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Walking on Broken Glass

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 • 12:46 pm

Let’s make no mistake about it, Monday’s night Synod opens up the possibility of a very serious exodus from the Church of England. The loss of large numbers of Catholics will not leave us with a ‘Reformed’ church, a mouthwatering prospect for earlier generations of evangelicals, but will leave us with yet another liberal protestant denomination.

A new beginning?

What should have been a joyous new beginning for women’s ministry at General Synod on Monday, has been spoiled. Most women I know will not welcome the fact that progress towards ordaining them to the episcopate has been soured by the prospect of an exodus of many traditionalists from the Church of England amid an atmosphere of bitter recrimination.

The choice facing Synod was simple and straightforward. It was to pass legislation with structural provision for traditionalists or not. A code of practice was neither here nor there, because it clearly failed to meet the needs of those for whom it was designed. I am reminded in this of The Episcopal Church’s offer of ‘Delegated Episcopal Oversight’ to traditionalists. This provision was counted a success because it was so rarely used precisely because it was designed only to preserve the rights of diocesan bishops and not to meet the needs of parishes alienated from those very same bishops. It seems that exactly the same ‘winner-takes-all’ attitude has begun to prevail in the Church of England. As I listened to the debate, I sensed a new mood abroad in the Church of England as Synod members coldly and systematically voted down any amendments conceding crumbs to the Anglo-catholics. The Bishop of Winchester described the outcome as ‘mean-spirited’, Andrew Dow referred to a ‘scorched earth policy’.

Let’s make no mistake about it, Monday’s night Synod opens up the possibility of a very serious exodus from the Church of England. The loss of large numbers of Catholics will not leave us with a ‘Reformed’ church, a mouthwatering prospect for earlier generations of evangelicals, but will leave us with yet another liberal protestant denomination. Far from being a national church with coverage throughout the entire country, we will end up with little or no presence in many communities where traditional catholics have ministered so courageously.

The vote to break the stained glass ceiling on women’s ministry may come to be viewed as the moment the whole structure fell, rather than a moment of hope and opportunity.


We are meant to be ‘episcopally led, synodically-governed,’ but there was a strange dearth of leadership from the House of Bishops on Monday night. The best that could be managed was a last-ditch failure by the Bishop of Durham to adjourn the debate as the train wreck happened.

Observers reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury was visibly discomfited at times by the tone and direction of the debate. His deputy in Canterbury, the Bishop of Dover, Stephen Venner, was reduced to tears. Yet while Dr Williams has often given traditionalists hope that he would back a structural solution to their problems of conscience, he seems to have completely ruled out strong leadership on theological and ecclesial issues. Wearing permanently now, it seems, the persona of the mediator, Dr Williams was seen by Synod trying to have it both ways. “I am deeply unhappy with any scheme… which ends up structurally humiliating women.” But he was equally unhappy about marginalising traditionalists. He therefore came “not very comfortably to the conclusion”, we needed a “more rather than less robust form of structural provision”.

The Archbishop by his thoughtfulness, gravity and seriousness carries great weight and affection in General Synod but he failed to use this credit on Monday night. And as for the House of Bishops in general, the one word you will never hear them using these days is ‘collegiality’. The Bishops are pulling in all directions at once. It is no surprise then to see that the Church of England is now synodically-led and governed.

Bleak future

Bishop Tom Wright has been bemoaning the fact that this controversial debate was scheduled to take place on the eve of the Lambeth Conference. He at least will not be surprised if it raises the temperature considerably at the 10-yearly gathering. Following so soon after Gafcon, the tensions and anxieties are already running high. Speculation will be feverish about possible defections to the Roman Catholic Church and a long-rumoured deal between the Vatican and traditionalists. With Gafcon already forming an enclave within the Anglican Communion, the prospects for a united Anglican future look very bleak indeed.

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Andrew Carey writes:

Yet…Dr Williams…seems to have completely ruled out strong leadership on theological and ecclesial issues.

