Not a real Church?

Perhaps I was wrong in my belief (yesterday) that the mystical hierarchy model of the church is practically defunct.

Lesley Fellows at Lesley's Blog (and referring back to the Church Mouse) highlights the contrast between the silence around the offer of Methodists to join the CofE and the brouhaha surrounding the Ordinariate created to enable Anglicans to join the Roman Catholics.

Perhaps, she speculates, the Catholic model of the Church is still so strong that the Methodists don't really count: they are not a real Church.

Perhaps, though she doesn't mention this, it is simply a matter of Anglican arrogance, even snobbery.

It is interesting to watch a vicar enter a meeting room.  You can often spot them a mile off: collar to the fore, they emanate an air of confidence, the presupposition of a right to be present and the expectation of being taken seriously, whatever the context.  (Not every one of them, of course, and a good number of those that do would be horrified to have it pointed out to them. I guess I did much the same in my vicaring days and I'm not convinced I've entirely lost it.)

I suspect the presupposition of a representative of the Established Church, a certain standing in society, an organization which builds vicars up and congregational deference which means that many never get the corners knocked off, all contribute to this arrogance.  A high view of priesthood would certainly contribute to this attitude but it seems to apply to vicars wherever they are on the candle.

John Henry Newman
As John Henry Newman said in Tract 1 (1833):
... on what will you rest the claim of respect and attention which you make upon your flocks? Hitherto you have been upheld by your birth, your education, your wealth, your connexions; should these secular advantages cease, on what must CHRIST’S Ministers depend? Is not this a serious practical question? 
And maybe some residue of his next comment remains:
We know how miserable is the state of religious bodies not supported by the State. Look at the Dissenters on all sides of you, and you will see at once that their Ministers, depending simply upon the people, become the creatures of the people. Are you content that this should be your case? Alas! can a greater evil befall Christians, than for their teachers to be guided by them, instead of guiding?
His solution was,
There are some who rest their divine mission on their own unsupported assertion; others, who rest it upon their popularity; others, on their success; and others, who rest it upon their temporal distinctions. This last case has, perhaps, been too much our own; I fear we have neglected the real ground on which our authority is built,—OUR APOSTOLICAL DESCENT.
(from Project Canterbury)

While I would heartily reject Newman's answer it is interesting that the question remains cast in much the same terms: how do the clergy know who they are, individually and as a class, except by placing themselves over against the laity?


  1. What arrogance, indeed, from Newman and what nonsense to rest his authority on the fantastical claim of apostolic descent. I think less of the man after reading his words here. And then when Newman went over to Rome, he had to submit to re-ordination, thus admitting that the orders he'd claimed with such pride were as nothing.

    Back in February, I wrote about the offer by the Methodists, which I thought was quite generous and self-sacrificing, and I recall how little attention it received.

  2. Originally applied to Puritans, I think it can be pointed back towards us now:

    Again it may be justly feared whether our English nobility, when the matter comes in trial, would contentedly suffer themselves to be always at the call, and to stand to the sentence of a number of mean persons assisted with the presence of their poor teacher, a man (as sometimes it happeneth) though better able to speak, yet little or no whit apter to judge than the rest: from whom, be heir dealings never so absurd, (unless it be by way of a complaint to a synod,) no appeal may be made to any one of a higher power.... Hooker, Laws, Preface VIII.2.