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WOE IS ME

“Those of us who deplore the methodology of General Convention infallibility still cannot give up the essential catholicity and liberality of Anglicanism merely because we managed to be born at a time in which the Province in which we serve seems good at erring and straying. Nothing is for ever except God and His purpose.

I am convinced that one of the great errors of this generation is that we all believe that we are stuck in a moment of time, believe that what now is is crucial and that we must fix it now or God will lose and the church fail. This is a lie from our father below.

Now if TEC abolishes its formularies, creates a liturgy incapable of grace-bearing, and annuls ministry, then that’s quite another matter. For now patient faithfulness is the calling of some of us, as best we can, under the mercy. I think I am more convinced of this now than I was a few days ago.”

I wrote the above to the Covenant web site in response to some lugubrious commentary by traditionalist writers. I don’t want to be unfair, but whatever “persecution” we may experience in TEC is very comfortable in comparison with that encountered by Christians in other parts of the world today and that which our spiritual ancestors suffered. We are not a very tough or brave lot today. I wonder whether there may be depression in the DNA of American traditionalists! We moan and groan, seek escape routes, use the web to attack and defame while sipping good scotch and enjoying brie and crackers. This sort of attitude seems general and not the exclusive preserve of those of us who claim the title orthodox. Cross-bearing is distinctly uncomfortable. Not getting our own way instantly or even generationally is good for us. Sef-sacrifice, suffering is the Christian menu.

It would be lovely to have lived in a golden age when all was peaceful. When, pray tell, was that? That state is not behind us, but before us, in the new Jerusalem, and God is good to give us a foretaste of that which shall be at each Eucharist, when we pray and read the Scriptures, when we do good and when we suffer bravely and cheerfully. “See how these Christians love one another. That was said of dying Christians in the arena as the crowds enjoyed cruel martyrdom. Where are our good Bishop Polycarps today?

A MINOR MIRACLE

In a world of pride and hubris, the Archbishop of Canterbury would seem to stand little chance. Yet twice in the last few months, first in Canada and now in the United States his presence has contributed significantly to calm the most ardent prophets and reformers, whose addiction to Cause threatens to destroy the very vehicle they occupy.

While the answer the Episcopal Church has offered the Primates is bound not to satisfy everyone on the “right”, and it will embarrass some, it gives the necessary space for the Anglican Communion to go forward with a Lambeth Conference, the proper forum for the world episcopate to address the vexing human sexuality and authority issues as a gathered body, rather than separate groups lobbing answers at each other from afar.

The bishops go to Lambeth first of all as individuals, individually invited, and only secondly as provincial affiliates. This is a fact both they and the rest of us should stress and take in deadly earnest. They are given the opportunity to seek to shed for a space of time, jurisdictional and ethnic pride and to live into the baptismal promise the American Church constantly trumpets. Each bishop will go to Kent primarily as a baptized Christian, called to exercise episcopacy in a context. That context is both universal and local. As the late Eric Mascall suggested, they are Apostolically incorporated into the College of the Apostles, a rather more important concept than mere “succession.” They are locally appointed to an area in which they serve as proclaimers of the faith and unity of the church.

Historically provinces were a later development. In that sense they are of less importance than the international and local aspects of episcopacy. Perhaps that is an emphasis to be recovered at a moment when national locality grabs the attention and affords opportunity for sin.

The Episcopal Church’s response to the Primates embarrasses those who were banking on an excuse for schism both here in the United States and on a larger stage. The outposts of Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and elsewhere shakily established in the United States now look unfortunate at worst and provisional and tentative at best.

As their representatives and those from the “Continuing Churches” meet now in “Common Cause” in Pittsburgh, they have been given space to get their own house in order, to take time to evaluate cooly and under the Gospel, their divisions and ambitions. What do they contribute in a positive and Gospel fashion to the peace and unity of the Church of God? The answer may not be entirely a negative one. It is a fact that thousands of Episcopalians have given up and gone into a wilderness. The wilderness is a place to find and hear God.

