotland?
A shot across our broadsides from Dave:
A priest visited our all-age worship yesterday. He has recently resigned from the leadership of a congregation. For a long time he had stood for what he understands to be Gospel imperatives. In the face of some opposition from his congregation (a few of whom left to go to other churches) and his bishop, he stood pretty much alone in his diocese. Yet he is a pastorally-hearted person, with a concern for both scripture and tradition. He and his wife feel pushed out, rejected and with little future in the Church. Unlike those clergy who have entered same-sex Civil Partnerships (and who presumably see themselves as being in some sense married). Or those who conduct blessings of such partnerships using the new Scottish Episcopal Marriage liturgy (can someone please confirm that this isn’t happening?).
I’ve expressed my concerns about this kind of thing before: how can we ensure that those who take a traditionalist line on matters of sexuality, women’s ordination, etc, are both included and honoured in the life of the church? How can we ensure that having such views is not a bar to ordained ministry? Or will it be the case that only those that hold to the new way of thinking will be allowed to function in ministry? And I don’t mean that they should be tolerated as dinosaurs who will soon die out.
Any settlement of these issues in the Anglican Communion (or the Scottish Episcopal Church for that matter) needs to ensure that both reappraising and reasserting views are held in tension. At the moment, it remains a ‘winner-takes-all’ scenario, with neither side willing to allow the other a canonically protected place in the church.
For all the protestations of the reappraisers (especially at the Scottish Bishops’ organisation of a conference on sexuality – hey, I don’t know anyone who has been asked to plan or contribute to the day, either!), I suspect their view will win the day (it feels like it has already), as the church has clearly grown more permissive (thus changing its practice and discipline). Canon Law will simply have to catch up with the facts on the ground, and in so doing will create a new kind of liberal fundamentalism, where one toes the line, or gets pushed beyond it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a reappraiser express in concrete terms how alternative views could be included in the new economy that they are hoping for. The threatened action in New Westminster by Bishop Michael Ingham against Jim Packer reveals just how illiberal liberalism can truly be.
Kendall Harmon posts a letter from Mike Lumpkin (a very impressive and eirenic priest with whom I have worked in the past), to the Presiding Bishop in the USA, on just such a theme. It follows a meeting of the Presiding Bishop with clerical leaders in the Diocese of South Carolina last week, and reveals the depth of pain and loss that is being felt by traditionalists on the other side of the Atlantic.
This afternoon I’ve been listening to ‘Armchair Detective’ by Reverend and The Makers. The lyrics express things best for me, as a person with what feels like a little and lonely voice in all of this:
Ignorance is bliss, folly to be wise
What’s the best course of action? Waiting for advice.
Kneejerk reactions are invoked today more so than usual
To say something clever is of such importance,
to say something clever is crucial
(Say what you think however far from the truth it might be)
Just cos you shout loudest don’t mean that you’re right.