And this is a huge part of the problem.  Undoubtedly, Rowan Williams is nice, smart and a good theologian.  But as is becoming crystal clear, he is not a leader.  And he seems to be completely out of his league when it comes to providing leadership to either the Anglican Communion or the Church of England when these institutions need him the most. 

This is not scapegoating Rowan Williams - this is a simple recitation of the facts.  Leaders can’t always do everything - Anglicanism’s root problems are not Rowan Williams’ fault.  But what is becoming evident is that Rowan Williams is repeatedly squandering the moral authority of his position when he should be stepping up to the plate and providing leadership and direction.

[1] Posted by jamesw on 07-08-2008 at 01:12 PM • top

The Bishop of Winchester described the outcome as ‘mean-spirited’, Andrew Dow referred to a ‘scorched earth policy’

Good, now at least there is no delusion, too often in the US we’ve accepted crumbs and thus as the cancer of worldly thinking has consumed the body, such that actually Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic numbers have been so decimated that even when we lay aside our differences and unite, we could not gain the numbers to overcome the takeover.

Now, do the other “flavors” of the Faithful in the UK understand what the “winner take all” means for them?

[2] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 07-08-2008 at 01:27 PM • top

This is a sobering analysis.  Indeed, this is the moment “the whole structure fell,” vindicating, if not its theology, then certainly the instincts of GAFCON that the center was no longer capable of holding.

Whether, as a proposition, it made intellectual sense or not, the CoE has been the focus of unity for its sister churches.  And so, in choosing decisively to abandon any further pretense to “reformed Catholicism,” it has laid down a marker for the rest of the Communion.  It cannot simply be dismissed as a fringe, such as we tend to do with ECUSA.  Simply put, those provinces, clergy and laity that wish to continue in the Catholic Tradition as Anglicanism feels it has received it must now form whatever structures are necessary to preserve sacramental communion.  Let the dead bury the dead: invitations to tea with the Queen will have to yield in favor of a Truth rather more important.

I also suggest the time has come for Rome to name a new Archbishop of Canterbury, as the incumbent has now discarded even a tenuous claim to the office.  Whatever the organization is that Rowan Williams is leading, it will shortly be no more apostolic than Presbyterianism or Methodism.

[3] Posted by Phil on 07-08-2008 at 01:33 PM • top

It is a very good analysis.

It is the first thing I have read in a while which addresses a real problem for a church lead by synod or convention. The problem is that how you do something is as important as what you do. It seems having reached a majority of the “rightness” of an issue that the change will take care of itself, it doesn’t. No Traditional church can ever hope to maintain authority AND have instant change.

IMHO certain issues dealing with fundamental parts of a church should be seen as Exodus issues. WO, gays, marriage, divorce, abortion, currently but more esoteric based issues in the past. The understanding should be that changes to issues as fundamental as these would not take effect till 40 years after its passage. This would insure that those voting for it do so for sound theological reasons and not because of some perceived benefit, especially to themselves. It was also insure that those in the minority have the time and space to accept these changes or to leave in a dignified manner.

Changing theology based on the current ability to effect the change is just no way to run a church.

[4] Posted by Rocks on 07-08-2008 at 02:11 PM • top

The time has come for GAFCON to name a missionary Archbishop for the British Isles and North America. 

Let the re-evangelization of these mission territories begin!

[5] Posted by Floridian on 07-08-2008 at 02:12 PM • top

I don’t think GAFCON is ready to break with Canterbury, and that is what boundary crossing into England would mean.

[6] Posted by AndrewA on 07-08-2008 at 02:14 PM • top

I wonder if Rowan will cap off his tenure by handing the deed to Christchurch Canterbury over to Benedict?

[7] Posted by Nikolaus on 07-08-2008 at 02:25 PM • top

Great Posting!
“the one word you will never hear them using these days is ‘collegiality’”
Oh my…  And I suppose one other word you will never hear these days is “consensus” and yet another is perhaps “conciliar”.
Sounds like the work of men and not the work of the Holy Spirit.

[8] Posted by Spencer on 07-08-2008 at 02:33 PM • top

The real casualties of the Synod’s actions Monday are the “Establishment” leaders of the C of E. I don’t mean the C of E as the “Established Church”, but those leaders who hold power in the Communion as it exists now.