It would be foolishly romantic to suggest that the Episcopal Church has reformed herself or her manners. She remains very far gone from original righteousness, an unlikely home for all but the most entrenched and stubborn orthodox believer. She has hedged her bets by appealing to future consensus or not so future meetings of the oracular General Convention as times and places to resume her restless quest for special revelations from God. This being the case, it is doubtful whether she is a likely destination for those already in exile. The Episcopal Church will still be eyed with suspicion by many Global South primates, induced by American allies into premature impatience and acts violating jurisdictional integrity. They too now have a chance to pause, to step back from their own hubris and to seek to contribute positively to a solution rather than compounding the problem.

And is it too much to ask the leaders of domestic dioceses planning to leave TEC to wait and see and at least examine what the Presiding Bishop may now suggest as a pastoral solution? How the South Carolina and Chicago elections work out may determine the immediate future of these people.

Enormous gratitude is due to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his quiet, steady, patient faith and witness. No doubt the stern words of the Australian Archbishop Aspinall played a significant role in making the American bishops blink. Nor should the contribution and skills of the Presiding Bishop go unnoticed and un-praised. God has purpose in all this and that purpose has created space and time. God help us all take full advantage of such an unexpected gift.

ODD PRAYERS

As I finish the Office I usually say something like this…” May St. Mary, St Thomas of Canterbury, X and all the saints pray with us, may the angels of God guard and protect us and may the souls of the faithful rest in peace.” I know it all sounds frightfully High Church, but there it is.

Sometimes including today I get a wry smile as I recite these words. I remember St. Mary because she is blessed among all women and men. I remember Thomas a Becket, that very human saint, because he is the patron of my parish and I then remember whoever is commemorated in the Calendar. Today we remember that doughty bishop and Evangelical Philander Chase, Bishop of Ohio and then Illinois, founder of Kenyon College, a missionary bishop who himself and his proteges established TEC in places as far apart as Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois and elsewhere. Chase didn’t even obey the rules. He got himself elected bishop of Illinois before the diocese was received into union with TEC, without consents from the PB, the bishops and the standing committees, forcing General Convention to play catch up. Bishop John Wordsworth, son of the poet, wrote a book defending this action on grounds of “necessity and charity.” That’s a concept to be evaluated anew today.

My wry smile is occasioned by two factors. Chase was an Evangelical, a real Evangelical at a time when that party was great and powerful in our church. The way some people talk, Evangelicals are a new and unwelcome addition to our ranks. True they almost died out after the schism of 1873 -we’ve had schisms before- but they just hung on. Nothing new there. From 1662 until the early days of the next century Evangelicals were a very rare breed indeed on both sides of the Atlantic. They burst forth to new life in the 18th Century. In Anglicanism one thing is sure, nothing is for keeps. Our “progressive” friends should remember that.

I smile because Chase would be horrified that I pray “to” the saints and for the departed and that he is named with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Thomas of Canterbury. Chase would be equally horrified to leaf through our Prayer Book. I am pretty sure he would find it deficient in acknowledging sin, dreadful in mentioning saints and the departed, and very weak in its lop-sided doctrine of the baptismal covenant. It’s not lop-sided if the credal words “for the remission of sin” are recited and remembered and believed. The Catechism can’t annul the Creeds.

Nevertheless I am delighted to remember Bishop Philander Chase today and delighted to name him with the saints. He reminds us that even the most lifeless churches can be revived, that where Word and Sacrament are liturgicaly enabled, even in the context of powerless preaching and teaching, God may and does use the potential to perform the actual.

At the press conference in New Orleans someone asked the Archbishop of Canterbury what people should do in “liberal” dioceses. I can’t quote his exact words but he asked, I think, whether sacramental grace remained there. That is a very Angican approach. After all, thank God, the unworthiness of the minister doesn’t annul the sacrament, nor does an attenuated Gospel. I would suggest that the “unworthiness”of a diocese or a province doesn’t hinder the sacrament. God is not dependent on our orthodoxy as long as the biblical channels of blessing remain intact.

