So, the old debate that has gone on for thirty years, that has divided parishes, dioceses, provinces and even families is still raging on in the world's third largest denomination of Christianity: Anglicanism. The following article was published in the New York Times where in the USA the debate has moved on apace to the ordination of homosexuals; here in England, we have yet to ordain women as Bishops, having taken twenty years longer than our American counterparts to ordain women to the priesthood. So Ms Kramer gives her expose on the state of the argument in the CofE... A Canterbury Tale...
Interestingly Ruth Gledhill, Religious Affairs Correspondent of , "The Times" has blogged highligthing some of the more interesting quotes from the people interviewed by Ms Kramer:
"I’m eager to see women ordained [bishop],' he said, 'and at the same time very reluctant to see a decision made that will cost us some very, very valuable people. . . . There is something in that Catholic tradition, which is where I come from, which would be much poorer if we lost [them]." ++Rowan Cantaur
Well indeed, yet, and I know this is controversial, there are very very few really Catholic-minded folk left in the CofE. The trouble is that some confuse aping Roman Catholic ceremonial with Catholic Faith and Tradition, yet these are not synonymous; wearing a chasuble and asking for Our Lady's intercession are indeed part of the "Catholic" cultural tradition, but they are not truly "Catholic" unless combined with traditional Faith and Praxis. This is the fundamental "problem" with the concept of the ordination of women as priests i.e. presbyters, this is not the "received tradition" of the Church and more than that, it is not and could never be a part of the "Catholic Faith". The best and perhaps only argument for the ordination of women is presented by Ms Kramer...
"The legal argument runs this way: given the Church’s [sic. CofE] special status, priests are functionaries of the state, and, because of this, its claim to a “religious exemption” in regard to women in the episcopate violates both Britain’s and Europe’s anti-discrimination laws. The Scriptural argument, in brief, is this: there is nothing in the Gospels that precludes women from priestly service; Christ called men and women “equal in my hands,” and when conservatives in the Church counter that if Christ had wanted women bishops he would not have made all his apostles men, the women ask them why, then, did Christ choose two women to witness and announce the Resurrection." [ref. Jane Kramer]
...however, the assertion that "there is nothing in the Gospels that precludes women from priestly service" is flawed. The reason why women cannot be priests is not limited to the fact that Christ didn't choose women to be his Apostles but rather is dependent on a fully Catholic understanding of the Mystery of the Incarnation, the meaning of "in pserona Christi" in the Mass... even the Pope can't change that! [I'll repost an older entry I made on our Parish Blog which illustrates all that!]
"She also interviewed Father Geoffrey Kirk, describing him as an 'unabashedly misogynist London vicar who is the national secretary of Forward in Faith.' Father Kirk told Kramer that for him, the tipping point was TEC's’ election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as their presiding bishop. He called it 'a fundamental scandal' and added, 'I think Mrs Jefferts Schori is a layperson. It’s not my doing. They decided.' He said that a shoplifter was 'more qualiﬁed, per se,' to be a bishop than a woman was, so long as the shoplifter didn’t say that shoplifting was good, or that he was a Marxist spreading the wealth around." [ref. Ruth Gledhill]
Well, an unfortunate choice of words and analogy and very out of character for one usually so erudite! Fr Kirk does betray here however a lack of appreciation for the Catholic Faith and Tradition. There are many, I know, who would "shoot me down" for suggesting that Fr Kirk of all people is "less than Catholic" but his argument that Katherine Jefferts Schori's primatial election was for him the proverbial "last straw" is to my mind, pretty poor. Rather, the ordination of women as priests in the CofE let alone twenty years prior in the States with the CofE remaining in communion with PECUSA [now TEC], should've prompted him to seek a more ecclesial and orthodox situation for himself far sooner. Quite why he and others are now hammering on the door of the Holy See for an accomodation when they've happily put up with unorthodox praxis and remained "in communion" for this long, is beyond me...
"Kramer also offers interesting insights on the behind-the-scenes deals done here in England between conservatives and evangelicals.
Kirk apparently told her that he and the other Forward in Faith priests hedged their bets with the Vatican by making a marriage of convenience, or, in his words, 'co-belligerency', with their most conservative evangelical counterparts in the Church of England.
