Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From The Telegraph

I like this writer's take on the status of the Church of England. Writing for The Telegraph, Pat Buchanan biographer (The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan) Timothy Stanley says:

Being cruel to Anglicans is about as low as kicking a puppy. The Anglican Church does a lot of good for a lot of people and its presence in British public life forces debates about politics and social policy to be a bit more reflective than they would otherwise be. It is also capable of profound beauty. Village churches are arks of Englishness: neatly stacked Books of Common Prayer, hard wooden pews, a perfume of human breath and burning wax, a Union Jack hung above a shrine to the fallen. I pray that the Church of England is never disestablished, for I feel about these temples in the same way that I do public libraries. I never visit them, but it brings me comfort to know that they are there.

In the 21st century, what is the purpose of the village church? For much of the establishment of the Church of England, the answer seems to be “relevance” – they must earn their status in society by reflecting society's diversity of background and opinion. The great irony is that they want to make relevant something that is actually devalued by the attempt to make it relevant. God doesn’t do “relevance.” He just is – and, for most religious consumers, that’s what makes him so appealing. . .

In its desire to be “more human,” the Anglican Church has rebelled against human nature. For it is natural to want some dimension of authority in our lives. People go to church for answers to the big questions, and it's the answers (“Love me and love thy neighbour”) that then compel them to go out in the world and build a better society. I hope the next Archbishop will break from this trend and talk more forcefully about God. He might notice a small bump in Sunday attendance.

Mr. Stanley also published an interesting analysis of the vote on female bishops:

Wow – we truly live in an age of miracles. The Church of England just voted in favour of tradition. To be precise, its Synod failed to garner the necessary two thirds majority to allow for women bishops. A majority did want change, just not a large enough one – and most of the opposition seems to have come from the laity rather than the clergy.

Nevertheless, given that the Anglican Church’s trajectory has been very liberal of late, this is a huge surprise. It’s also a blow to the leadership of the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. One of the very first things he did when picked for the job was to endorse women bishops. He obviously hoped to wrap this issue up and so inherit a more united church. Instead, he inherits all the old divisions and quarrels that poor Rowan Williams had to endure.

Expect much of the liberal establishment to be outraged. In many ways, they have a right to be. The Anglican Church has evolved into something like an unofficial branch of the welfare state, and there’s a general feeling that it has a duty to be as representative as the rest of our public sector. A vote against women bishops is certainly a pedantic vote against equality in a church that has already accepted women priests. If a woman can be a priest, why can she not make other priests priests? It seems spiteful and unfair.

But from the perspective of traditionalists and evangelicals, this was about holding the Church together through messy compromise. If women bishops had gone ahead a) opponents would have felt compelled to accept their authority and b) those women bishops would have had to confront clergy and parishioners who didn’t respect their appointment. It might have been a recipe either for further exodus or civil war. At least this way, the fudge continues for another few years. It’s all so very English.

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