Chase was the heir to the Virginia revival, in which an almost dead church was brought to life by Evangelical zeal. This was enabled because the church survived both Revolution and deadly boring Latitudinarianism, a Gospel of good works and good manners. Note that neither good works nor good manners are wrong or undesireable. Caring for marginalized people, MDGs and the like are not wrong or undesireable. But if good intentions and organized altruism were possible without “conversion” in its widest definition, the world would be a good place now. Nothing our “progressives” propose hasn’t been proposed before. Unfortunately each time such a benevolent description of humanity takes hold, a frightful war intrudes to warn us that humanity, unredeemed can be devilish. Progressivism isn’t possible in the Congo, Northern Uganda or Dafur. It is possible here, as long as we don’t watch too much TV.

For this and many reasons I am sure that all is not lost in TEC whatever our bishops decide on Tuesday. I know with certainty that one day, beginning in the most unlikely place, God will burst onto the scene through prayerful people. I also know, as sure as eggs are eggs, that one day new Evangelicals will sink into judgementalism and “moralism” and usher in a new day of progressivism, or maybe a High Church revival. I may not believe that history repeats itself, but it does a pretty good immitation.

A WEEK OF HOPE?

At the end of the Protectorate of Cromwell, father and son, those years of utter religious confusion and near anarchy in the English church, someone wrote: the “differences of honest Protestants” were confidently judged “but small compared to the bonds of union, in which they do agree as to doctrinals, morals and essentials.” (John Gauden) There remained great hope that when King Charles II came home from his journeys the English Church might be reunited in the shape in which it found itself before the Laudian reforms destroyed its compact. Archbishop Laud and his friends, with the help of Charles I attempted to introduce certain practices, largely to do with furniture and millinery which caused great offense and charges of popery. For their innovations both men were judicially shortened.

It is perhaps odd to think of the High Church martyr archbishop as an innovator, so used we are to elaborate choreography and drapery in contemporary worship, and yet the Laudian reforms, as innocuous as enforcing the use of the surplice, copes in cathedrals, Godes Board placed altar-wise against the “east” wall and fenced to prevent dogs “pissing” thereon,as cause for offense and yet these liturgical innovations acted as potent symbols of something worse. Laud and his friends, it was alleged, were undermining the Reformation, and the godly settlement of religion undertaken in the reigns of Elizabeth of blessed memory and even, in the safety of hindsight, of “good” King James I.

I was thinking of this as I watched the ordination and consecration of my friend Greg Rickel as Bishop of Olympia, a romantic title if ever there was one. Greg and I served together in the Diocese of Arkansas and I came to understand him to be a person with whom there is no guile.

Some elements of the rite would have thrown most Episcopalians into a fit of the vapors forty years ago, whether they were the standard run of the mill Low Church people or one of those exotic birds who frequented the regions of the biretta belt. Here were variously clad bishops sploshing people with holy water using some kind of plant as an aspergilium. Loaves of bread and glasses of wine were consecrated and who knows who consumed the elements afterwards all to a rite not contained in the Book of Common Prayer but rather culled from various permitted and innovative manuals of devotion.

There again, the use of a Table drawn close to the people would have gladdened the more Puritan Anglican of the early 17th Century. What links Greg’s consecration with the fears of the anti-Laudian party is the suspicion that beneath all these innovations in rites and ceremonies, millinery and furniture lies a radical revision of religion. No one can accuse the innovators of papism, as they did the Laudian party, but those who are disturbed by the trends in official religion, for Laud was an official as is our present Presiding Bishop, also look back in sorrow as do many in our church today to the days when Johnson or Nixon were kings and the church looked different and sounded different.

