Meanwhile in the Church of England . . .

Is the Church of England headed for a crack up similar to that experienced by The Episcopal Church?  Andrew Sabisky writes a pessimistic piece on the church’s future prospects after its recent General Synod over at The Catholic Herald.

Leading conservative Synod members seem to have left in a state of mind verging on despair. They have suffered no major defeats, but seem confident that it’s only a matter of time. The general consensus is that the “middle third” of Synod has no more appetite for gruelling fights or media uproar, and will quietly acquiesce to liberal demands for church blessings of same-sex marriage, to be shortly followed by same-sex marriage itself.

Nor does anyone think that this will meet with any more than token resistance amongst the Church’s bishops, who seem to have largely abolished their own traditional role in developing doctrine, and handed it over to Synod. The Church selects bishops largely on their ability to avoid controversy and act as (at least nominal) figures of unity, a near-impossible role in a Church marked out by so many theological divisions. They are very carefully chosen so as not to have strong opinions on matters of faith. Consequently the ranks of the episcopacy are packed full of weak men. The chronic cowardice is part of the reason why their instinctive response to child abuse is cover-up, not rigorous public investigation.

Previously I was convinced that church liberalism would shortly hit its high-water mark and decline rapidly, simply because it is so bad at reproducing itself: the liberals would give way to the more orthodox younger clergy. In reality, though, it seems as though the Church of England is more likely to simply wind up going down the same path as The Episcopal Church in America, where it has dramatically fragmented as it liberalized. The orthodox either went to the various Continuing Anglican churches – most notably the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) – or became Roman Catholics. The seeds of such fragmentation are already being laid in the UK via the consecration by ACNA of a missionary bishop for the UK and Europe, who will operate outside the structures of the Church of England.

5 thoughts on “Meanwhile in the Church of England . . .

  1. Splitting hairs, the missionary bishop actually was consecrated and sent by the larger Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), of which the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a member. GAFCON, represents over 2/3 of the membership of the Anglican Communion, encompassing the conservative provinces of Africa and of the “Southern Cone” (apparently, South America), is essentially in schism with both The Episcopal Church here in the States and with the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC), and very close to schism with the Anglican Church in Australia (ACA), over the “progressive” — but heretical — “reforms” of these bodies. This article is strongly suggesting that the remnant of the Church of England (CoE) is about to come down on the wrong side of this.

    The first real question is what GAFCON will do to establish its own “instruments of communion” following a real split with the CoE, and thus, implicitly, with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The See of Peter is clearly one option, though it would require some significant changes in at least some of the GAFCON provinces.

    And the second real question is what will happen to groups that leave the CoE over the anticipated “reforms.” Coalescing around GAFCON’s missionary bishop clearly would be one option, and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham would be another. I would not be surprised by another wave of communities entering the latter body with their clergy.



    • The news from Rochester is very long overdue, and most welcome! One has to laud the manner in which the St. Alban Fellowship has endured without an ordinariate pastor! I admire the manner in which the members have persevered in faith, looking forward in joyful anticipation of this day! I pray that former Anglicans who have come into the full communion of the Catholic Church through diocesan parishes will learn of that community, gravitate to it, and add to their number, and that Bishop Matano and his staff will be supportive of the Fellowship and its new pastor.

      Incidentally, there’s a notice about ecumenical dialog and prayer between the Diocese of Rochester and its parishes and the local synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and its parishes. The most recent documents in dialog between the Lutheran World Federation, of which ELCA is a member, and the Vatican are about concrete ways forward to full communion. I anticipate that this will eventually culminate in the establishment of ordinariates or similar ecclesial structures within the Catholic Church for the member bodies of the Lutheran World Federation.



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