Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anglican Confusion

There has been much in the news lately about so-called homosexual “marriage.” On May 15 a panel of four judges in California declared unconstitutional the California law restricting marriage to one man and one woman, leading to a flood of marriage license applications in the state in recent days. While that news was still sinking in, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, made good on his stated intention to become a “June bride” when he entered into a civil union on June 10.

Then this week: On Saturday, June 14, the Telegraph reported that two ordained Church of England priests (a word I am tempted to put in quotes, but I’ve done enough of that already) in London had their existing civil union blessed on May 31 by a colleague in a ceremony that the Bp. of Winchester described – appropriately – as a wedding “in all but name.” Judging from the actual liturgy used, it looks an awful lot like my own wedding (performed in an Episcopal Church); they even used one of the same hymns, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” and the same Gospel reading. (To view a PDF file of the wedding program, click here.) The Rev. Martin Dudley officiated at the ceremony for The Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord at St. Bartholomew the Great Church, Smithfield in the City of London, where Rev. Dudley is the rector. See the original article from the Telegraph online. On Tuesday, June 17, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York released a joint statement that comes about as close as Church of England bishops ever get to issuing a reprimand. Here is an excerpt:

Those clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it. (Emphasis mine)

They also noted in their statement that this matter is the subject of an investigation by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in whose diocese the ceremony took place. Yesterday (Wednesday, June 18) the Diocese of London released letters from Bishop Chartres to congregations in the diocese and to Rev. Dudley. Both letters are posted here. The congregations letter is a fairly standard move-along-nothing-to-see-here/this-is-merely-a-distraction-from-our-real-work sort of thing.

(How he writes this stuff with a straight face is beyond me.) An excerpt:

So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda.

The letter to Rev. Dudley is a tad more pointed. It expresses shock – shock! – that more than two weeks after the fact Rev. Dudley has yet to contact him directly, and for an event that has been in the works since November of 2007. The central issue according to Bp. Chartres is not civil unions, nor is it homosexual practice. Both seem to be non-issues for him. (He stresses that “homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London.”) The central issue is the canonical authority of the bishop. He quotes the portion of the Canterbury/York statement excerpted above and accused Dudley of treating his parish as his “a personal fiefdom.” In my opinion, it comes off as a protracted whine. Bp. Chartres’ pride is wounded because Rev. Dudley did this in the open rather than keeping it under his hat in a more discreet “private ceremony.”

It is difficult to see how an event of this size (300 people) and consequence could have completely escaped the bishop’s notice. In other words, it seems reasonable to conclude that Mr. Dudley’s principle sin, according to Bp. Chartres, was failing to keep his bishop apprised of the wedding details.

While the response from Lambeth Palace & York Minster is stronger than I would have expected, given the recent history of dithering in the C of E, I am certain that it will all come to nothing in the end. Oh, Mr. Dudley may face some sort of mild disciplinary action from his Bishop, but I am willing to bet that he will not be forced to resign from holy orders. Although I no longer have a dog in this fight, as they say, this is hard to watch. My husband and I still have Anglican friends, after all, including a C of E vicar – in the Diocese of London. I have watched the Anglican Communion and its constituent organizations, like ECUSA, slide more and more rapidly into apostasy over the past few decades, and I feel for my brothers and sisters who still endure the false shepherds of the Anglican Communion.

UPDATE: Latest news from GAFCON – The Telegraph reports today on the release of a document drawn up by participants in the lead-up to next week’s meeting in Jerusalem, entitled, “The Way, the Truth and the Light.” The (somewhat lengthy) PDF document can be viewed here.

Perhaps the recent flood of apostasy will finally convince orthodox Anglicans that the chances of reform from within are about zero. That seems to be the consensus among GAFCON participants, although their solution is not what I would have hoped. Here is a particularly discouraging excerpt:

We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the sixteenth century. Then, the Catholic Church in England was faced with the choice of aligning itself with either Rome or Geneva. But, when forced to decide its identity, it sought to distinguish itself from both the practices of the Papacy and the excesses it associated with the more radical reformers. Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing…. (Emphasis mine)

Argh. In other words, schism was a good thing then, and further schism is the only solution we have now. They are half right. The Anglican Communion is not going to reform itself, so further association with the Communion is futile. But schism only breeds further schism, as it has for five centuries. I pray that this current mess with induce at least some orthodox Anglicans to do what my husband and I did – to investigate thoroughly and honestly the claims of the REAL Catholic Church.

Original Telegraph story:

Follow up story from the Telegraph:

Side-by-side of liturgy used in ceremony & traditional wedding liturgy:

Ceremony program (PDF):

Letters from Bp. Chartres to London congregations and Rev. Dudley:

GAFCON statement, “The Way, the Truth and the Light” (lengthy document):

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