The understanding was, according to Kramer, that the evangelicals, who she describes as Biblical fundamentalists who consider homosexuality an abomination, would lead the ﬁght against gay bishops, while the conservative Anglo-Catholics, as the fundamentalists of tradition, would do the same with women." [ref. Ruth Gledhill]
Indeed, and here we have it again, the absolute argument why so-called "traditionalists" or "orthodox Catholics" in the CofE should actually remain "Anglican" and not become Roman Catholics! Clearly betrayed here is the fact that the desire to become Roman Catholics is motivated not solely by a desire to be in communion with the Holy See but because actually they now have lost the "battle" in the CofE to keep the "status quo". This was made clear when Fr Kirk suggested in his opening address at the Foreward in Faith Extraordinary Assembly of October last year, that Anglicanorum Coetibus was "plan B"!
"Quo Vadis?" "Where are you going?" These were the words of St. Peter to our Lord, as tradition has it, as St. Peter was running away from Rome in A.D. 64. When Jesus responded, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." St. Peter questioned, "You will to be crucified again?" Jesus: "Yes, I shall again be crucified." St. Peter, ashamedly: "Lord, I will return and follow you." At that Jesus ascended into heaven and St. Peter was crucified, upside down since he deemed himself unworthy of being crucified as was our Lord.
St. Peter was running: running from that to which God had called him, running from the Cross. Each of us has those moments in our lives when we hear the voice of the Lord gently or boisterously asking, "Where are you going?" One of the most important ways in which our Lord asks us this is in regard to our vocation. Where are you going? What are you doing? Do you hear my voice calling you? Perhaps we even hear him asking, "Why are you running? Do you not know that all is well for you in my providence?"
Now, I know there are many who might be upset by what I have suggested here, particularly with regard to the motivations of others. I have many that I regard as friends, brothers even, who are "traditionalist Anglicans" and are members of the CofE. I appreciate that there has been and remains, considerable soul-searching within the hearts of those who were born Anglican, found the Catholic Faith even within Anglicanism and now are forced to reconsider and re-evaluate what being "Catholic" actually means.
However, there are others who realised much sooner, or who followed their consciences far earlier, who have now already become Roman Catholic, or indeed fully Anglican Catholic, Old Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic expressing the Faith received from the First Millenium of the Tradition. I myself, am one, who found the fullness of the Faith in the Anglican Catholic tradition of the CofE, but who has now found another home more closely aligned to the culture, teaching and praxis of the received Apostolic Tradition. None of this happened without a full sharing of heartache and soul-searching, of blind alleys and false starts, indeed, a lot of pain and angst, not a few mistakes and wrong turnings! However, I and others have done it and "did not count the cost" in doing so... there comes a time when actually a "leap of faith" needs must be taken with regard to material concerns, as Our Lord Himself indicated [Matt 19:27-29]. I may not have a nice house, a rich stipend and expenses, but yet the Lord has provided me with a ministry, a place to live and money enough to put food on my table.
One is minded of the type of scenario a Spiritual Director might face with one who has been contemplating the Religious life and is ready to take that final step... "Embrace freedom, my child" the SD says, "but I will lose everything" replies the postulant, "no, my child, you will gain everything"! Talk to any Religious brother or sister and they will explain that in surrendering everything, embracing poverty, they felt a tremendous sense of freedom, of liberation from the constraints of the material world. They threw themselves into God's Providence by embracing the Religious life and in so doing, gained everything and lost nothing...
This is how I feel, a little, with some of my CofE friends. It is a scary prospect to decide to leave security for Providence. It seems imprudent, foolish even. Yet, it generally is the most liberating and exciting of experiences and God never lets anyone down who puts their trust in Him. It is a leap of faith. It is a step forward into the dark. It is a leap into the unknown.
Does God want strife, stress, compromise for His Catholic children? I think not. I write as one with experience of having given up everything to follow God. I write as one for whom life has not been easy but for whom God has done marvellous things; I have a home, I live out my vocation, I have a moderate income and I am not alone. This Parish, the fraternity of priests I belong to, the sense of fraternity and family around my Bishop, the many friends I have found since trusting myself to God, all confirm for me that embracing Him is the only real and tangible way of existing as a Catholic in the 21st Century. Forget "Shrine Churches" and rambling Presbyteries... embrace LIFE and live it! Embrace The Faith and live it!