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Death by Clear Decisions

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

I looked a while back at the latest attempt to remove provision for Traditionalists in the Church in Wales. The vote on this private members bill took place last week and the motion was decisively defeated. According to Anglican Ink, the vote was 19 for, 63 against and 20 abstentions. What is most interesting is that, of the six bishops of Wales, two were absent, two abstained and two were in favour of the motion. This means that NO bishops voted against the motion at all.

Why was the motion defeated? It seems strange because, like the CofE, the CiW has made a clear decision to ordain women as bishops and yet it wants to embrace those who deny this decision. It does mean that Traditionalists can “live and fight another day”. According to Rev George Conger, “Archdeacon Jackson responded that her intentions had been misunderstood. She did not want to drive out traditionalists but merely wanted them to conform to her understanding of doctrine and discipline.”

How interesting. Ms Jackson seems quite clear that she wants conformity to her “understanding of doctrine and discipline” despite the fact that her church has chosen to reject the doctrine and understanding of the Catholic Faith. To give her the benefit of the doubt and, assuming that this whole motion was not a malicious attempt to rid the church of those who cannot in conscience hold to the innovation of ordaining women, we must assume that Ms Jackson was undergoing the same struggles as the Anglican Communion in question whether schism is worse than heresy or vice versa. Ms Jackson indeed does sound like her opponents. It’s perfectly true that, if the Traditionalists regained control over the Church then they would stop all female ordination. Ms Jackson has simply done the mutatis mutandis.

The rest of the Governing Body of the CiW obviously hold to the principle of heresy over schism. I’ve argued on this before  that heresy is already a schism and yet, the idea is that “love holds together two different integrities”. This, to my mind, isn’t the love that appears in I Cor xiii in which love rejoices in the truth but then, what do I, a misogynist schismatic, know?

So Traditionalists are saved? I notice today that three new bishops have been appointed in the CofE, all of them female. What Traditionalists now have to contend with is the creeping doubt in the validity of orders within their church. What happens if all six bishops in Wales are female or have been ordained by a woman? What if they don’t know or won’t be told? What provisions are there for their position? The Clear Decision does mean that there will be no obligation to divulge a clergyman’s ordination history just to satisfy Traditionalist consciences. The Clear Decision also means that Traditionalists will not be allowed positions of leadership within the Church. Indeed, to be a CofE Bishop, or CiW bishop, one simply has to toe the party line. This is why the Bishops all seem so similar, these days; nor will they seek to put their foot out of place with the management.

Given that the days of the Traditionalist in the Ci W are numbered, what Ms Jackson proposed was far kinder: a swift dispatch rather than the death by slow attrition which the Liberals propose. It changes nothing. Traditionalists are tolerated, not accepted. This is not flourishing: this is being allowed to die.

And it makes sense. The Church cannot exist with two “integrities”. There is either the will of God as revealed in Scripture, Tradition and Reason, or there is heresy. One integrity must be committing heresy and it is the Clear Decision of the CofE and the CiW that it is the Traditional position that is heretical. Of course, this begs the question, “when did the Traditional position become heretical?”

The Clear Decision has determined which of the two “integrities” is the correct one and this must mean that the other “integrity” cannot flourish. It puts the Church in a logically impossible position and, because human beings do make decisions based on logic, the weaker “integrity” must die. Except no-one in the CofE will let it die quickly. It must gently die out to show that it was the Gamaliel principle all along and to ratify the Clear Decision with facts of History.

But this puts the Traditionalist wing in a difficult position. If it allows itself to just die out, then it plays into the hands of the CiW: it ratifies the Clear Decision and demonstrates that its own “integrity” was not really an “integrity” at all. If it has any respect for its own “integrity” it must prefer Ms Jackson’s method of making a clean break, putting its neck on the block and allowing the axe to fall. If the Traditional Wing truly believes that it is following the Faith of God, then it simply cannot allow itself to die out. It must leave the CiW and the CofE in order to demonstrate to the world that God’s integrity is the only integrity and that is found in the Catholic Faith that the Anglican Church used to hold throughout its 2000 year old history (polemicists please note: the Church in England appeared very quickly, probably while the apostles were still alive).

So I re-iterate and urge all Traditionalists: let the CiW and the CofE have their way and leave. Don’t die within their walls because that’s their intention. This is the time for Exodus and a wandering in the wilderness where, like the Israelites, you will continue and flourish before you find the Promised Land. Why die in Egypt? Why languish in Babylon? Come out and live again! 

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