I came across this article from the Guardian today, and am really left speechless. What is even more worrying, is that the media regularly describes this part of the Church as ‘traditionalists’, although I doubt many people would recognise their churches as anything but traditional!
The article quotes from a speech by Very Rev Phillip Jensen, the Anglican Dean of Sydney in Australia (whose brother happens to be the Bishop of Sydney), where he amongst other things describes Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury as commiting “theological and intellectual prostitution”, and Kings College Cambridge as a “temple to paganism”. It also quotes Ian Seymour, the churchwarden of the village church in our village of Arborfield as saying “The Church of England is over, it’s days are numbered.”
Having read the recent book also by Stephen Bates, the Guardian religious affairs correspondent A Church at War I can’t help but agree. The days of the current arrangements are numbered, but I really don’t think that the Anglican Church as a whole will collapse.
The current statements are in part a prelude by Reform to the publication of the Lambeth Commision report, set up in the wake of the fiasco over the Bishop of Reading last year described in part of the book. The Reform position is that liberal Bishops should be disciplined, especially those who supported the appointment of the Bishop of Reading, and who backed the appointment of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire. Whereas the church held together over the Ordination of Women, providing arrangements where those opposed could remain within the church, it seems that parts of the Church are determined to split the church.
The slight irony is that whilst there seems to be a determination to split the church, the group is not keen to split themselves from the Church, there is no grand exit from this apparently corrupt Church. If the church is really as bad as Phillip Jensen says, and from the response the members of Reform agree, why aren’t they voting with their feet and forming their own church. Why instead do they campaign for the US Church to be disciplined – despite no Church law having been broken?
To my mind, it ultimately all comes back to money. If they leave the church, in the case of the Church of England, the buildings belong to the church as a whole not to the congregation, and the wages, and pension are paid by the church as a whole. They would be giving up those. It shows an interesting paralell with the church that Beth’s step-grandmother, Sheila Baker attends. It has left the Anglican Communion, however the clergy who join, join only after they have retired, i.e. once they are collecting their pension from the Anglican Church of Canada. If they leave before, they don’t get the pension.
Whilst the current uphevals may change the Church, as with the Ordination of Women, I really don’t think that the Church will split, because ultimately for all the big speeches, and flashy headlines, the Clergy involved are not willing to give up their finacial security for their principles. Instead they will continue to try and force everybody else in the church to conform to their view, and of course the press will continue to lap it up. That to me is the biggest disaster of the whole thing, when there are so many other issues that the Church should be highlighting, all the press coverage is over internal wrangles about stuff that seems irrelevant to the people outside.