After the upheaval of the Cromwellian years, as the king prepared to return the English Church was given an extraordinary chance to reconcile factions and reunite. Surely moderate puritans like Richard Baxter, offered a bishopric by the king at least at first, might be found a place in a restored church?

Sadly between 1660 and 1662 optimism about reconciliation was submerged by a victorious and vengeful Cavalier party intent on instituting the Laudian innovations and punishing those who had supported the Commonwealth. So came the Act of Uniformity, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the great ejection of over four hundred clergy from their parishes and punitive acts against those who stubbornly stayed outside the Established Church. The price of such conformity was the loss of any real claim of the Church to be the Church of All England. Gradually denominationalism, such as we see in America overtook the vision of one church in one nation. The Established Church, established to this day, never really recovered numerically from the losses during and after the Civil War.

Our bishops inherited a comprehensive church, granted less comprehensive liturgically than it once was, yet still a church of diverse custom, and opinion. Some Provinces in the communion enjoy this heritage, while others, where missionaries of one party or another were ascendant, have a more monochrome aspect. It was once thought that diversity was one of Anglicanism’s gifts to ecumenism. It was possible for people with seemingly mutually exclusive beliefs to dwell in one house together, not always without discord and rows, but nevertheless as one family. What united us was the diocesan and parochial system and Prayer Book worship. What preserved this often fragile unity was an unwillingness to promulgate and enforce doctrines, or practices which would violate the conscience of a significant constituency or “party”.

Such a compact did not mean in practice that doctrines were not taught and practices not indulged which were controversial or even taxed the patience and consciences of those opposed to them. What it did mean was that such doctrines and practices received no official sanction. In this seemingly anarchical playground, space and room was given to allow new and old ideas to be presented, tried, amended and often discarded without their becoming the subject of formal legislative debate, at least until a Gamaliel judgement was given time to do its work. That is what reception used to mean to an Anglican.

If our bishops, meeting in New Orleans wish to follow the bad example of the Cavaliers in 1662, our church will become narrower, less diverse and less tolerant. On the other hand if our bishops take extraordinary steps in extraordinary times to preserve our comprehensive heritage, who knows what God will do in our midst?

A NEW BAPTISMAL THEOLOGY

This article has been written for the Covenant web site by me and I reproduce it here. Please become a subscriber to: http://covenant-communion.com/

In the past day a group of lawyer bishops have produced a report which attacks the idea of an Anglican Covenant out of hand and which proposes that the baptismal rite in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the teachings stemming therefrom in the Catechism are a radical reformation of our theology from which now originate changes in our concept of discipleship. The authors note that other ecumenical documents from about that time period (the Seventies) undergird such a claim, but that many Provinces of the Anglican Communion have yet to adapt to this new theological method in their rites and teachings. This, in part, it is suggested, explains the differences of approach between the North American provinces of the Communion and all others. There seems to be no awareness of or consideration of any further study on baptism since that time.

Most of the contents of the bishops’ findings should not take up our time. One is reminded of a Dan Brown novel in which a hidden document reveals that everyone has been wrong or ill-informed until now, or at least the Seventies when suddenly and in America new light bursts forth. Indeed there’s not much difference in method here than in that found in the justifications for any of the other “nativist” religious movements which emerged in America in the 19th Century. Golden tablets may seem rather more romantic than the findings of lawyer bishops, who note that entirely new interpretations of Scripture now suddenly burst forth and new concepts of just what a Christian is emerge from a re-appraisal of baptism.

One of the arguments between Catholics and Protestants at the Reformation and until now centers on just how grace “works” in the sacraments. Is sacramental grace “invincible” in that it is offered in the sacrament whether the recipient seeks the grace or is prepared to receive the grace or not, or does the receptive state of the recipient determine whether grace abounds or not? Nothing is as simple as it sounds, and the Catholic would assert that the recipient of a sacrament should be in a “state of grace” to receive the gift, or there are consequences. Nor am I absolutely sure that a “receptionist” would want to make Jesus and His Presence entirely a matter of the receptive nature of the receiver: too much like works righteousness.

