New? There is nothing remotely new about any of this ‘new agenda’. The policy that this latest clerical cabal wants to push through in our parishes locally is the same policy that they have been trying on us nationally for these last four decades. It has had the results we see. It has emptied the churches, and allowed social devastation nationwide. They have offered us a cup with less and less in it, and amazingly, the English people are less and less interested in it. The clergy and the very few over-seventies are the only people who still do not realise that no one is listening and no one is any longer receiving the great package of Christian discipleship. British families and the nation are in trouble just exactly because this modern clergy has replaced the Gospel and put in its place a perfectly tasteless substitute. Apart from the current generation of clergy still attempting this same trick, no one is fooled.
Many people have left the Church. Outside the cities, no one is coming into the churches. Many clergy have left the ministry or gone over to the Catholics or Orthodox. Many of these said clearly that the result of ordaining women would be the end of the Church of England as part of the worldwide catholic Church, in which notionally a Church of England bishop was recognised as a bishop by all other bishops in Roman catholic and Orthodox churches across the world. The Church of England has claimed and hoped that its bishops are recognised as fellow bishops by other bishops of other provinces and churches. The activists for ordained pseudo-priestly ministry did not want to hear this. They did not consider themselves bound to the churches around the world, or to previous generations of Christians who did not appoint women to public ministry. They promoted themselves over all actual bishops, whether of all previous generations of the Church of England or of Catholic or Orthodox churches in other parts of the world. They would rather have the appearance of tradition and apostolic continuity than wait for the reality, which can only ever come by waiting for agreement and consensus.
The question is whether the Church of England is now anything but a sect. The answer we seem to get from the activists of women’s rights is that they don’t care. They don’t feel the force of the question. They don’t feel that sort of loyalty to the whole Church, because they don’t see themselves as inheritors of an unchanging deposit of faith or as its transmitters. They don’t share the awareness that the Church is the community that unlike any other stretches across time, continents and cultures – and yet is always the same. They are people in a hurry, driven by the conviction that whatever worked then, cannot work now. Whatever was, must be abandoned. ‘New’ and ‘change’ appear in their every utterance.
But we must continue to be members of the Church of England in the sense that our parents and grandparents were. These parishes, church buildings, were built by them and handed on by them to us, with the expectation that we will do the same. Those who close churches, lock the prayer books and hymnbooks in cupboards from which they never expect to come out, have been turning the Church of England into a sect. It is the same old Arian unfaithfulness, motivated by a love of power. The Church of England has suffered it many times over the centuries, and eventually and at great cost, overcome and been restored. Of course we must treat these activists with the same respect we treat every other Christian, and always ask them to show us how they claim to be members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Meanwhile, stand your ground, and hold tight onto that altar rail. Our agenda is public worship as public witness, through Morning and Evening Prayer in this and every parish church, and on feast days, in every public square.