Comments: Online Synod Papers

GS1554 Clergy Discipline (Doctrine)
The online paper seems to lack the vital information - Appendix III draft Measure (p. 46 onwards). Any news of it?

Overall I think the report tries to be balanced and careful but it still fudges the most vital issues:
1) The report remains vague as to exactly what constitutes doctrine and doctrinal authorities in a legal setting.
2) It doesn’t address the place of the laity in relation to doctrine.
3) Nor does it adequately explore the relationship of university-based theology to parish-based teaching. (Seeking to exclude ordained university teachers from the scope of this legislation - while right - begs a number of further questions.)
4) Although Bishops can appeal against findings they don’t like (on a point of law), the report envisages that the court will have the final say. Presumably if the court determines something that future generations don’t like, legislation will be required to remedy the matter (just as has been the case in the past). Thus the final determination of authentic Christian teaching passes from the bishops to the court (see para. 51).

(And on a point of detail, the present legislation allows a case to be stopped at an early stage if is deemed not in the interests of the church for it to proceed. That appears to have vanished in these proposals.)

In ‘An historical perspective’ the report quotes several commendations of debate and discussion, and not closing down dissension prematurely, as the Anglican way. But this does not happen without deliberate effort.

I would argue that encouraging and managing doctrinal debate, and incorporating the laity extensively, would be a far more effective way of promoting doctrinal vitality - and that it cannot be conducted effectively under the shadow of potential prosecution. This would require skills of political leadership and communication different to those required for a legal ethos.

However, I suspect that a court for doctrinal matters is politically inevitable, and also that to use it will be disatrous.

Posted by Paul Bagshaw at June 27, 2004 2:59 PM