I can’t commend this highly enough, the Bishop of Southwark captures the moment perfectly.
Thought for the Day, 21 November 2006
The Rt Rev. Tom Butler
Good morning. The Archbishop of Canterbury starts his visit to the Vatican today and the standard story is that progress towards unity between the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican Communion has been set back, sadly, by the ordination of women as priests and bishops and the fracas concerning gay priests and bishops in the Anglican Communion.
There is another way of viewing the same happenings. The Church of England sees itself as being both Catholic and Reformed, taking on many of the reforms of the Reformation Churches whilst keeping a continuity with the catholic nature of the ordained ministry. More than this, it is possible to see the Church of England as a Prophetic, Catholic and Reformed Church, thoughtfully and prayerful making the developments that the wider catholic and orthodox churches might wish to take into their system later.
For example, at the reformation the Book of Prayer offered the people of England and subsequently people in other lands, worship in their own vernacular language. It took four centuries before the Roman Catholic church replaced the Latin mass by local languages as the norm of their worship. Again, the Church of England since the reformation has allowed its clergy to marry. It’s only in the last dozen years that the Roman Catholic church in England has allowed former Anglican priests to become Roman Catholic priests, despite them being married, surely indicating that there is nothing theologically inherent preventing a married man being a priest.
Now we have the development of women being ordained as priests in the Anglican Communion. The decision was taken to ordain them believing that this was a legitimate development of church order. Over two thousand have already been ordained in the Church of England, I have 175 ministering in my own diocese. Women now form half the candidates at every ordination. It’s nonsensical to believe that there’ll be any going back and nor should there be. Women priests aren’t a problem they’re a blessing, not only to the Church of England, but to the wider community and I believe to the whole catholic church in years to come.
And what of gay priests? Of course there are divisions and splits in the Anglican Communion over this issue at the present time, and because we are a transparent church, the arguments are conducted in public. But Archbishop and Pope both know that they have serving their respective churches innumerable dedicated and devoted gay priests, often ministering in the most difficult and dangerous places on earth. They’re not a problem. They’re a blessing.
We may be in the winter of church unity negotiations, but calling blessings problems isn’t the way to move towards the spring.