I raise this question because our lawyer-bishops seem to propose that the theology of a baptismal “covenant” -but they say they are against covenants – is now divorced from any scriptural or credal teachings, among them that baptism is “for or by the remission of sins.” While “mutual ministry” doctrine is not clearly articulated in this paper, what is assumed is that all Christian ministries have their origin in baptism and that ergo all the baptized are to be included in all ministries to which the church discerns they have a calling. Certainly the unbroken teaching of the Church has been that in baptism all our incorporated into Christ and therefore into His ministry as prophet, priest and king. The source of the charisms of ministry is in the water of baptism rightly administered with the Trinitarian formula. That last caveat should be noted and remains the clear teaching of the Prayer Book and the Catechism.

An Evangelical and I would suggest an earlier Tractarian would object to bishops’ thesis in two particulars. The first is that it lacks a “moral” component. The second is that the bishops say too little rather than too much about their “discovery.”
My use of the word “moral” takes us into dangerous grounds, for to most of us the word “moral” immediately suggests sex. That is a commentary on our times rather than theology. For “moral” I might propose the word suitable or apt, not perfect synonyms, but good enough for my purpose. While all the baptized may forensically be suitable or apt candidates for any form of ministry lay or ordained, it is surely obvious, even to the most sentimentally obtuse that all are not really suitable or apt candidates. I do not discount the power of grace to make up for deficiencies in talent or ability, but there would be no point in our present elaborate methods of discernment if all shall win and all take the prize.

A discernment committee is quite right to suggest that Susy’s chronic bad temper makes her a less than suitable candidate to serve as a deacon. A moral judgement is here made. But why should chronically choleric people be excluded? The fact that Frank has dreadful problems with comprehension would perhaps rule out a seminary education, although one remembers the Cure de Ars and wonders. To say to the world that persons living together in a sexual relationship outside the bounds of matrimony is a given based on their baptism asks us to suspend all moral or “suitability” judgments. It would be one thing if our part of the church had concluded that such relationships are valid and that, all things being equal, their intimate lives were not to be considered in any suitability investigation. I am not suggesting that our “church” is competent to make such a decision, I am merely stating a fact. The Episcopal Church doesn’t permit its clergy or ordinands to have sexual relationships outside matrimony. That’s the truth. To suggest that it does, and it does because all the baptized, whatever their talents or suitability are apt candidates for all ministries is sheer nonsense.There are all sorts of lifestyle matters rightly to be considered in discerning vocation.

Some suggest that what the church seeks from same-sex partners is a real attempt to live in chastity as is asked of married couples. That may be true. But from whence does one deduce such a standard, such a moral principle? I am not even suggesting that the Church and the churches may not find a way to incorporate “blessed” same-sex couples living chastely into its moral economy. I am saying that at the moment this has not happened. Yet our lawyer-bishops insist that the Communion should allow us to break our own Canons. Strange talk for lawyers.

That takes me on to a wider consideration of baptism. It seems to be suggested by some that baptism is the lowest common denominator in Christian math. I would suggest the contrary. If my baptism initiates me into the Kingdom along with my Roman Catholic relatives, my Baptist acquaintances and my Methodist friends, surely this interconnectiveness extends to my Anglican sisters and brothers in a more immediate sense.

I cannot at the moment express my oneness with the fellow-baptized in other jurisdictions and denominations in any satisfactory manner. I regret this and want to work to find ways in which we can do more and more together. I can do something about my relationships with fellow Anglicans. I can because the structure is in place. And if the structure in place at the moment impedes a fullest possible relationships, surely I must work to clarify those structures?

