The English General Synod: The Centre Cannot Hold

The Revd Charles RavenBy Charles Raven, SPREAD

If Lorna Ashworth’s Private Member’s Motion ‘That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America’ is passed by the Church of England’s General Synod tomorrow, she will have done a great service to English Anglicans as well as the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) because it is as much about the English Church as the Church in North America.

She poses precisely the sort of question that the Church of England’s leadership wants to avoid because the ACNA represents a choice which must be made between two incompatible forms of religion – historic biblical Anglicanism and that pseudo- Anglicanism being promoted by TEC and its allies which derives its energy from the spirit of the age rather than the Spirit of Christ.

Unsurprisingly, the English House of Bishops has proposed an amendment, to be put by the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Rev Mike Hill, which will dilute and delay the original motion by asking Synod to recognise and affirm the desire of ACNA to remain in the Communion with the Archbishops being invited to report back to the Synod in 2011. While such prevarication is no doubt not his intention, according to the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt  the Bishop of Bristol’s amendment is simply a recognition of the church constitutional reality that ‘it is not in fact the role of the Church of England to make these kind of decisions, nor is it for Synod to make these kind of decisions’.

But in that case something pretty odd is happening – the Church of England through its Synod has considered itself perfectly competent to change fundamentally the Church’s historic orders by assenting to the ordination of women to the presbyterate in 1992 and then proposing not only their consecration to the episcopate in 2007, but also attempting to force conscience by making no legal provision for those who cannot as a matter of principle accept the validity of female orders. Now the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, as chair of the legislative Steering Committee, has confirmed to Synod that any such provision has been ruled out. And yet it is held that a Synod which can introduce such drastic changes is not competent to express a view on what should be the much less controversial question of recognising unquestionably orthodox Anglicans in North America who are being systematically harassed by official Anglican Churches with a increasingly implausible claim to orthodoxy.

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