Solution to polity woes for C of E
The General Synod of the Church of England is meeting in York this weekend (more info here). As I write this, they are engaged in debate about women bishops. It seems that most Synod members favor the ordination of women to the episcopate, but there is great division about how to provide for those who do not accept the ministry of ordained women. Just a few minutes ago, an amendment that would have created “flying dioceses” for conservatives was roundly rejected. I’m pleased to report that I have the perfect solution, and I’m happy for someone in Synod to move this suggestion with no need to call it the “Seven whole days Plan” or to mention this blog’s URL in the session.
Here’s my idea: simply allow parishes who don’t care for women bishops to transfer their allegiance to the Church of Nigeria! That way, they’ll be guaranteed to have a bishop who is not a woman and who won’t have touched them in the course of ordinations. The Church of England won’t have to deal with complicated flying bishops, flying dioceses, or flying anything.
What’s that, you say? Parallel jurisdictions are messy?! That’s ridiculous?! We can’t divide the church that way?! Well, it turns out that Synod more or less approved this kind of scheme back in February when it gave some recognition (or at least failed to condemn) this exact plan as it gets lived out here in the US. Synod members expressed their outrage at lawsuits and clergy discipline against those who have transferred themselves to CANA from ECUSA.
So here’s the plan. For those who wish to remain in the Church of England, the single clause measure, as presented, can be passed. Women will be bishops. Period. No need to devise a scheme that compromises the integrity of women bishops diocesan.
For those parishes who can’t abide the thought of women bishops, their PCC can vote themselves out of the C of E and into the Church of Nigeria. The C of E will give them their building and avoid discipline against departing clergy. It really should work out just fine, at least based on Synod’s previous assessment of how things have worked here in the US.
This way, everyone gets to live happily ever after. The C of E gets the ministry of women bishops, unfettered. Conservatives have a home within Anglicanism, and no need to head off to Rome. The Church of Nigeria can lay siege to Canterbury, since they seem to enjoy a good battle.
What, you don’t like that plan? You think maybe Synod was wrong about how things have worked out in the Episcopal Church? Or, more accurately, what Synod thought to be OK in the USA won’t fly (no pun intended) in England? Yeah, me too. I really think the single clause measure, as presented, is the way to go. It preserves the apostolic authority of all bishops whilst expecting that people will behave in a grace-filled manner, providing pastoral care and sacramental ministry for those with whom they disagree.
I hope Synod passes the Measure without amendment, as the Revision Committee worked on it. Won’t it be nice when the debate in the English House of Bishops is informed by women? Wouldn’t it be nice if Synod could spend most of its energy on mission instead of minutia of polity?
UPDATE: Another idea occurred to me. Instead of creating more flying bishops, why not fly a few bishops from the US over there? They could offer some oversight to parishes who want to get on with things. In exchanges for services rendered, the ECUSA House of Bishops could take Jeffrey John as its newest member.