Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

resistance is futile: toward a welcoming ecclesial community

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 02, 2006

Vision Book Cover Prints

One lump or two? It's TEA-time for intractables. The Church of England, unable to convince conservatives to admit defeat and embrace the future, has prepared yet another tranquilizer dart filled with several harmless-sounding new acronyms, designed to numb remaining opposition to BBC-3 and the Holy Ghost:

The latest provision for those opposed to the consecration of women bishops could see a parish given the power to opt out of the local bishop's pastoral care and look to a representative of either Archbishop under plans being considered by the House of Bishops. A draft of the 62-page document, marked 'strictly confidential' on every page, was approved in October of this year, and has been leaked to The Church of England Newspaper. Sources say what is outlined in this draft is close to the final blueprint that will be unveiled at the General Synod in February.

Transferred Episcopal Arrangements (TEA) is the 'carrot' designed to appease traditionalists who threaten to drive a wedge through the Church if their needs are not adequately catered for. Under the proposals, jurisdiction will be transferred to the Metropolitan, with the 'episcopal ministry' being provided by a Provincial Episcopal Commissary (PEC) appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury or York. The PEC would exercise aspects of the Archbishop's authority over those parishes that had applied for TEA, including pastoral care, sacramental and disciplinary procedures and any matters relating to ordinands, while others would be delegated back to the diocesan bishop. ...

The document declaring the bishops' approval of TEA as the most realistic way forward states: "It would enable the main body of the Church to proceed without the discriminatory provisions against women's ministry. It believes that it would offer the most satisfactory way of providing adequate pastoral safeguards for those opposed to the ordination of women bishops while at the same time maintaining the highest possible degree of communion between those with differing views on the question."

OK, if you were running Ladbrokes, what odds would you offer for the approval of female bishops in the Church of England? 5 to 1 in favor? 10 to 1 in favor? 1,500 to 1 in favor? In fact, you'd never post an offering at all, because the drift toward "progress" is inexorable, and all your punters know the fix is in. Wagering against approval is tantamount to wagering that England will be wiped out by an asteroid -- which is, in fact, the most realistic chance that The Inevitable will be thwarted in this case.

I have already commented on the difficulties that surfaced last summer regarding the pretense that the women-bishop question was really an open one:

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, has moved to reassure female clergy of his support for women bishops, but said that there was a danger that prematurely starting the process to allow women bishops could be seen as "knee-jerk reaction." He added: "I will do all in my power to ensure that wise and charitable debate on points of major difference, rather than crowbarring our way to our desired solution, will be the normal modus operandi within the Church."

The call for veresimilitude in faking a plausibly even-handed theological exchange came a little too late, but on the crass political level there's more carrot than crowbar in the TEA-PEC proffer: "We're moving you to the nursing home, grandpa, but you'll be able to bring your own chair and your own telly with you, there's a dear!" The bishops get to refashion ecclesial polity yet, graciously, allow the vanquished to go on playing church as if nothing had changed. What could be fairer than that?

The point is not to wag our heads at Anglican misfortunes but to alert ourselves to the same maneuvers closer to home. We Catholics have our own defectors-in-place, who have made great strides in replacing kosher ministerial structures with a counterfeit of their own invention, Lay Ecclesial Ministry. The "underlying theology" offered in support of LEM took a direct hit by a daisy-cutter at the Synod on the Eucharist, but I've yet to hear of any curtailment of the practice itself. Currently, whatever Transferred Episcopal Arrangements we have in place are administered by the District Attorney's office, but the situation will not always remain thus. We have seen The Future, and know how it works.

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