Given the lengthening thread of comments with regard to my previous post on this topic, I want to try to refocus the discussion afresh. I have therefore closed comments on the previous post, but people are welcome to assume others have read what they wrote previously.
Could I remind people that on this blog they are asked to give a full name and location. I know some are accustomed to abbreviations, but in a spirit of openness and ‘speaking the truth to one another’ I would invite them to consider complying with this request.
In the earlier post and subsequent discussion about collegiality, Tim Chesterton makes a comment which goes to the heart of the apparent confusion in the minds of many.
He asks, “Doesn’t collegiality mean that ... bishops who disagreed ... were free to speak their mind, but not free to change their practice until the church as a whole changed its practice?”
The Church of England operates two principles which, I think I am right in saying, have some bearing on this whole business.
The first is expressed in Article XXXIV, ‘Of the Traditions of the Church’ which, whilst recognizing that “Traditions and Ceremonies ... may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word”, nevertheless denies the individual the right just to ‘do his own thing’ in the particular church to which he belongs: “Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.”
In this sense, all Anglican clergy are required to maintain a ‘collegiality’. They may hold certain opinions, but even if those opinions are not repugnant to the Word of God, they are not, as Tim says, free to change their practice.
It does seem on recent performance, however, that there is another way in which ‘collegiality’ has come to operate and be understood, particularly regarding episcopal collegiality. This relates to Article XX, ‘Of the Authority of the Church’, which, whilst acknowledging that, “The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies” (as per Article XXXIV), insists that it cannot lawfully “ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written” and “ought not to decree any thing against the same”.
Now regarding the presenting issue, the collective position of the House of Bishops has been (in line with the resolutions of General Synod and of the Lambeth Conference) that same-sex sexual behaviour is, in fact, “contrary to God’s Word written”. Therefore — and here’s the important bit — as an expression of collegiality, people like Rowan Williams have explicitly subsumed their personal views (in his case expressed in The Body’s Grace) to this position of ‘the Church’.
That is slightly different from the lesser ‘collegiality’ of Article XXXIV, which is a ‘what I do’ collegiality. In the second case, which has particularly applied to the House of Bishops, it has been a ‘what I teach’ collegiality — affecting personal views, not just personal practice.
Now it seems to me, which is why I am asking the questions in this post, that Bishop Holtam has explicitly declared that he will ‘break ranks’ on this second collegiality. If it is not clear to anyone what this means, look at Rowan Williams, who (whatever you may think of him as a result, and ‘liberals’ have been very explicit themselves in this regard) has consistently maintained ‘collegiality’ in both word and deed.
Unless I am very much mistaken, however, Bishop Holtam — whatever he may now say or do — has already acted differently from Archbishop Williams.
It is this that needs to be addressed. Is Bishop Holtam still ‘maintaining collegiality’ himself? If he is not (and clearly I believe he is not) then what should other bishops do?
These questions are, I think, appropriate.Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend: