'The English Experience of Living with Diversity' was the title of an address given by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev'd Rachel Treweek, to the Credo Cymru conference held in Cardiff on 21-22 September under the heading 'That Nothing Be Lost: A Conference to Preserve the Breadth of Welsh Anglicanism'.
Book ending participants in the above photograph are the Bishop of St Asaph and the Archbishop of Wales who chose not to live with diversity when the Governing Body of the Church in Wales agreed that women could be made bishops in Wales. In consequence many devout Christians have since left the Church in Wales with catastrophic effects on attendance figures and consequent finances. For those who have remained in hope, the current dialogue represents the best opportunity for something to be salvaged from a Code of Practice which not only lacks charity but smacks of vindictiveness.
In his address the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev'd Jonathan Goodall, quoted the then Archbishop of Canterbury replying to a Church of England debate on the same subject. Abp Rowan Williams said,
‘People have talked at times about differences of opinion and how the Church
can live with differences of opinion. I think that the problem is for those who
are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of
ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it’s rather of
obedience. It’s one of obedience to scripture, or obedience to the consensus of
the Church Catholic. And, while that’s not a view I wholly share, I think we
ought to recognise that that’s where it comes from, that those who hold that are
not just thinking this is a matter of opinion, and therefore it is rightly and
understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you’re talking what
fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human
authority. That’s why it’s serious, that’s why it's difficult. More than opinion.’
The Credo Cymru Media Release (here) quotes the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Rev'd Gregory Cameron, asking ‘hard questions’ in his keynote address:
Did the Church in Wales really mean what it said in the canon enabling women to be bishops – that traditionalists should be given ‘a sense of security in their accepted and valued place within the Church in Wales’? Did traditionalists really want to be in communion with the Bench of Bishops? He thought it ‘very, very unlikely’ that the Church in Wales would establish any form of supplemental episcopal ministry, but recognized that traditionalists needed a corporate life. He encouraged them to explore ‘double belonging’: loyal both to the fellowship of their diocese (with canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop) and to their own (non-political) fellowship (with ‘affective loyalty’ to a bishop, whose friendship, trust and relationships with the Bench of Bishops would be crucial).
Obedience is the key. Conscience, or, as Abp Rowan put it, the problem of 'obedience' rather than 'opinion', whether you obey God or human authority. This cannot simply be superseded by loyalty to "the fellowship of their diocese (with canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop)". There has to be give and take on both sides, 'transformation of conflict' as Bishop Rachel Treweek succinctly put it.
I have heard differing interpretations of what Bishop Gregory said, some more cynical than others. In my view it would have been the height of cruelty for the bishops of the Church in Wales to enter into discussions offering no hope. If 'double belonging' means anything it must surely mean living with diversity, something that the Anglican Communion is well accustomed to as a broad church.
In the absence of a separate structure for Wales along the lines of the Church of England model, the simplest way forward is for visiting bishops from The Society to provide an additional episcopal ministry, the ‘double belonging’ as Bishop Gregory put it, for mutual flourishing.
Two further papers delivered at the "That Nothing Be Lost" Conference last week have been added to those previously posted (here).