Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Not Only, But Also.

Prebendary David Houlding
Master General S.S.C.

This saga is not going to end any time soon, but there is some interesting news just in. We learn that The Reverend Prebendary David Houlding has just said: "Rowan Williams is going to Lambeth with his own church in chaos." He follows with ''They [Canterbury and York] showed a lack of leadership. They made two very clear pleas to Synod - to have some safeguards for us - and nobody listened. Williams will have no authority. The last thing he wanted was an ecclesiological row. I feel very sorry for him."

I quite agree. It seems to me that Rowan could have done more to safeguard what he claimed to want for us, as John Sentamu did in his passionate defence before the vote and his equally powerful words just after the result came in. Houlding claimed the Archbishop of York met with key Anglo-Catholic leaders after the vote to discuss the future, which is interesting. He said that "He was pleading with us until the early hours, asking us to stay. But we are not leaving, we are being pushed out. What happened on Monday was a very clear statement: we do not want you here. This is the beginning of the end."

An option, of course, looming over our heads is the Global Anglican Future Conference, which we share little with, if anything, indeed the very things which tie us together, sacramentality and the real presence, are denied or downplayed by them. Synod member and Gafcon leader Canon Chris Sugden said there were precedents for severing ties with liberal churches and opting into the care of bishops overseas, and gave examples of US dioceses that had rebelled against progressive leadership. "It is a factor. Unless something is done, it is obvious, although not inevitable," he said. This would return us to the days when we used to bring in Bishops from the colonies, but then again, we had the money to do so then. However, the last statement from Forward in Faith, said it would work with English bishops who were sympathetic to their cause and could lobby on their behalf and here is an alternative vision. We join forces, in fact we already are doing, with evangelicals, who are unhappy with the ordination of Women Bishops and the breaking of divine tradition, to fight for control in the Church of England. Central to this approach is General Synod membership, which will play a crucial role when a final vote on legislation is taken in several years time. More traditional factions can work together to increase the influence of the more conservative voters in Synod when it is re-elected in 2010. They could secure enough dioceses to ultimately defeat women bishops, it is now, right now, being suggested. Evangelical Synod member Paul Eddy said: "This is a fight for the centre of the church. We have far more in common than divides us. I am an evangelical but I voted with the Catholics all the way." He was disappointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury's failure to intervene, believing that Williams could have changed the outcome. "He has people in the House of Bishops that speak for him. He could have made a difference. He wanted to. He wanted safeguards for us." Increasing the conservative profile within Synod membership would "push off" legislation on women bishops for at least a few years, he added, possibly until the Synod elections in 2015. "There are about 14 bishops who are due to retire and most are from the liberal wing. "There will be greater pressure to appoint traditionalists."

This is maybe the substance of the last FinF communique, which seems to be taking shape, right now, in Gordon Square. My goodness, I was going to go to bed as well! So here it is, another option and a very noble one at that. We reclaim what belongs to God by faithfulness, humility and prayer. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?