Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Never glad confident morning again

Where stands (traditional) Anglo-Catholicism in England?

It is over a year since the Women Bishops vote in the General Synod. What has changed?

Nothing ... and everything.

There was much anguish in the aftermath of the vote. It is perhaps surprising how quiet things have been since then.

Parish life goes on. The Flying Bishops are still flying. Forward in Faith proclaims, "A Code of Practice will not do."

The General Synod has appointed a Legislative Drafting Group, and, in theory at least, all options are back on the table (despite the July 2008 vote).

There has been a trickle of departures for Rome, but no flood.

Reassuring voices say, "Something will be sorted out." Pessimists say, "It's all over." But they speak quietly, privately.

So, business as usual? Rumours of the death of Anglo-Catholicism greatly exaggerated?

There will indeed be Anglo-Catholics of a traditional kind in the Church of England for a long time to come: not just until the first women bishops appear, but beyond. In places they will even grow and flourish.

But something has changed - irrevocably. A thread has snapped.

There will be more departures, whether individual or en masse - to Rome or elsewhere, and some no doubt to Liberalism. Many who leave will be the young, gifted priests and laity who would have become the movement's leaders. Eventually a tipping point will be reached where qua movement Anglo-Catholicism will no longer be viable. It will still be present, but it will no longer count for anything.

This will be true, even if the great majority "stay". They may technically remain as Anglicans, but in their hearts they will have left: a sort of internal exile. The synodical route may end in tears, or the horse-trading and behind the scenes negotiation may produce (against expectation) a surprisingly good settlement. But few will be able to embrace the new dispensation with enthusiasm.

Until last year's vote there was still the possibility (however slender) of a different outcome. But no longer.

What was it that changed then? Why does it matter so much? One phrase sums it up:

Never glad, confident morning again.

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