Sunday, December 02, 2012

Importing Disorder

It was a bad and destructive idea in 1974, and it remains so today. Various progressives are bouncing around the idea of "solving" the Church of England's women bishop impasse by finding three bishops to consecrate a woman in defiance of canons. The prototype for this, according to the Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton (generally referred to as the originator of this idea) is the consecration of Samuel Seabury by the non-Jurors; but as should surprise nobody, the historical parallel is flimsy. The whole point of consecration by the non-Jurors, as anyone who has gotten through ECUSA 101 knows, is that they were not bound by the canon law that prevented regular bishops of the English church from performing the consecration. Anyone can read for themselves that consecration a woman without approval from one of the archbishops (which I wouldn't count on, under the circumstances) is patently in violation of Canons C 2.1 and C 2.5, so such a rite would be not a clever solution to a canonical conundrum, but a bald act of deviance.

But that's really what's wanted anyway, I gather. The vituperation directed toward those women who voted against the measure reveals the lack of progressive patience and tolerance coming from this side of the pond; but then their forbearance against their own traditionalists already says what needs to be said. Driving the troglodytes away is apparently the mission of the church.

What's going to happen instead, if the usual C of E political processes go forward, is that the provisions for the traditionalists will end up looking like what we have now under Fulham, and the first consecration will happen in the not-distant future. This is not a bad thing for anyone, really. The church should have women as bishops, but it isn't an emergency that England does not yet have one. Parity of numbers is not justice; it is entitlement. I would suspect that, over time, the number of surviving Anglo-Catholic parishes will dwindle to nothing, but I do not see the value of hurrying this along except that it gratifies those who want to see that movement destroyed.

And in any case, anyone in England can see the fruits of such sacramental defiance by looking to the American church. The failure of church discipline seen in Pike's acquittal and the regularization of the Philadelphia women has led to a church in which nothing is really prohibited except a lack of subservience to the hierarchy. Oh, there are a few hardheaded dioceses where bishops take action against problem clerics, but for instance no sane person can believe that the defeat of the proposal to commune the unbaptized means that the number of parishes doing so anyway is going decline, except through closure of non-viable congregations.

The Church of England has enough of its own peculiar problems without importing ours to add to them. Move consecration of women forward, but do so charitably and orderly.

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