Those leaders tout their presumed authority to tell unhappy conservatives to rely on them, the established leaders, to hold the revisionists at bay. Drastic reform, such as that endorsed by GAFCON, is unnecessary, they say.

The votes at Synod display the inability of the ABC, the ABY, Durham, Winchester, etc. to exercise the sort of quiet influence they claim to have. Phil (#3) is right that the Synod shows that the center is not holding.

The impotence of the established leadership, demonstrated for the world to see yesterday, strengthens GAFCON, which argues that the orthodox must act to save themselves, and no longer rely on the establishment’s promises. It is a great irony that Bp. Wright, who loudly criticized GAFCON just days ago for doubting the power of the Established leadership to do the right thing, was ignored, along with the rest of the senior leadership, by the Synod. Bp. Wright, if you read this, know that it not only can happen in England, it has.

I don’t understand the legal relationship between the English House of Bishops and Synod. Does anyone know whether the Bishops can overrule what Synod did yesterday?

Authority to do so does not equate will; who knows what result the ABC or other leaders really wanted yesterday. As usual, the ABC’s intentions are ambiguous. Rowan Williams simply doesn’t seem to understand that his ambiguity weakens, rather than strengthens, his ability to lead the Communion. So once again Rowan Williams ends up in the following position: he either manipulated Synod’s result yesterday without wishing to do so openly, or was ineffective at preventing Synod from acting over his opposition.

GAFCON could hardly ask for better evidence that drastic reform of the Communion is imperative now. Yesterday’s Synod votes will accelerate the realignment of the Communion.

I do not mean to overlook the injury to those who cannot in conscience accept WO. But the greater damage yesterday’s vote inflicted was on the C of E’s leaders.

[9] Posted by Publius on 07-08-2008 at 02:45 PM • top

Baby Blue helpfully analyzes and compares the factions in the CoE and TEC in a comment here:

[10] Posted by Floridian on 07-08-2008 at 03:00 PM • top

Publius, Excellent post!!  Concise, to the point, and sounds dead on the money.  I made the comment that Rowan and KJS are welded together on a very slowly sinking ship.  Do you think KJS and TEC will chuck Rowan and COE as inconsequential, or even an impediment?  I have stated I believe that TEC wants the good brand name that COE affiliation gives them, but after reading your post, ironically, the radical left may not want anything to do with COE.  Remember when Sarah or Matt or someone had a post titled something to the effect of “The Middle Fell Apart” when describing New Orleans.  We are now getting the same thing happening on a more Global scale.  Any comments?

[11] Posted by Looking for Leaders on 07-08-2008 at 03:08 PM • top

ABC secretly supported Synod vote (so we can’t trust him) or couldn’t influence Synod (so we can’t rely on him).  Either way, orthodox don’t need him.

[12] Posted by stevenanderson on 07-08-2008 at 03:18 PM • top

I am very lucky in the timing of my life.  I have ridden grand passenger trains pulled by steam locomotives.  They are all gone, but I can savor the memories.  There are little museums here and there which still run a steam engine for a mile or two, and now and then a longer trip.  There tends to be a lot of infighting within and among these museums.

Those great old trains took years to die off, but the imminent death was evident for a long time before the “last run”.  Similarly, the imminent death of orthodox anglo-catholicism has been evident since the 1970s; it’s just that hopes for a last-minute reprise didn’t come crashing into oblivion until yesterday’s stark revisionist smackdown.  Now the little anglo-catholic preservationist groups will begin, and continue to bicker among themselves like the railway museums and Affirmation “continuers”.  Very sad.

I am lucky to have experienced what Bishop Stanley Atkins termed “beautiful worship” back when it was real, not the theatrical performance, “in language written by a committee of accountants”, followed by coffee, that it has become in the US since 1979. I have the memories of the real days, thank God!!

[13] Posted by Long Gone Anglo Catholic on 07-08-2008 at 03:22 PM • top

Remember when Sarah or Matt or someone had a post titled something to the effect of “The Middle Fell Apart” when describing New Orleans.

