22/10/2010

English and Welsh Bishops

The gorgeous Grandmère Mimi


Grandmère Mimi says (comment, here):
I have the sense, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the bishops in the Church of England who do not like the Covenant will not speak against it, for they are too polite to - what? - hurt the ABC's feelings? The Welsh bishops won't cross him either. 
Sadly I think she's right.


It may be a little more complex than simple politeness, though. There is a mix of loyalty (and not wanting to seem publicly disloyal) with a generation of bishops trained into the collective mould (both senses) by having individuality trained out of them: mini-princes in their own domains and courtiers on the larger stage.  I'm not sure that government by nineteenth-century unaccountable autocrats was any better (and there was a different structure of checks and balances in place). However, the result today is that the bishops have become like a one-party state: divisions are kept within the club, the public face must be united. (Unless, of course, you retire to Rome, but that's a different story.)


However that's assuming there has been structured debate in which differences of episcopal opinion have even been aired.  There was, of course, discussion at the Lambeth Conference.  I'm not at all sure what debate has been had within the English college of bishops - not that I would know, you understand, one way or the other.  But I am led to believe that the new Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council - the other half of implementing the Covenant - went through on the nod.


The Welsh bishops are a different kettle of fish, so to speak.  There are only 6 diocesans, after all, and one of them is Gregory Cameron.  And, yes, they do feel a loyalty to one of their own - after all, how many welshmen have ever been Pope? I have no feel for the way the wind is blowing there but I would be very surprised if they all leaned the same way.  It's a relatively small Province but there is a noticeable difference in culture between north and south Wales.


And, in dealing with the episcopacy never forget the old joke that the bishop's symbol is a crook and the sign of an archbishop is a double-cross.







2 comments:

  1. Paul, I blush at your description of me, but I thank you for your enlightenment.

    The old boys' club mindset is more entrenched amongst the bishops in England than in the US, although vestiges remain in the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church. But no matter the location, it seems that once an individual or a group has power, they do not relinquish it easily.

    I'm glad to hear that there may be diversity amongst the bishops in Wales.

    Bishop Cameron visited my blog and left comments during the Primates meeting in Jamaica. At least, I believe it was Bp. Cameron. He claimed he was, and I had a visitor from Jamaica at the time he left his comments.

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  2. I believe that there are two stages at which the Covenant might be defeated in the Church of England. The first is in the dioceses. There is a lot of alarm among the laity who are clued in and all it needs is 23 dioceses out of 46 to vote against. I am fairly certain that Southwark will vote against (and, of course, Lambeth Palace is in our dioceses). The clergy here are also pretty clued in, and are not particularly happy with Lambeth and the Archbishop.

    I also believe that even with the Archbishop's encouragement, it is possible that General Synod might vote against. After all, the Archbishops were defeated when they tried to impose their will on Synod over the arrangements for the gynophobes.

    Finally, this will have to pass Parliament. It is exceptional for Parliament to disapprove of legislation passed by Synod, but it has happened twice while I have been here in England. A few years ago the bishops made certain that there was a clause in a bill which would have allowed a bishop to sack a Churchwarden without warning and without giving a cause. Currently churchwardens have a very privileged position within a parish and once elected they cannot be sacked. The churchwardens of the land rose up as one and lobbied their MPs: every English MP has many churchwardens in his or her constituency, and the MPs got a lot of angry correspondence on the subject. The measure was defeated in the Commons Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament and went back to Synod. The bishops got the same measure passed, and Parliament again refused to endorse it. So the clause was removed rather than the churchwardens.

    I also expect that The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of Brasil, and perhaps the Australian and New Zealand Anglican Church will not ratify the Covenant in its current form. Indeed, some of the more...um...reactionary provinces are in favour of the Covenant but are convinced that the punitive parts of the Covenant are too weak, so they may not ratify it either.

    The Church in Wales is pretty toothless, as the Welsh are a chapel-going lot. Whether they ratify it or not is probably down to whether their Houses of Clergy and Laity are as clubbable as their Bishops are.

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