Is the Church of England headed for a crack up similar to that experienced by The Episcopal Church? Andrew Sabisky writes a pessimistic piece on the church’s future prospects after its recent General Synod over at The Catholic Herald.
Leading conservative Synod members seem to have left in a state of mind verging on despair. They have suffered no major defeats, but seem confident that it’s only a matter of time. The general consensus is that the “middle third” of Synod has no more appetite for gruelling fights or media uproar, and will quietly acquiesce to liberal demands for church blessings of same-sex marriage, to be shortly followed by same-sex marriage itself.
Nor does anyone think that this will meet with any more than token resistance amongst the Church’s bishops, who seem to have largely abolished their own traditional role in developing doctrine, and handed it over to Synod. The Church selects bishops largely on their ability to avoid controversy and act as (at least nominal) figures of unity, a near-impossible role in a Church marked out by so many theological divisions. They are very carefully chosen so as not to have strong opinions on matters of faith. Consequently the ranks of the episcopacy are packed full of weak men. The chronic cowardice is part of the reason why their instinctive response to child abuse is cover-up, not rigorous public investigation.
Previously I was convinced that church liberalism would shortly hit its high-water mark and decline rapidly, simply because it is so bad at reproducing itself: the liberals would give way to the more orthodox younger clergy. In reality, though, it seems as though the Church of England is more likely to simply wind up going down the same path as The Episcopal Church in America, where it has dramatically fragmented as it liberalized. The orthodox either went to the various Continuing Anglican churches – most notably the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) – or became Roman Catholics. The seeds of such fragmentation are already being laid in the UK via the consecration by ACNA of a missionary bishop for the UK and Europe, who will operate outside the structures of the Church of England.