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Monday, 12 December 2011

Words, words, words

The words that resonated with me most in the first ordinations I attended many years ago were from Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Profound words but time has moved on. Some of the men I witnessed answering God's call now find themselves in the episcopate in a radically different church. Damien Thompson's recent piece for the Telegraph reminded me that different words resonated in consecrations I have attended. In the Church of England, before the Prayers of Penitence, the Archbishop introduces the service for 'The Ordination and Consecration of a Bishop' with the words:

God calls his people to follow Christ, and forms us into a royal priesthood, a holy nation, to declare the wonderful deeds of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God's love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.

To serve this royal priesthood, God has given particular ministries. Bishops are ordained to be shepherds of Christ's flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles, proclaiming the gospel of God's kingdom and leading his people in mission. Obedient to the call of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are to gather God's people and celebrate with them the sacraments of the new covenant. Thus formed into a single communion of faith and love, the Church in each place and time is united with the Church in every place and time.

Much of this sounds rather hollow in a new liberal church which often seems divorced from spirituality, especially the words: "Bishops are ordained to be ..... guardians of the faith of the apostles... . In the Preface to the Declaration of Assent the Archbishop reads:

"The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?"

To my mind, after the decision of the Church of England to depart from the orthodoxy of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the ordinand somewhat hypocritically responds:
"I, AB, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon."

Coming to the Liturgy of Ordination, among the declarations the ordinand is required to make, I find two particularly irksome as a traditionalist:

"Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?" I suppose under its own rules the Church of England now receives only what it wants to receive but when it comes to:

Will you promote peace and reconciliation in the Church and in the world; and will you strive for the visible unity of Christ�s Church?", the ordinand Answers "By the help of God, I will" when clearly he should say 'No'!

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