Yes, indeed, pity about the church! This photo appeared in the Telegraph last November above an article headed, 'Women bishops: a failure of leadership'. It makes interesting reading going over it again in the light of more recent comments about forcing through legislation for the consecration of women bishops. The author wrote: "How, though, can the Church of England move forward? As a body, we seem to have been quite slow in learning that diversity, disagreement and differences cannot simply be managed into consensus. The political, synodical or managerial solutions that have been proffered so far have singularly failed to inspire and galvanise most of the debaters. And the public, understandably, has switched off in droves.
In my parish it is not the public who have switched off in droves. Most were never switched on. It is the congregations who have switched off. The daily Masses were well attended before the ordination of women. The parish clergy were always present save for some other more urgent reason but no longer. The few services which survive may have one or two in the congregation or none at all leading to cancellation and the likelihood of more closures. All this at a time when women are said to be enriching the life of the church. The women priests we have had in the parish have been popular enough but the priesthood is not a popularity contest. On a social level women priests may satisfy a need but that need is basically secular, a sort of social work for the better off based on a chat over coffee on an occasional Sunday.
In his book Vatican published in 1986 Malachi Martin writes:
"It's a democratic sounding thing to say that everyone is free to believe anything he chooses. But according to Catholic doctrine, you are never free to choose error, and certainly not to teach it, no matter how much you pant after acceptance. The Sacraments of our faith and our faith itself are, in our belief, channels of real, honest to goodness grace. And grace is a real thing. A real connection between God and ourselves. A direct avenue between us and Him. If you choose error, you opt away from grace. And without grace, the validity of the Sacraments and the attraction of faith itself disappears. To the degree that happens I think men will not feel the pull to the priesthood exerted by the Holy Spirit that you and I did and still do. And I think ordinary people will see little reason to come to a Church that turns away from grace, that is not a source of grace."
So back to the Telegraph; the article continued: "What is needed, I think, is better and inspiring theological leadership (not just clearer or louder) that will lift the debate into a different dimension. This was lacking on the floor of the Synod debate on Tuesday. And its more general absence from the Church quickly leads to rather pedestrian debates about the rights of groups and individuals, how they compete and conflict, and how to find compromise."
Where is that better and inspiring leadership? Our spiritual guides have ignored agreed process and drawn into their discussions determined women to deliberate on foregone conclusions with bishops who, in general, hold their positions because of their slavish adherence to current fashion. They regard their small corner as 'the church' when in fact they are but a tiny minority which presumes to condemn faithful Anglicans as 'small interest groups' when, in fact, their interest is the universal, catholic Church, not one small corner.
But as Malachi Martin put it: "It is still Christ's Church we serve and if it is we have His guarantee that it will go on, it has survived attacks from within and from without many times before. But the crucifixion of His Church like the crucifixion of Christ Himself will serve His purpose in the end. Should we ask to be spared when He did not spare Himself? Or like Peter who felt unworthy to be crucified as his Lord was, and like the Christians we are, should we not offer our work and our sufferings to be made a part of His?"
The latest 'act of leadership' comes from The Church of England's most senior civil servant who has warned that it cannot afford another "train crash" over the issue of female bishops when the matter is discussed at the General Synod next month. The arrogance of Mr Fittall is that he bids us to do his thing rather than His.