Commenters/Elves - Link please?
Thank you-

[14] Posted by Intercessor on 07-08-2008 at 03:30 PM • top

Upon searching, it seems Sarah wrote the article you have in mind, but after TEC’s GC06.  Here are 3 likely-looking possibilities:

[15] Posted by Milton on 07-08-2008 at 04:31 PM • top

By the way, Intercessor, yesterday is forgotten, and I can only try to imagine your grief at Gen. Synod’s actions.  Perhaps they are a more focused and pointed version of my own struggles to decide whether to stay in my own TEC congregation (thankfully in DioTN, not a hostile diocese).  Because of yesterday’s unavoidably obvious beginning of the final disintegration of CoE and this coming on top of more private reasons coming to a head recently, it seems increasingly clear that my worship home likely will change soon, and perhaps not even to the closest AMiA church, which has a faithful priest under whose ministry it has seemed to grow and prosper.  But even if you or I should dwell in the remotest part of the sea, the LORD encloses us all around, and has laid His very right hand upon us!

[16] Posted by Milton on 07-08-2008 at 04:40 PM • top

I can’t help but think that the GS GAFCON organizeres will sign onto this innovation. +Peter Akinola and +Henry Orombi for sure as well as our own +Gregory Venables. I don’t think at the time of the Jerusalem Declaration was written and released they thought that the CofE Synod would go this direction. This, I would think, have to change a few things and we will possibly hear more after Lambeth. I am hoping anyway.

[17] Posted by TLDillon on 07-08-2008 at 04:58 PM • top

As far as I am concerned, the clique which has taken over Church of England has amply justifed the concerns of the GAFCON attendees. I cannot beleive that it has any future at all any more. If I cared, I’d be more saddened than I am. As it is, I have become inured to the spectacle of ecclesiastical lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff simply in order to get hold of the historic assets of the Church for themselves and their particular priorities. With all my heart I pray that every single Anglo-Catholic bishop, priest, and parishioner wll abandon the erastian sham which is called the C of E.

[18] Posted by A Senior Priest on 07-08-2008 at 05:19 PM • top

The best that could be managed was a last-ditch failure by the Bishop of Durham to adjourn the debate as the train wreck happened.

And we are still waiting for NT Wright and the denizens at Fulcrum to crawl out from under the rubble and provide a public response to this debacle the Open Evangelicals helped create.  I just checked ... no post yet.


[19] Posted by carl on 07-08-2008 at 05:28 PM • top

The GAFCON primates/bishops/whoever would do well to gather NOW (as an emergency meeting) and settle the GAFCON/FoCA position on the ordination of women to the diaconate/priesthood/episcopate ASAP.  If they say “NO” to such ordinations, (& I fully realize that some churches will be reversing their current practice in order to do this), they have a chance to receive the traditionalists in the UK as well as in the US.  If they say “We’ll defer the matter until later,” they will have missed the moment, and if not the majority, the “best and brightest” will go to Rome (possibly Anglican-Use) or to the Orthodox Western-Rite.  The Anglo-Catholics (FiF-UK) surprised us all this morning by announcing that they do not intend to deliberate overlong before taking action.  GAFCON/FoCA can be prepared for that action and offer a welcome haven, or let it go by for ever to the loss of their own strength and the further weakening of WW Anglicanism.

[20] Posted by rwightman+ on 07-08-2008 at 05:33 PM • top

I hope someone is listening to you rwightman+.

[21] Posted by oscewicee on 07-08-2008 at 05:38 PM • top

Is Andrew Carey writing for SF?  Cool.

[22] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 07-08-2008 at 05:41 PM • top

Excellent analysis, Andrew!  Thank you!

It occurred to me this afternoon that what might be happening is akin to how those in the western part of the United States combat forest fires.  It seems to be totally counter-intuitive and disastrous, that it would only make the fire worse - but in fact, it is how one does combat massive forest fires in the western part of the United States.

