Women-Bishops and the Dissolution of Anglicanism:
The decision by the General Synod of the Church of England to remove the legal obstacles to the ordination of ‘women-bishops’ seems to members of the Orthodox Church like news from another planet. Decidedly, we do not have the same instincts and values.
However, the threat by many hundreds of Anglican clergy to split from the Church of England, if ‘women-bishops’ are introduced, also seems strangely illogical. Ironically, it would in the next few years create further sects and disunity in the supposedly ecumenical Protestant world of over 600 denominations. Indeed, this threat raises a whole series of questions:
If women-bishops are a problem, then, frankly, why belong to an organization which was founded by a serial murderer, because he wanted to commit adultery?
If women-bishops are a problem, then why belong to an organization, several of whose official representatives have, for forty years and more, publicly denied the Holy Trinity, the Divinity and Resurrection of Christ, the Virgin-Birth, the Last Judgement, and many other basic teachings of the Christian Faith?
Surely, such questions as these are of even more fundamental importance than the question of women-bishops? There is more than a hint of inconsistency, and even misogyny, among people who belong to an organization, which has for over fifty years been headed by a woman – Queen Elizabeth II - but who wish to leave it, because its administration is being opened up to women. If they really feel so strongly about this matter, why did they not at least have the logic to leave it, when ‘women-priests’ were introduced eleven years ago – and much longer ago than that, in many other Anglican provinces? Why did they not have the logic to leave Anglicanism when the first women-bishops appeared in other parts of their Church seventeen years ago?
The fact is that this inevitable civil war about the inevitable introduction of ‘women-bishops’ discloses two radically different understandings of what the Church is.
The first understanding is that of human ‘churches’. These are ‘do-it-yourself’ organizations, where the only points of reference are personal, subjective interpretations of the Bible, ‘isms’ – Lutheranism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, Congregationalism, Baptism, Pentecostalism etc etc. Not surprisingly, such interpretations have in the past been variously used to justify other ‘isms’ – Feudalism, Capitalism, Imperialism, Fascism, Communism, nationalism, colonialism, racism, sexism – as well as massacres, slavery and apartheid. In other words, such interpretations have been used to justify whatever the current secular fashion was, to justify swimming with the tide a la Vicar of Bray.
These subjective interpretations have always, consciously or, more often, unconsciously, led to the secularization of the Gospel. This means the creation of ‘churches’, which in fact are not the Church, but are in reality essentially secular organizations with a Church-like exterior. D.I.Y. ‘churches’ are based on the relative absence of spirituality and faith, on conformity to the world, on relativism, the lack of any Absolute. Limited to the logic of the human mind, they dissolve the Church into the world. They always stress theological ‘evolution’, relative truth, subjective intellectualism, personal opinions, self-justification, self-serving motivations under the delusion of ‘service to the Church’.
Why should such interpretations not also justify current fashions – homosexuality, feminism, or whatever else contemporary people choose, now that they have been conditioned by modern society to believe in the strangest fads and fancies, which they unconditionally accept? In the past, subjective interpretations justified the fashions of the past; let them do the same today.
Thus, under the pressure of modern fads, it is now popular to suggest that Christ did not choose female Apostles, because it would have been ‘too revolutionary’. (Apparently the Incarnation of the Son of God through a Virgin, His Resurrection from the dead, and the denial of the authority of both Roman Imperialism and Jewish Nationalism are not ‘too revolutionary’). It is now equally popular to suggest that ‘the Church’ has been wrong for 2,000 years, but we modern people know better, because we are ‘better-educated’. (Apparently the technology of ‘weapons of mass destruction’, capable of killing billions, mean that we civilized people are ‘better educated’ than the primitive people in the past, who wisely only used sticks and stones to steal from each other).
This ‘better education’ becomes a very convenient excuse to change everything – naturally, to suit our convenience, to justify our sins. Thus, we can invent ‘pick and mix churches’, ‘designer label churches’, with ‘worship committees’, which reflect the conditioning and fads of the consumer society of the 21st century. It is notable of the advocates of such ‘designer churches’ that they do not show veneration for the Most Holy Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the greatest human-being in the Church – greater than all the saints and apostles, and certainly greater than any mere bishop or priest.
