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Women Bishops in the Church of England: The Chickens Are In the Roost

Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm finds Archbishop John Sentamu’s response about the propriety of women bishops disconcerting:

His appeal is to the supreme authority of scripture. How does the Archbishop of York answer?

Setamu calmly continued with the service, stating that the appointment of a female bishop was now “part of the law of the land…

The “law of the Land” is apparently of sufficient authority for the Archbishop and all those present to overrule an appeal to the bible. Nothing but Jesus’ return could have stopped this consecration from going forward – I understand that – but knowing the objection would be raised you might think Archbishop Setamu might have prepared some semblance of a biblical response (and there could only be a semblance) rather than simply appealing the authority of the state. I understand that England is, legally speaking, a “Christian” government and the Church of England a state church but she is supposedly and theoretically a state church under the supreme authority of the word of God.

As I said, the chickens have come home to roost.

That’s basically the bargain any state church like England’s (and to that we might add Germany and Russia) makes: we get a privileged status, but we’ll support you even when what you’re doing is against Divine authority.  I’ve predicted for a long time (and here also) that the Government, one way or another, would push for the ordination of women bishops, and now is “fast-tracking” them for the House of Lords.  And I felt that the Government would succeed.  Why should it be any other way with a state church?  And why do we expect a different result for same-sex civil marriage?

To some extent, all of this became clear in the thought experiment that is my fiction.  In the part that is online, the king of an absolute monarchy orders his Bishop and Primate to ordain a woman to the ministry:

“We have one more matter that needs to be settled here today,” Adam said, handing the Bishop yet another envelope.  The Bishop opened it; reading it produced a look of shock almost comparable to Desmond’s just a few minutes earlier.

“This is impossible,” the Bishop declared, looking at Adam.

“No, it’s not, and you know it,” Adam calmly replied.

“We don’t ordain women in this church—it’s against the laws of God.  Besides, we would have to change our canon law at our Convention.”

“I’m not asking for a change in canon law, if you would read the document carefully,” Adam replied. “I’m issuing a waiver so that Terry can fully be the chaplain to the Crown Prince and Princess.  It is well within my rights as head of this Church to issue such a waiver, which includes skipping making her a deacon, to save you a ceremony.”

In places where “democratic institutions” exist, it usually isn’t this direct.  But that just makes the process longer and more expensive.

My objections to women bishops in Anglican churches stem from two things: that most are revisionists and the issue of authority, something I went back and forth with the late “Ugley Vicar”, John Richardson.  Both can be solved, but not within the bounds many Anglicans can accept.

In any case, for a state church to be faithful to the Scriptures–with or without WO–requires that the sovereigns be likewise, and that’s scarce in the West these days.


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