I been paying marginal attention to the whole women Bishops thing. It's not that interesting, to me the fact that we are having this debate in the 21st century is just another reason not to join the Church of England, but I think I have to pass comment on at least one thing.
You see I feel there is a dishonesty and, dare I say it, a certain amount of self deception on the part of Forward in Faith. Forward in Faith are re-writing history.
I'll illustrate this with a few blog posts as evidence.
I came across this first one written by a Catholic University chaplain who used to be a Anglican, he encapsulates it. He notes how he used to be a member of the Church of England synod, the catholic group and that they effectively controlled synod, they saw themselves as gradually working to bring the Church of England into line with Rome and thus secure a return. He focused on making sure curtain changes were made to the liturgy for the ASB in order to make it more like the Missal.
Now we come to the crux of the matter he say while he was working on liturgy the Church of England was slowly drifting in a liberal direction and this has led to the ordination of women the dropping of the historical faith going all soft on the gay issue. Thus FiF are arguing that they have stayed the same and the Church of England has moved. It is now a liberal dying Church that doesn't believe anything, so they have no choice but to abandon the sinking ship and head for the lifeboats and wait for the Roman rescue liner.
Only one problem here; that's absolute bollocks.
You see the truth you find here....this is Bishop Edwin's blog, he's a retired Bishop in my Diocese he used to be a flying Bishop. If you read he write up on the goodbye service for the last Bishop of Southampton it just reeks of a dislike of trendy modern worship. Oh for the good ol' Book of Common prayer and proper starched vestments, not guitars and power point.
The truth that is being trumpeted by FiF is that there is a liberal drift in the CofE, but the reality is that, since about 1980, the unmistakable drift in the Church has been towards evangelicalism. Up until then throughout the 20th century there had been a near constant Anglo-catholic revival that had all but destroyed the liberal section of the Church. There were Liberal Catholics and Conservative Catholics....oh and a small group of Evangelicals.
What has happened since then is that the evangelicals have convincingly won the argument. They have one because they compromised with the prevailing culture got rid of vestments started singing modern songs that were more like pop than Elgar and people understood. Now most thriving parishes, most ordinands, most members of synod are evos.
Look at the figures, last year the Diocese had a shortfall. In my deanery one of the FiF parishes had a quota of £15,000 and failed to meet it by £3,000. Whereas three evangelical churches had a quota of £79,000, £96,000 and £178,000 and met that in full.
Then there is the gay issue. Forward in Faith claim that the Church of England has gone all soft on gay sex. Now Edwin Barnes was principal of St Stephen's House Oxford where they train Anglo-catholic vicars. Let me tell you a story about St Stephen's House. When I was a student I was studying alongside a Jusuit who before he became such was quite a promiscuous gay man. He told me he was once shagging one of the staff at St Stephen's, he said this bloke was told by Ena (the principal David Hope – oh yes everyone at St Stephen's had to have a woman's name as a nick name , what does that tell you about the ethos of the place?) to tell the ordinands to calm down with their outrageous gay behaviour, at least until after they were ordained. He spoke to the assembled college and then assured them “That this isn't any kind of witch hunt” to which a very camp voice from the back answered “Good job too, as they'd be more witches than hunters!”
High Church has encouraged the ministries of countless gay men over the years. Admittedly no one went on about what they were- that would just be bad taste, like wearing a polyester alb, but they were very much there. Now it's virtually impossible to get a place at theological college unless your married (yes I wouldn't get through nowadays). What has happened? The Church of England has gone all evo.
The Church of England is more conservative now than it has been in a very long time. It just isn't very Catholic. Evangelicals don't place a high value on communion so they're not to worried about a woman doing it, and they view Bishop's a bit like Methodists view the district chair – ie more of a co-ordinator than someone with real authority, and that is why they don't mind women Priests and women Bishops, though ironically they don't really like women vicars – and therein is the real problem the way evangelicals look at things and decide things is so very different from Anglo-catholics.
They are now a small minority in the Church, they have run out of ordinands and money and power and so they want to be part of the majority again.
None of which is a problem....I'm just asking them to be honest.