O Canada!

The Canadian Anglicans came within a hair’s breadth of allowing dioceses to allow same-sex blessing yesterday. The measure was passed decisively by laity and clergy and then defeated by a couple of votes in their House of Bishops. Rather an uncomfortable situation for one or two bishops, I would guess.

It rather highlights something which I’ve thought for a while. These debates are, on the face of it, about gay people. Those who are opposed to same-sex blessings think that in their hearts that this is really about “the authority of scripture”. However, the real issue which we are debating now has long since moved on. What we are trying to work out is how we square an episcopal system with a synodical one. If you look at the comments of people on blogs and elsewhere when something like this comes up in a synod, it is almost impossible to conclude that there is a strong belief for many Anglicans that the Holy Spirit is involved in synodical government. [The pneumatology of the blogsphere is appallingly lax, if you want to be technical about it].

There are those who believe that the Scottish Episcopal Church is an episcopally ordered church. It isn’t of course, it is a synodically ordered church in which bishops have to find their place. What that place is, is at the heart of so much of this debate, and we share that debate with others in the Anglican Communion. Do theology, doctrine, liturgy, truth etc flow from the bishops into the church? Of course not, but we have yet to decide their role and it must be horrible for them to live through this time.

I’ve seen with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears, what is happening to bishops through all of this, and it is not pretty. The discrepancy between what can sometimes be said in public and what can be said in private is stark and ugly and leaves them vulnerable and, I suspect miserable. It is hard not to pity them, and pity is such a violent emotion.

Sometimes, when it seems as though some bishops have become incapable of telling truths even about things that matter little, we need to remember the pressures on them. No wonder they ask us to pray for them every day.


  1. Is there a bishop’s job coming up for grabs in Scotland by any chance, Kelvin?

  2. kelvin says

    No Madpriest, I’m afraid we have no space for you at the moment, the College of Bishops is nicely full. We will be in touch when there is a vacancy.

  3. I was particularly struck by the number of bloggers who wondered ‘what was wrong’ with the clergy who had initially voted for Victoria Matthews. Why had they abandoned her? Where were their convictions? See how lightly they wore their zeal – what ‘good weather Wandas’ they all were. The bloggers in question were mostly Americans and almost all evangelicals – for whom there is a position that one defends – with bibles, with howitzers, with Foundation money if necessary. It’s a matter of not losing any of the petrol one has in one’s tank at the starting gun. Absent is any idea that the clergy could have taken a lead from the laity – that the clergy could have understood a firmly stated preference on the part of the lay house as being indicative of a movement of the Spirit. Let’s think for a moment about the schismatics in America – movements of ‘clergy in caucus’ generally, aren’t they? The Spirit moves in surprising ways and the things the Spirit does are sometimes quite novel. You’d actually quite expect minds to be changed when the Spirit moves. If Americans don’t understand this and if Evangelicals don’t understand it well it’s their loss.

  4. Kennedy says

    A further post on Thinking Anglicans (http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002471.html) indicates that the Canadian Synod has voted not to ratify a proposal to include all the Primates in the Anglican Consultative Council. This proposal apparently needs the support of 2/3rds of the Provinces to be approved.

    Where did this proposal come from? And when will this come before the SEC Synod, or, why was it not on the agenda for the GS last month?

  5. David says

    The proposal that the Primates be members of the ACC came (surprise!) from the Primates. We voted heavily against it in the dying minutes of the 2006 Synod. I don’t know how it is faring elsewhere – not well, I trust.

    If you haven’t yet seen it, do take a look at the Diocese of Virginia’s response to the draft covenant on the thinkinganglicans site. Is there any hope that the faith and order wallahs will produce such devastating eloquence on our behalf?

    Hope y’all don’t mind a dilettante blogger popping up occasionally.

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