Thinking Anglicans

weekend reading

Kendall Harmon whose blog is at titusonenine has the Face to Faith column today’s Guardian: Anglicanism at the crossroads.

The original version of this is rather longer and can be read here. I recommend this longer version to understand more accurately what Kendall thinks about this. I noted particularly his last paragraph as originally written:

“There are… limits to diversity,” says the Windsor Report, and the Anglican Communion has reached them in the current crisis. “These limits are defined by truth and charity” (TWR 86) which together with courageous leadership can enable the honest facing of the depth of the problem with the awesome sacrifice needed by all to enable a solution. The future of the third largest Christian family in the world is at stake.

Theo Hobson has had two major articles published this week. Theo is author of Against Establishment: an Anglican polemic and Anarchy, Church and Utopia: Rowan Williams on Church (published next month); both published by Darton Longman and Todd.

Get off your knees, Dr Williams was in The Times on Tuesday.
Awkward partners was in The Tablet today.

The Times article included this:

[The Church of England] …desperately needs to interest people in its version of Christianity; but establishment is a major turn-off. Before 2002, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, would have agreed with this analysis. Being Welsh, he had never had to pledge allegiance to the Queen, and he looked upon the establishment of the Church of England with scepticism. In 2000 he said: “I think that the notion of the monarch as supreme governor has outlived its usefulness. I believe increasingly that the Church has to earn the right to be heard by the social world. Establishment is just one of those things that make it slightly harder.”In 2002, when he began to be talked about as a contender for Canterbury, these remarks were dug up, and he hastily issued a press release in an attempt to re-bury them. “This is a matter which is quite clearly not at the top of the agenda for the Church of England,” he assured us. It is a shame that Dr Williams has not been more open about his doubts. For they are longstanding, and central to his theology. As long ago as 1998 he gave warning against any idea of “the Church’s guardianship of the Christian character of a nation . . . which so easily becomes the Church’s endorsement of the de facto structures and constraints of the life of a sovereign state.”

Upon his appointment to Canterbury, he shoved his disestablishing sympathies into the closet. Surely he should reach out to those with similar feelings — young, confused Anglicans especially — and tell them it’s OK. It’s OK to feel slightly nauseated by grand occasions of state, to feel that royalist pageantry stifles the spirit of Jesus Christ; and the occasional republican fantasy is nothing to be ashamed of.

Instead, he seems to have taken fright at the weakness of the Church. Maybe one cannot afford to be too honest, when Christian values are so precarious in this culture. Maybe an honest discussion of establishment would make the institution look muddled, weak and inward-looking. Better to look tough and united. Better to keep one’s core constituency on board, and make pleasant noises about the rich national legacy of the Christian monarchy. If in doubt, play the holy heritage card — it will always please the millions of lukewarm, middle-class Anglicans.

And there is another reason to keep deferring the disestablishment debate. The argument about homosexual ordination has shown the Church to be a very shaky marriage between the poles of liberal Catholics and conservative Evangelicals. This frail coalition might collapse without establishment. So it is a genuinely dangerous topic in the present climate.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph writes about women’s ordination under the title Dressing up in clerical clothes.

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19 years ago

How could the CoE survive dis-establishment? Funds have to come from somewhere, and what alternate source is presently available. All of 900,000 people attend services each week. So the result of this action would be not unlike casting a man unprotected into outer space – thermal shock, boiling blood, pressure differential sucking every last molecule of oxygen out of his lungs, death. Perhaps it is inevitable, but let’s at least be honest about it.


Rodney McInnes
Rodney McInnes
19 years ago

All this talk of measuring clerical performance, and the rights and obligations of professional clergy as employees demonstrates that the greatest assimilation of contemporary secular ideas into Christianity is in the area of corporate management. Ideas which have been developed for the purpose of increasing profits in industry are now being applied to an area where they can have no operation. The idea that the Church, or some part of it, can measure the extent to which it communicates good news to human beings – brings them life, abundant life – by some measure designed to increase profit is more… Read more »

Andrew Conway
Andrew Conway
19 years ago

Who are these “young, confused Anglicans” that Theo Hobson speaks of, who are attracted by the C of E but put off by the fact of establishment? Do they really exist? “Yeah, Common Worship rocks! And Bishop Tom Wright is, like, so-o-o cool! But establishment really sucks! I think I’ll go and join the Methodists instead.” More seriously, Hobson alleges that Rowan Williams was a supporter of disestablishment until about 2002, when he modified his views in order to improve his chances of preferment to Canterbury. This portrait of the Archbishop as an ambitious place-seeker is inherently implausible to anyone… Read more »

Richard M
Richard M
19 years ago

Interesting line from Theo Hobson at the end: “It has already been said a number of times that the Church came into existence over a controversial royal marriage, so it can hardly object to this one. Well, most things have changed in 500 years. For example, Charles could not have decided to have Diana publicly beheaded.” Depends if you believe any of the conspiracy theories about Diana’s death, doesn’t it! But I think that disestablishment – which I don’t think is the financial vacuum that ECJ imagines – is ever more clearly on the cards. The AB of C cannot… Read more »

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