Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A rare chance for the Church to appoint a Conservative Evangelical bishop

Many years ago, I was rightly taken to task by the then-Archdeacon of West Ham for suggesting that the scheme of Provincial Episcopal Visitors (aka ‘Flying Bishops’) had been set up especially for Anglo-Catholics.
That, he observed sharply, was not the case. On the contrary, the PEVs were there for everyone. And that is true, but it is also true that in the last twenty years every single one of them has actually been an Anglo-Catholic.
One reason given for this early on was that there was no demand from evangelicals. But of course one reason evangelicals regularly gave for not passing ‘Resolution C’ was that they’d have to accept the ministry of an Anglo-Catholic. Hence on both sides the ‘prophecy’ became self-fulfilling.
Nevertheless, in recent years at least some evangelicals have realized the error of their ecclesiastical ways and more than one request has been made for an evangelical appointment to the ranks of the PEVs.
The news that the Bishop of Ebbsfleet is to become the new Bishop of Fulham (one of the few alternative diocesan arrangements created under the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod) presents a fresh, and rare, opportunity for the relevant authorities to appoint a traditionalist conservative evangelical bishop to replace Wallace Benn as the only one of this persuasion in the entire Church of England.
It is therefore slightly galling to see Bishop Baker assuming that his replacement will be of a similar persuasion to himself. “I am assured,” he says, “that the process of appointing a new Bishop of Ebbsfleet is already underway, and so in due course I am confident that my move will lead to a strengthening of the team of catholic bishops in the Church of England at this critical time.”
Perhaps — or perhaps not. Maybe someone in a position to influence the outcome just might dare to suggest the strengthening should go where is it most needed. After all, Conservative Evangelicals of this persuasion can hardly even boast a ‘team’.
In any case, ‘catholic’ PEVs minister to evangelicals, why not an evangelical for catholics? (Actually I can think of all sorts of reasons why this might be difficult on both sides, but we are all supposed to be in one Church of England.)
So, the opportunity is there. And I have to say that if it is not taken then I, for one, will continue to wonder whether the Church of England is serious about its ‘broadness’, or whether, as I havesuggested before, it is one rule for those whose ecclesiology (and dress-sense) suits, another for those where it doesn’t.
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  1. But evangelical parishes have, notoriously, refused to pass resolutions - especially the third, asking for additional episcopal oversight. Now is the time (if it is not already too late) for some of them to do so; then perhaps a new Archbishop might find an Evangelical to fill the Ebbsfleet role. Of course, it might not be many weeks before the entire provision of this edditional episcopal overisght is withdrawn... Prayers for you all.

  2. Wouldn't it be absolutely dreadful, John, if a dissident Evangelical congregation had, perforce, to accept the ministration of an Anglo-Catholic Bishop - in lieu of a Woman Diocesan? Which do you think, would be the more frightening? - a Woman or an Anglo-Catholic? It must be a real problem no-one had foreseen - except you good-self.

    Isn't this just one of the problems of one extremity of the Church linking up with another, for mutually exclusive reasons? It does make life for difficult for people 'on the edge'.

  3. Kiwianglo, it troubles me that discourse on the internet between supposed Christians cannot be carried on with politeness or at least a lack of sarcasm. Why can't you make a point without - if I can put it this way - being so pointed

  4. John,

    But who would they appoint? As I've occasionally said in the past, the lack of CE Bishops is partly our own fault. Elsewhere on this blog, I've wondered why (for example) Nicky Gumbel isn't a bishop, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to have thought it.

    Evangelicals are by nature pastoral and not political, and those who've tried opting for the greasy pole of Church Politics (eg James Jones) have often found they have been radically changed by the process.

  5. "Evangelicals are by nature pastoral ..." Laughing so hard I can barely type.

  6. Simon, I'm not sure why you're laughing. (I'm not sure who you are either.)

  7. John, look back on Simon's posts on recent threads here. You'll find he's a regular troll.


  8. Simon,

    Perhaps you would like to illuminate your comment with some evidence, or indeed anything apart from cynicism. Or even some evidence that you know the meaning of the word 'pastoral'.

  9. @Richard Brown: "WHO would they appoint?" Please, "WHOM". ;-)

  10. Your reply ot 'kiwianglo' was on the mark: Rom Smith has his own blog but feels the need to comment critically and endlessly on others'. Something about idle hands?
    Nicky Gumbel already has pastoral care for more people than many dioceses, esp. in Scotland and North America. But I don't know what he thinks about WO - probably not bothered!
    Actually I wish *you were a bishop, John - in the CE constituency you stand out for your theological acumen and communicative ability.
    Mark B., W. Kent

  11. Why the long delay? Is the heirarchy proposing simply to fail to appoint a new Bishop of Ebbsfleet, hoping that people will not notice?