Nor do such advocates use words like the Fall, Revelation, faith, sin, fasting, repentance, asceticism. These are the very people who will say that, ‘since God made homosexuals, it must be good to be homosexual’, as I was told by one of them. (After all, thanks to ‘better education’, we know about ‘genes’ - let us blame all our faults on them. Imagine, those poor people in the past, who did not know about genes, they actually had to take responsibility for their faults).
Where do we begin, faced with such incredible ignorance of the Gospel, the Church of Christ and lack of common sense about the capacity for human sinfulness?
Here, some look to Roman Catholicism. True, this may provide a refuge for a time, but we should not forget that the Protestant denominations, including Anglicanism, are all the offspring of Roman Catholicism. And Roman Catholicism, like Protestantism, is another ‘ism’. Protestantism is ultimately only the most ‘advanced’ or ‘progressive’ part of Roman Catholicism. Indeed, the latter is also faced by movements on its fringes that definitely wish to copy Protestantism. As regards aggressive feminism (another human ‘ism’), Roman Catholicism has done much to encourage it, by having introduced clericalism (yet another human ‘ism’), in the form of the invention of a celibate male priesthood. Moreover, sadly, some members of that priesthood have latterly proved to be perverted. (Here, genes are less blamed as an excuse). In any case, in the Western world, this celibate male priesthood is at present dying out through a lack of recruits.
Fortunately, there is another understanding of the word ‘Church’.
This was founded by Christ through the sending down of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, nearly 2,000 years ago. She (yes, feminists and non-feminists, She) is not an organization. She is the Body of Christ (She, because the Body was given to Christ by His Mother), living amongst us.
She does not belong to us. We belong to Her. We do not save Her, serve Her, reform Her, change Her, update Her. She saves, serves, reforms, changes and updates us. This is because She is not a human invention, not a human organization.
Of course, since the Church is incarnate among human-beings, She has a corrupt, often abysmally corrupt, human side. Thus, from the very beginning, among the twelve men that Christ chose to follow him, some argued about who was the greatest, most fell asleep at Christ’s moment of greatest need, another was a thief, a traitor and an unrepentant suicide, another one denied Christ three times, most ran away when He was crucified and later a future apostle helped stone St Stephen to death, before he saw the light.
It was ever thus. It will ever be thus. Human ingenuity for faithlessness and corruption, blasphemy, murder, simony, theft, fornication, careerism, slander, racism, blatant lieing, flattery and just sheer nastiness, all in the name of the Church, should never surprise us. We have seen it all. Anything to justify our wickedness, camouflaging it behind the good name of the Church of Christ.
The Church is in fact here to help us to struggle against human wickedness, to call all us sinners to repentance. The Church is the hospital to heal sick human souls, that is, to heal every single human soul, who wishes to recognize that it needs the divine medicine of the Church to be healed. The Church is in no way here because of any of us, but in spite of all of us. Whether we (and not others – that is their affair) respond sincerely to Her call to repentance, or not, is another question.
The Church does not conform to the sick human world. She conforms that part of the sick world which desires to be healed, to Her. The Church can do this, because She is Absolute Revelation, because She is the sinless and so deathless, Risen Body of Christ, filled by the Spirit of Truth. This Body was given to Christ to become His Body by the Mother of God, which is why the Church is our Mother.
Some time after the Church was founded, the Scriptures were written. Although the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, in terms of human language, they are human attempts to express the inexpressible, human attempts to record the Word of God. This has been a well-known fact for some 1,900 years. For this reason, the Scriptures can only be understood within the Church, within the continuous, 2,000 year-old outpouring of the Holy Spirit, known as the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Not human ‘traditions’, mere human customs and inventions, but the Sacred Tradition. This is the depository of some 2,000 years of the unchanging, but ever new, Revelation of God to humanity by the Holy Spirit through the Church. Since the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, they can only be understood within the Holy Spirit, Who filters out errors of understanding. Only thus can we avoid the errors of the imperfect, fallible, human instruments, who were called on to write down and put Infallible Inspiration into human languages.
Unfortunately, it is doubtful whether today’s secular society and secular mentality would want to know about the Church, the Body of Christ. For nearly 2,000 years, it has already done its utmost to ignore Her, pervert Her and divide Her, that is, to secularize Her, to conform Her to itself. No doubt it will continue to do so. But we too shall continue to be faithful to Christ, and so will our Mother-Church:
And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rise from the dead.
June/12 July 2005