Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Church politics across the Atlantic: Beneath the surface

I have not commented recently on church politics, mostly because there isn't much new to say and the topic is tedious. And I've said this before: church politics is like tectonic plates under the earth. The movement is beneath the surface where it can't be seen, and the tension builds, eventually resulting in an earthquake. We feel the earthquakes, but don't see what is beneath the surface.

There is considerable movement beneath the surface in the Church of England these days, with a great deal of angst, tension, and controversy over the idea that a woman (!) might be ordained a bishop. In the Episcopal Church, we crossed that river two decades ago, but for the mother church this is still a Rubicon yet to be crossed. Adding to the tension, the Vatican has been making moves to attract CofE priests to the Roman fold.

If Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams seems a bit distracted these days, he has good reason. Some commentators believe 1,000 priests will depart his church if a woman is ordained a bishop.

Of course, these events affect more than his small not-so-merry church in England; it will have unforeseen repercussions throughout the Anglican Communion of which we are a part. It always seems to work that way.

That said, the far bigger crisis by far is in the Roman Catholic Church, not the Anglican Communion.

I came across this commentary by Colin See in U.K. Guardian the other day, and I commend it to you. It is reasonable, avoids hyperventilation, and sets things in factual context:
A Haven from Crisis: Disillusioned Catholics can find solace in a church that combines tradition and modernity
By Colin See

Twenty-five years ago I had an engaging conversation with Cardinal Hume in which I asked if the Roman Catholic church would ordain married men or single women first. His reply was unequivocal: "Single women." When I expressed surprise, he pointed to the outstanding women in Roman Catholic religious orders and said: "And we can't afford a married priesthood. The Church of England pays you a stipend on which a family can live, we pay pocket money; it houses you, we would have to convert every presbytery into a family home – it would bankrupt us." He was commendably honest and pragmatic, avoiding indefensible doctrine.

Last year seven men were ordained priest in the Roman Catholic church in the UK: there were 574 ordained in the CofE (of whom 274 were women). There is a crisis looming for the Vatican and they just don't get it: the priesthood is ageing and diminishing, something must be done or the church will implode.

To read the full commentary, click HERE.

Photo of the Bell Harry Tower at Canterbury Cathedral, taken during our 2003 pilgrimage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Does the CoE's northern neighbor, the Episcopal Church of Scotland, have women bishops?