Comments: General Synod Papers

Fellow Episcopalians take note:

Colin Podmore's paper (GS MISC 910) on Church of England ecclesiology takes a very high view of the office of a bishop and the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Though the authority of a bishop is not to be exercised except synodically, and not without consulting priests and laypeople, Podmore's analysis maintains that priests and laypeople do not have authority equal to that of the bishops.

(My own attempt to understand this: It's a little as if the British form of governing authority, always understood as King-in-Parliament, mapped to a reality in which the monarch still ruled and the House of Lords had all the important powers, while the House of Commons listened to speeches, offered advice, then assented to the Lords' proposals. In short, more or less the state of government under Elizabeth I.)

This view of Anglican ecclesiology has (actually) no direct relation to the current controversies in the Communion, although one or two points do bear on aspects of these controversies. For example, it is asserted that bishops may not act alone, but must always act together with the other bishops of their Province in Synod.

It does have much to do with the way the Episcopal Church is (mis-)understood by the Church of England. (There's a very disparaging reference to our democratic polity tucked away in there.) We Episcopalians might try to understand better the way the Church of England works, perhaps in the interests of better communication with them. In fact, I have yet to meet an Episcopalian of any party who takes a similar view of the office of bishop. While "conservatives" insist that bishops can act alone, independently of the House of Bishops, the broad majority of Episcopalians think of bishops primarily as administrators or executives, carrying out policies decided by democratic processes.

Posted by Charlotte at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 10:51pm GMT

cf: GS 1707 - Report on 'Women in the Episcopate -

"33. From our different perspectives within the Group – which, of course, include continuing differences over the decision reached in July and the mandate it set for the final phase of our work – we are united in regarding the holding together of as many people as possible within the family of the Church of England as the goal
towards which everyone should strive. We earnestly pray this will be possible when women as well as men are consecrated to the episcopate."

From this paragraph of the Report by the Legislative Drafting Group (for Debate at G.S.)
it would appear that there is sufficient good will on every side for this important matter to be properly dealt with at General Synod 2009.

Those of us looking in from the outside, who have already accepted the role of women as Bishops in our provincial Churches, would pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to inform the hearts and minds of the Members of this General Synod of our Mother Church of England as to the will and purpose of God for YOU ALL at this time in the history of your Provincial Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 9:06am GMT

Charlotte
I am about to publish a separate article on this specific topic. Please would readers make any further comments about the CofE and the Covenant on that thread and not on this one.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 9:42am GMT

4.25 The Primates Meeting and the A.C.C.

"A statement made by the Primates’ Meeting is a statement by a meeting whose members have an inherent authority by virtue of their episcopal ordination and of the offices that they hold in their individual churches. It thus carries significant weight, but not the same weight as a resolution of the episcopate of the Communion as a whole." - Colin Podmore's Paper G.S.Misc. 9.10 -

This an interesting revelation by Colin Podmore - that the Primates' Council, though important as representing the Heads of the various Provincial Churches of the Anglican Communion, is secondary to the combined authority of the 'episcopate of the Communion as a whole' in its power to issue resolutions binding upon the whole Communion.

So does this mean that the Primates' Council is a more, or less, important instrument for the governance of the Provincial Churches of the whole Communion? With the Lambeth Conference not disposed or able to impose any resolutions upon the partner Churches, this question is surely important for the present and future prospect of centralised authority in the Communion.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 9:55am GMT

"This view of Anglican ecclesiology has (actually) no direct relation to the current controversies in the Communion....the broad majority of Episcopalians think of bishops primarily as administrators or executives, carrying out policies decided by democratic processes."

And this is a huge problem. The Church is not a democracy. It is not the Republic of God, and God is not a president. That our selection of our leaders, and our process of doctrinal definition, has the appearance of democracy is immaterial. For instance, when we choose a bishop, we are, ideally, seeking and asking for discernment of the will of God. We are not voting for "our choice". Yet, if we insist on seeing the Church as a democracy, that is the exact trap we fall in to. I have frequently spoken of why it is I think that GAFCON et al are wrong, but if you are right, that the majority of TEC consider their bishops to be elected officials, then that for me means I cannot trust TEC's decisions either.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 12:54pm GMT

Ford
"And this is a huge problem. The Church is not a democracy."

So what if, in some churches, the Spirit works through democratic processes?

All it means is that the discernment process is structured differently. That does not necessarily mean that a democratic discernment process is "us" focused rather than God-focused or God-inspired.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:51pm GMT

"That does not necessarily mean that a democratic discernment process is "us" focused rather than God-focused or God-inspired"

Not necessarily, of course. But it can easily get to be about us if we don't keep clear about how it is we are making decisions. That's why, like I said elsewhere, I have misgivings about some of TEC's decisions rather than condemn them outright like conaservatives do. I am not willing to judge that everyone in TEC is out to get votes for their positions. But it DOES look that way on times, conservatives certainly see it, and I think it needs to be addressed. It's not only conservatives who dress their own political ideas up in Gospel clothes, thus convincing themselves that their own personal politics is the will of God.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 2:42pm GMT

Ford
I don't think there is any system of church governance involving human beings that is free from possible corruption, power games or even simply misunderstanding what God is telling us.

I have at least as many difficulties with the Magisterium or the CoE method of appointing bishops as I do with TEC's more democratic approach.

All principles have pros and cons, all will result in some good discernment and in some errors.

So I could not say that one system presented more of a problem than another.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 23 January 2009 at 4:40pm GMT
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