April 4, 2017

Bodies through the Window

The Church of England is currently being pecked at by a number of chickens home to roost, in particular those hatched from the settlement attempted over the ordination of women to the episcopate, embodied in the Five Guiding Principles. And ultimately, the problem is the embodiment.

The Elizabethan Settlement (a classic instance of Anglican Fudge) on issues such as the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, comprehending mutually contradictory positions, was possible because no windows into personal belief were needed, and the language of the liturgy was adequately ambiguous so as to cover diversity of opinion and belief, so people could attend the same liturgy while holding completely contradictory understandings of what was taking place. Issues only became contentious when physical actions betrayed differing attitudes, so the advice was to keep these to a minimum, keeping the Peace, so to spek.

The problem with Order in general, and the ordination of women to the episcopate is that it is external and visible. Societies and factions are formed. Those who reject the concept are compelled to keep lists of those priests who have not been "ordained" by questionable hands, for neither they, nor the bishop whose hands were laid upon them, are true ministers of the sacraments, in the rejectionist view. Comprehension can no longer be sustained because the diversity of opinion has taken on flesh, and one has to be more or less public in response to the question of whether Jane Doe is a priest or bishop, or not.

It is, of course, still possible to allow for that diversity, within a national church structure, but it takes a much greater effort to sustain since it is now part of the structure itself that is in question. If, as some believe, women cannot sustain Order, the whole edifice risks becoming like those housing blocks Monty Python's Mystico and Janet sustained only by hypnosis.

Someone once noted the fragility of a house divided against itself.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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