Our lawyer-bishops fear a Covenant. They even suggest that the present draft proposal for a Covenant is the final word and that therefore, on that basis, any covenant violates a newly discovered unwritten constitution which governs inter-Anglican relationships. Both are straw men. We shall not see what a proposed Covenant looks like until the newest proposals, whatever they may be, are debated by the bishops at Lambeth and then in the legislative bodies of each constituent Province. As to there being an unwritten constitution for the Communion, if such a constitution vouchsafes itself in precedent, precedents such as the development of the Instruments of Unity, moments when the Archbishop of Canterbury, with consent, has entered into the internal affairs of Provinces, such as Rwanda and the Sudan, all point towards a more robust understanding of Communion rather than a “federal” model. If
baptism means anything it means living into the fullest possible relationships for “we are no longer Jew or Greek”, TECITES or Nigerians, “it is not possible for us to be male or female, bond or free, we are all one in Christ.” St. Paul isn’t suggesting the equivalent of the local ministerial alliance as a pattern for the Church or the churches.
I shall spare no space in commenting on our lawyer-bishops’ interpretation of the works of Richard Hooker, or of their reliance on some recent opinions on the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, a narrow document for a narrow purpose which has little to do with anything beyond the mechanism of the ACC. I can only lament that their glorious baptismal vision bogs down in moralism and in the most attenuated vision of our Ecumenical vocation for the Communion and beyond. They seem to say, despite the nods to African culture that we are not our brothers’ keeper. TEC is all in all, has been given a new revelation and should be left alone to pursue its dreams. I hope their wishes are not fulfilled for the sake of the Communion and for the sake of the whole Church here on earth.

VICHY

The writer of a well known blog, commenting on another blog, in considering the new web site “Covenant “and its authors, blurted out the word “Vichy.” When I lived in France the train from Paris to Clermont-Ferrand often stopped at Vichy. I wanted to get out and explore, to see whether the ghosts of Lavel and Petain wander the streets. I never did, not even to taste the waters.

My father won the Military Cross fighting the Axis and spend years in Italian and German prisoner of war camps. I am looking at his photograph now, in his officer’s uniform (Royal Tank Corp). He sports a formidable mustache and looks very handsome. His family left Nantes in the 17th Century for Martinique and then St. Lucia. My great-great grandfather married the daughter of the first banker in St Lucia. Visiting the island some years ago I found the old family house and sat on a bench in the park in Castries dedicated to Alexandre Clavier.

Matt says that my friends and I, including my gentle son, are collaborators. Our alleged sin is to suggest that the Anglican Communion has mechanisms to deal with offending member churches, and these “mechanisms” must be permitted to do their job and given that respect due to them. The old Catechism says a great deal about respecting those in authority and there’s no small print about our having the right to rebel if we don’t approve of the way they act. Surely the old Catechism has as much authority as the Articles?

“To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters: To be true and just in all my dealings: To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart.”

No this isn’t the Catechism of a monarchy. It was TEC’s catechism until supplemented in 1928. Times have changed. Certainly the Archbishop of Canterbury is my spiritual pastor. If we are going to be traditionalists lets live into our tradition!

Well, Matt’s judgement isn’t very Christian. I don’t think he knows one of us, has chatted with us over a pint, doesn’t know my Airedale’s name, and yet he feels free to be gratuitously insulting. I don’t agree with him but I certainly wouldn’t write rude and insulting labels to stick over the cross on his forehead. OK Luther was rude to Erasmus, but I would say that in being rude, he sinned. It’s like the suggestion that as there have been schisms in the past, schism today is acceptable. We are talking about the Church and not the Confederacy.

We used to burn bishops at the stake or disembowel Jesuits in public executions. Mercifully we don’t anymore. It may sound snobbish but Anglicanism is also about the “village” and about civility and liberality as well as about sound doctrine and right worship. These are not menu items. They are the meal.

IMPUDENCE?