We know the phrase: fight fire with fire.  In this case, the forest fires that become out-of-control are like the actions taken by The Episcopal Church regarding what they define as “full inclusion.”  With the election and consecration of Gene Robinson and the continuing endorsement by bishops to permit, without discipline, same sex marriages in Episcopal Churches, a fire has broken out in the Anglican Communion that is out of control.  So what is one to do, if one is the Church of England?

Why, you fight fire with fire.  You take another issue, a massive issue to traditionalists, and sink them.  This splits them off from their new allies, the evangelicals - and even the evangelicals themselves are split as well.  So instead of actually solving the issue brought on by the tearing of the fabric of the Communion by the Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada, instead start another fire that breaks up the firestorm coming from the North American continent.  That a few British Anglo Catholics are lost in the fire seems to be inconsequential when compared to the enormous benefit of the institutional apparatus (which actually does appear to be liberal Anglo Catholic now) to neutralize opposition.  It’s brilliant because the opponents, now split, take themselves out by either fleeing to Rome or abandoning Canterbury.  Too bad about the traditionalists - but it wasn’t the evangelicals that threw them under the bus.  No, not at all, as Bishop Wright demonstrated.

The deal is - and this is where the rest of us come in - one can only build one’s throne so high before the laity wake up.  And the laity are waking up, as we saw at All Souls last week.  It is the laity that woke up in the United States and it’s the laity now waking up in the Church of England, laity who have, for all intensive purposes, stayed out of the institutional fray all these years who are now waking up.  This is why we must now think strategically and not be carried away with our emotional reaction at the moment.  There is nothing like an aroused laity to stir things up (as any rector knows) and if these bishops and institutional bureaucrats are not careful, they may have another firestorm on their hands.

But that is only if we hang together - and not hang separately.  We must remember who our friends are, even as we disagree, and who our adversaries are.


[23] Posted by BabyBlue on 07-08-2008 at 07:44 PM • top

Bravo BB

[24] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 07-08-2008 at 07:49 PM • top

Thank you Milton for your kind words. I know that God will answer your prayers as your worship life is just as important to him as it is for you and we both know that God NEVER fails the faithful.

My prayers for you.

[25] Posted by Intercessor on 07-08-2008 at 07:55 PM • top

Baby Blue, in 2000 the NPS started a controled burn in Bandlier Canyon. Winds changed.The Cero Grande firestorm destroyed over 400 dwellings and 10’s of thousands of acres to be NM’s most destructive forest fire.

Controled burns need conditions to remain within a tight range. It’s out of control time in the system that is Lambeth Anglicanism. The myth that Anglicanism isn’t one dysfunctional system is dying in the shadow of this fire and the metastasized cancer cluster.

[26] Posted by Bob Maxwell+ on 07-08-2008 at 09:46 PM • top

The Archbishop by his thoughtfulness, gravity and seriousness carries great weight and affection in General Synod but he failed to use this credit on Monday night.

As he has usually failed on many moments come and gone in the past 5+ years.

“...the prospects for a united Anglican future look very bleak indeed.”

That’s a pretty heavy millstone around +Rowans neck that will mark him forever in history. But, hey….maybe he doesn’t care much about that.

[27] Posted by TLDillon on 07-08-2008 at 11:30 PM • top

As I see the Anglican Communion fall I believe GAFCON can not save what was but should declare a new communion. Without the broad church (Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, & Moderate) this becomes another liberal do what you like non-Christian cult. Next will come homosexual blessings and marriage, one has already taken place without any sanctions.

[28] Posted by Baruch on 07-09-2008 at 12:34 AM • top

Fr. Maxwell, in some training I received through the TX Dept. of Parks & Wildlife, we learned that the term “controlled burn” is dillusional.  They might be called “scheduled burns,” and are necessary and beneficial at times, but nobody, NOBODY controls fire.  As in this analogy, unexpected consequences often result.

[29] Posted by Cindy T. in TX on 07-09-2008 at 07:57 AM • top

Remember, when objectivity is not recognized, when morality is not recogonized - all civility is gone. Then its all about power and “might makes right”. You have witnessed it from this news from England and have witnessed it yourself in the United States. Can there be any doubt left? Without a leader to put everyone back on the ojective, moral path it is over for the AC; as it is already over for TEC.

