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The Church of England- Better Together?

Last week saw the launch of the Better Together Campaign

calling on all Anglicans to come together to enhance the Church’s mission and ministry. Through applying the principles of unity, diversity, freedom and respect, we can positively affirm what we believe is best for the Church of England and for its role at the heart of our society.

It doesn’t take very long to work out that this is an Anglo-Catholic initiative (or at least, this is an initiative being pushed by Anglo-Catholics), Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, has written a piece for the campaign and one of the pages has a letter from the catholic bishops to The Times.  At first glance this new campaign seems like a very good idea. But I am concerned by Better Together’s charter.

Concerned specifically by the section titled “respect”:

We believe that respect for the ordination of women as priests and bishops is fundamental to how we together shape a common future for our Church.

Respect for the ordination of women as priests? I can respect the women who come to the church for ordination but I cannot respect what they do not have. Let’s think about this further for a moment, it is impossible for a woman to be admitted to the sacred priesthood and to hold the view that it is possible and desirable is heretical yet Better Together claims to respect the ordination of women priests? Imagine if we were to swap the heresy of women’s ordination for another heresy, say Arianism, I cannot imagine the Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary and so on respecting Arius or the Eusebii in their heresy. Loving them yes, but not respecting their Arianism. So what is Better Together doing?

The Church Mouse tweeted that Better Together signals a 3-way split in Anglo-Catholicism’s reaction to Women Bishops 1) Go elsewhere, 2) stay and fight, 3) stay and make peace. It seems to me, and I think this is what the Mouse was insinuating, that Better Together is option 3, an acceptance that the Church of England has women priests, will have women Bishops and so pushes the goal of recalling the Church of England back to its catholic roots far into the distance, the acceptance that women will be priests for some time and that, leading from that, the parishes in which they minister will lack the sacraments for some time (or at least not be assured of the sacraments for some time).

If we had to sum Better Together up it would probably be: “We respect you, we want to stay, please let us.” Which reminds me of some words Fr Geoffrey Kirk wrote in January’s New Directions:

So it has come to this: a movement which once embraced a vocation to reassert and affirm the Catholic nature of the Church of England, to defend its orders as those of the Universal Church, and so to progress the unity of Christendom, is reduced to horse-trading for its very existence, arguing in favour of what it most bitterly opposes in order to eke out a ghetto existence in the home it once supposed to be its own.

This route means accepting being just another party, the catholic party, in a church with evangelical and liberal parties but how can the Catholic whole be a part of something else?

Some members of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) are getting behind this campaign. Whatever happened to “no surrender”?

 

*One more thing, which bright spark decided to call this campaign by the same name as the campaign against Scottish independence?

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