Thursday, 10 July 2008

So What Now?

Benediction at my Parish Church a few weeks ago.

It is almost impossible to collate the information below and produce some sort of commentary, not least because we are still waiting for statements from the Bishops of Beverley and Richborough. So far we do not have a consensus of opinion though. This points to the obvious answer that we are not going to have one, therefore we are, as an ecclesial body of Catholics in the Church of England, divided in this respect. Some of us, like one commentator on these pages, will shift position and say that it is possible to be a Catholic and accept the Ordination of women, a view which, in all fairness, has found some support even in the Roman Church, notably Bishop Conroy of Arundel and Brighton said that he had no objections whatsoever and Cardinal Hume said a number of years ago that there were no theological objections, just those of tradition and ecclesiology. So this is unlikely to be seen as a good enough reason for seeking ordination in Rome, as is being suggested elsewhere. For these reasons, it would seem to me to be far better, as we are divided in our aspirations, if those who wish to swim the Tiber were to do so, for their quicker submission would, I suspect, be received with great courtesy, for there may not be a 'plan' for us, this is still speculation. Many people will claim to have definitive information on both sides, but this is, as I said, speculation.

Others among us, myself in point of fact, will stay, at least until we find out what provision is to be made for us. As Jeremy Paxman pointed out on Newsnight on Monday, we have passed legislation which legislates for us in a way we have as yet not decided. The positive letter from +Chartres is good news. Remember the London Plan is not the same as the act of synod, but a separate entity. If it can be argued that it can continue under the 'code of practice' then I see no reason why the two Archdioceses cannot erect a similar plan, which would leave us with something very similar to what we already have. As for the paying of the Parish Share, those of us who, in our hearts know we wish to remain if we can know that we are remaining in a structure which we hope will support us, therefore I would argue that we must support it in the ways we can, prayer being one and the parish share being another. I know we may not feel as though we want to at the moment, but gloom gets us nowhere, not even a one way ticket to Italy!

Other Diocesan Bishops will issue letters, I hope, which will seek to reassure us, which we can attach more or less importance to depending on what they voted for! All will point out that they wished for a code of practice for us, which is, at least, true. I see no other options, I have had friends who have joined the Orthodox Church, but have been unhappy, I know nothing of it and suspect I never will, so wanting to join because of disillusionment seems difficult and slightly contorted. My antipathy for the continuing churches is well known, and I believe them to be a one way street ending in a cul-de-sac. However, some of us will probably try and resurrect the TAC or a variant on these shores. Some will strive for the Orthodox Faith. Some will just give up, I fear and go home.

As I said, what is clear is that nothing is clear and that there is no firm direction. I do believe that the road to Rome, if it is in your heart to take it, is best taken now. However I think the Church of England will find a lane for us and who knows what will happen in our favour in it in the future. Who knows, with our great Parishes, our common bonds of faith, our peculiar but Godly ways, our prayers and sacraments, who knows what we may be. We can be part of this Church, ministering to the poor and the needy, teaching the word of God and being His witnesses. The order of the Church is not the only thing which ties me to this Communion, the pull of love for the people of God, to whom this is largely an irrelevance, is the stronger bond. What may we be? We may be faithful servants of God, even in what for us are the darkest hours. What we may be then is faithful and not dissimilar, it would appear to me, to our forebears for generations, to Christ, who is with us in our struggle. For what we may be and what every man and woman in this nation and in this Church may be, is redeemed and we may stay and act for that. That is what we may be, we may be children of God, reaching out and ministering in the hardest times, that we may all be what we may be, that we may be redeemed. As Bishop Martyn said to me the other day, 'Our God Reigns'. For Ever.


From Fr. Kenyon: Fr. T. E. Jones over at S. Peter's, London Docks asks the same question: "The answer to your question is, I'm not sure. The question was: 'What are we/you going to do Father?'. . . There are individual statements which seem to lack common themes and little ecclesial coherence; this makes it difficult to persuade anyone, General Synod or otherwise, that we really are what we had thought we had become, a recognisable ecclesial community with common boundaries and common core positions." See here for more.

It's good to know what others are thinking at this point in time. One thing the Bishop of Burnley has already spoken of is the need to support and encourage one another. Fr. Jones certainly has a point about the confusion we're currently experiencing, but he reassures us with these words: "We need to ensure that when we decide, when we act, we do so not in anger, not in rejection of the brothers and sisters in Christ who have, with such decisive aggression, rejected us, but because it is a Gospel imperative to act."