Friday, 19 October 2012

And still there is no Conservative Evangelical bishop

I have just seen the news, announced this morning from 10 Downing Street, that the Revd Philip John North, Team Rector of Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London, is to be appointed to the Suffragan See of Whitby in the Diocese of York.
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet and Chairman of Forward in Faith, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, haswelcomed the news. “Father North,” he says, “is well known for his energy, passion for the Gospel and heart for Mission. His appointment to the See of Whitby brings hopes and encouragement to catholic Anglicans in the Northern Province and throughout the Church of England.”
Fair enough, and I wish him every success, even though his name may have biased those making his selection. (If you work in London and the post is in Whitby, ‘Father North’ is going to work better for you than ‘Father South’. Boom, boom!)
But whilst the Anglo-Catholic representatives amongst our bishops can welcome another to their ranks, the corresponding Conservative Evangelical representation remains nil.
This, frankly, is beginning to look ridiculous.
The first commitment of the Church of England made in the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act ofSynod was this:
Ordinations and Appointments
1. There will be no discrimination against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood.
Clearly that is still being honoured in some quarters, but only for ‘High Church’ candidates.
And here is where I suggest the problem lies. The reason why Anglo-Catholics are getting these appointments and Evangelicals are not is that for all their uncomfortable views about women’s ordination, Anglo-Catholics are seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ when it comes to the institution.
They may have funny ideas about priests, but they still believe in priesthood. They may have baroque tastes when it comes to church interiors, but at least they won’t be meeting in school halls. They may be too ‘traditionalist’ in some areas, but they will maintain the traditions valued by the institution in others.
Now this is not to knock my Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters. There are some in their ranks with whom I would probably have difficulty and vice versa. But there are others with whom I definitely find myself singing off a similar hymn sheet.
No, the problem is not with them. It is with the institutional ‘gate-keepers’ — those who control the promotions and appointments. And even here I must be careful what I say. If I were one of them, I would be a very careful gate-keeper. Indeed, it is the job of a gate-keeper to be careful about who is let in and who is not.
But the Church of England says one thing — “we are a broad church” — and does another, for the gate is suddenly very narrow when it comes to a certain theology.
Yet the theology of the Conservative Evangelical wing is certainly in line with the Anglican formularies, and even if its views on women’s ordination may be out of line with the majority, so too is that of Anglo-Catholics. So why the glass ceiling?
Surely it is time to ask questions and expect answers.
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  1. Does Nick McKinnel, St Andrews Plymouth and recently nominated for the Suffragan see of Crediton not count as CE? Genuine question.

    1. I was going to ask the same question! However, I read here (see link) that he supports the ministry of women, so maybe he doesn't count! ??

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  3. Peter and Tio - I don't know. As to his comments, I would say I wholeheartedly support the ministry of women, but I'm not in favour of women as incumbents and bishops, so I'm not clear on that one.

    Anonymous, I've deleted your comment because that's what it deserves and it is anonymous.

  4. Just to add, clearly Nick McKinnel has been running an evangelical ministry at his church. It is the question of the Conservative integrity - or even the integrity of Conservatives - which I now think is becoming an embarrassment.

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  6. "They may have funny ideas about priests, but they still believe in priesthood. They may have baroque tastes when it comes to church interiors, but at least they won’t be meeting in school halls. They may be too ‘traditionalist’ in some areas, but they will maintain the traditions valued by the institution in others."

    The corollary of this is that Evangelicals are not appointed because they don't really believe in the priesthood and don't really see any value on maintaining any of the traditions value by the institution.

  7. "the corresponding Conservative Evangelical representation remains nil."

    Are you disowning Wallace Benn? Or are you simply anticipating his retirement? OK, he has only 12 more days in post, but wouldn't "is about to fall to nil" have been more accurate?

  8. Given that the flying bishops are for Anglo-Catholics - I know that in itself could be discussed, but it is the position - any CE bishop would have to be for the whole church in his area or diocese. Serious question: which senior CE clergyman has shown the attributes and inclination necessary to minister as bishop to clergy with the whole range of views present in the C of E? None of the CE clergy I know would be suitable on those grounds.

  9. Is it possible to ordain a woman priest and to bar that priest from becoming an incumbent or a bishop?? You cannot confer presbyteral authority on a woman and then deny that priest the exercise of her authority. Remember the office of presbyter/bishop is a single office.

  10. Anonymous, given the negative nature of your comments, it would be a courtesy if you left your name. As it is, the willingness to be unpleasant, coupled with the unwillingness to be open, is one of the things that makes the internet such a difficult place for any sort of real dialogue.

  11. Chris e, I think there is a perception that the 'anti-institutional' vagaries of Conservative Evangelicals are more of a threat to the institution than the more 'churchy' vagaries of Anglo-Catholics, even though the latter are a long way from where some of the Formularies are.

    Peter Kirk, I must admit I thought Wallace had already stepped down.

    Simon, I was once (rightly) taken to task by an Archdeacon for saying, many years ago, that the Flying Bishops were 'for' Anglo-Catholics. They were never supposed to be, though that is the common interpretation, and prevailing application. However - and this relates to Nigel's point - it is evidently thought that traditionalist Anglo-Catholic bishops can minister to 'the whole church', even though they don't themselves ordain women. So why is it that Conservative Evangelicals don't seem to be considered?

    As you probably know, there is a list for 'preferment' and if your name is on it, you will know. I'd be interested to hear how many Conservative Evangelicals of the traditionalist persuasion know they are on that list, or how many bishops have put names forward for inclusion. I may be quite wrong, but I suspect the number is minimal.

    As to whether CEs can do the job, how can we know unless people are given the chance?

  12. Stop press: Monday 22nd, Cnc has recovened at St Columba's, Woking. So far its 9 for James and 7 for Welby. If no decision by 1pm then Bp Liverpool and Bp Oxford added to list and second preferences taken into account.

  13. I know I'm rather late into this issue, but the discussion so far seem to miss the point of John's original post. The main issue appears to be alternative oversight, not mainstream episcopal authority. Wallace Benn is (or was?) a CE bishop, but there's no way a parish could have opt to have him as an alternative to their Diocesan. Nick McKinnel may also have solid CE credentials, but unless I'm in Exeter diocese, he remains aloof.

    By the way, is it still possible to pass Resolution C?

  14. Richard, yes you can still pass 'C'.

    As to my point, in theory it ought to be possible in the Church of England to have a CE Diocesan Bishop. But at very least there ought to be a few suffragans and a PEV.

  15. John,

    The lack of CE bishops is also partly our fault. Most evangelicals I have come across are pastoral by nature, and not political. Very few of them are interested in climbing the greasy pole to preferment, possibly because they see what happens to those that do. Why isn't Nicky Gumbel, for example, a bishop by now? He's far more famous than most who actually are bishops, and has demonstrated rather more leadership skills than all of them. I'm sure that he must have been sounded out more than once. Yet if we want CE bishops, NG needs to worry more about the future of the church, and rather less about running his publishing empire.

    (Reading this again, it sounds like a criticism of Nicky Gumbel - it isn't intended to be, rather only one example of why we don't have CE bishops)