[30] Posted by Conoscenzo on 07-09-2008 at 08:12 AM • top

BabyBlue, I agree with your analysis in general.  However, the Jerusalem Primates need to issue a statement quite soon to the effect that they understand that traditionalists on this issue need a safe harbor that will not suddenly be closed to them when this crisis is over.  There is a very unhappy history of evangelicals saying this is just an anglo-catholic problem (which is not entirely true, even in TEC).  Hanging together will require some work on BOTH sides.

[31] Posted by Katherine on 07-09-2008 at 09:33 AM • top

I think one key element of Anglo-Catholicism that’s being over looked in recent postings about the Synod vote as well as GAFCON is our desire for ultimate sacramental union with Rome. The tragedy of the COE’s vote is that it places what was already a distant goal completely beyond reach. Now that that possibility is gone, we are faced with a difficult choice: leaving for Rome or aligning ourselves with some alternative structure within the Communion. The problem with the latter is that it undermines the raison d’etre of Anglo-Catholicism. It’s reminiscent of the troubles in England during the 1850s, when Anglo-Catholics suffered a series of setbacks. During the struggle, Archdeacon Robert Wilberforce proposed that a group leave the established Church and begin a breakaway Free Church. Henry Edward Manning quipped in response, “Three hundred years ago we left a good ship for a boat; I am not going to leave the boat for a tub.” If the noble dream of Anglo-Catholicism is to die, we might as well grab the thuribles, altar candles, and rosary beads and fashion some sort of flotation device until someone from the ship (Benedict for example) throws us a life line.

[32] Posted by JoshuaB on 07-09-2008 at 11:33 AM • top

God bless you, Andrew, and, unfortunately, I agree: very bleak indeed. 

Any chance we can get your Dad back?

[33] Posted by Passing By on 07-09-2008 at 07:43 PM • top

Fine.  Except I suspect the opening paragraph will be (or was) true for only about 1/16th of a second.  Folks - they don’t give a damn WHAT they have to do to “win”.

[34] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 07-10-2008 at 05:58 AM • top


Are you referring to Lord Carey who said that opponents of WO are heretics?  Do you mean THAT George Carey?  Are we really heretics for adhering to catholic faith and order, Lord Carey?

BigTex AC

[35] Posted by BigTex AC on 07-10-2008 at 08:51 AM • top

Re. 35.
Twenty years ago, before he was even Archbishop of Canterbury, he made a remark which he regretted and apologised immediately for. Where’s forgiveness gone? In any case, he wasn’t attacking opponents of women priest in general, but was opposing a particular theological argument. Thankfully of course he was subsequently able to build some very strong relationships with traditional catholics in the C of E and elsewhere and the provision of so-called ‘flying bishops’ was the result.

[36] Posted by Andrew S Carey on 07-10-2008 at 10:15 AM • top

#35—When I met Lord Carey at VTS in the 90’s, it was obvious to me he did not feel that way.  Plus, I don’t have a problem with it if people want to support WO, I have a problem with the fact that no provision was made for Anglo-Catholics in both the C of E and TEC, just for starters.  Just ask Bishop Iker about all the love he’s felt over the years from TEC “leadership”...

Personally, too, if anyone wants to call ME a heretic, I really don’t care, because my skin is thick and I know I’m not one.  A sinner, yeah(albeit repentent), but a heretic, no.  grin 

Last night my clergyman spouse wondered aloud what Archbishop Carey thought of all this stuff.  By no means do I expect Andrew to comment, but I thought his family might like my response.  I told my husband, “Well, I can’t say for sure, but as a foundryman’s daughter I can imagine it might be punctuated with bricklayer’s language and by no means would I object or disagree”.  grin 

God’s love all around and may He help us all—


[37] Posted by Passing By on 07-10-2008 at 01:32 PM • top

By the way, that’s His Eminence, Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, by the way.

[38] Posted by Ed the Roman on 07-11-2008 at 11:18 AM • top

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