In today’s issue of The Church of England Newspaper, Andrew Carey, son of Lord Carey the previous Archbishop of Canterbury writes:-
The Church of England’s apparent pride in its comprehensiveness in contrast to the ecclesiological narrowness of Roman Catholicism is now emerging as fantasy.
The Ordinariate is showing the Roman Catholic Church offering compromises, fudges and political fixes to Anglican traditionalists. Whereas the Church which has always taken pride in the image of itself as a via media and a place where everyone could fit in had nothing to offer the same traditionalists. As a result a number of bishops, clergy and laity have joined the Ordinariate or are still considering Pope Benedict’s offer.
And while the Roman Catholic Church’s secrecy, which bordered on contempt for Anglicanism, is to be criticised, it is the Church of England time and again which is showing itself to have no vision for the possibility of ecclesiological change. Bishops have even harshly ruled out the use of Church of England buildings for Ordinariate congregations, even under sharing arrangements. This looks more like a political strategy to dissuade laypeople from joining the Ordinariate than a decision about ecumenical principles.
Where is the harm in allowing congregations which are now at odds with the Anglican settlement to maintain access with the buildings which they themselves have maintained and cherished? The Church of England has too many buildings for its now weakened ambitions and in many areas we can barely maintain a presence. In other areas we have a preponderance of failing churches.
The tragedy is that the Ordinariate is a wake-up call to do things differently to look at ourselves again. Do we really want to be ungenerous, churlish and flint-faced to ecclesiastical dissenters? Or do we want to be comprehensive and embracing of the many networks which the Church of England has always comprised?
We are a broad church because we all have fixed, differing, mutually-excluding identities. We are broad precisely because we are different in our convictions. We are not broad because we can’t make our minds up about who we are.
The Church of England is essentially an umbrella ecclesial body for a range of incompatible theological concerns. We have forgotten that element of necessary compromise that might have allowed us to respond more positively for traditionalist pleas for third province. Yet that generous, broad church impulse might nevertheless assist us in responding more positively to the Ordinariate in order to build unity even as traditionalists Anglicans formally leave.
Andrew Carey is a leading Evangelical Commentator and a regular writer in The Church of England Newspaper and I think that what he has written sums up the current position very well. Not only is the CofE no longer a place “where everyone could fit in” it certainly has little or nothing to offer traditionalist Anglicans following General Synod’s decision last year.