I write this with some trepidation, although my thoughts in this area have been with me since I first went to college over forty-seven years ago. I had been taught in my ignorance that “private judgement” as related to Scripture and doctrine and indeed discipline, was a theory which came to life in late 18th Century Evangelicalism, largely because those wonderful people mistook the theory of perspecuity (the Bible is open to believers) with the disciplinary practice of the major churches affected by or founded at the Reformation. For instance, our own Reformers gave to the collective “institutional church” the right to determine the outcome of controversies in doctrine, although not of doctrine itself. The right was not given to parish priests, literate laity, theologians or even bishops per se. The authority was given to the “national church.” Do note that our Reformers said very little about a level above the local church, not because they believed that the national church was “it”, but because in a divided Christendom the only way to hear the voice of the larger church was to go back to the Undivided Church and particularly the Councils. This they did. Jewel did, Hooker did, Andrewes did, evangelical, broad and catholic.

Because of this realism, Anglicans were often accused of archeological religon and it was this barb, framed by Dr Wiseman, which probably finally pushed Newman to Rome. Some Anglo-Catholics seek to find some essential authoritative commonality within contemporary “Catholic Christendom” but that requires a reductionism and an over-simplification of some proportion.

For a few decades now using private judgement, even in the context of some consensus, we have been told to believe that we cannot return to Fathers and Councils, because their conclusions were those of “winners” and therefore suspect at least. (Winners nowadays are good and uninfluenced by contemporary political and social theory!) For instance our theology of Orders must now bow to the sort of theory first proposed by 16th Century Anabaptists and those who later would become Congregationalists and Baptists. Well not quite so. The modern theory that all “ordination” happens at baptism and all ministries are merely recognition by the church of talents or charisms given in baptism, would not have set well with those who saw conversion as the real thing and baptism as a mere symbol. But of course if the Eucharist is to be opened to the non-baptised, we shall all soon be Brownites, except Mr. Brown would not have permitted the non-baptized to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Now we have radical Anabaptism on our hands. (Notice that few dare reduce episcopacy to mere function.)

I’ve often said that Rome once seemed to teach that the only priests who were priests were priests, while extreme Protestants taught that the only people who were not priests were “priests”. Few now notice that the doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers is primarily about Jesus and only by extension about us. All ministry belongs to Jesus, and as PT Forsyth put it, “we are his curates.”

So we are asked to believe that early Christians were egalitarian Democrats (maybe Republicans too) until the Order of Priesthood devolved from the episcopate, and then by dreadful papish plot, deacons were flung from the nest. We are asked to believe that all those delicious gnostic texts -never mind that Gnostics tended to be as puritan as our right-wing moralists – were condemned by power play of “orthodox” males who with the help of Constantine ( George Bush of his day) – we forget what happened after he died – made the church boring and Roman Catholic and masculine.

As long as the authors of texts supplying this Dan Brown version of Church History inhabit Chairs, or thrones our seminarians bow the knee to authority and our church undergirds policy by recourse to what in reality has no authority other than private judgement. Now Global South bishops join in the method and perhaps the madness.

Before some of you jump and clap, let me say that one of the glories of Anglicanism is the freedom given to its scholars and laity to read, to explore, to propose, “to criticize” anything and everything without being hauled before an inquisitional tribunal. (Bishops, I believe are not as free by virtue of their job description and oaths. I would extend this to parish priests in public exposition, and preaching. This in no way prevents responsible enquiry or a refusal to discuss alternative ideas and theories, hope and doubts.) The fault lies not there, but in the fact that we have all forgotten where authority lies. Anglicans were once thought to be grown up enough to respect authority without being burnt thereto The fault is in our willingness to confuse the faith of the Church as expressed, however archeologically until unity returns, in Church Formularies, with private speculation, and to confuse ecclesial authority with private speculation, however popular. It is one thing, for instance, to speculate about the origins and development of ministries and quite another to set up a mandatory system based on that speculation. It may also be one thing to explore ways to minister honestly to same-sex couples and quite another to set up an authorized “system” permitting that which the Church does not sanction. And no amount of votes in synods makes one into another.