Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cautionary thoughts on AMiE from the 'Churchman' editorial

[...] That the supporters of AMiE are enthusiastic and well-meaning we have no doubt. That their fears about the general drift of the Church are real must also be recognised. Nobody should criticise this new initiative without taking these things into consideration and committing themselves to the same goals as AMiE – Gospel-based evangelism for the conversion of our nation. Those who cannot join with AMiE for other reasons must not lose sight of what ought to be the aims of every committed member of the Church of England. It is understandable that bishops do not want to be cornered by clergy demanding that they adhere to resolutions of past Lambeth Conferences as if they were the sole test of whether one should be in communion with them.

At the same time, the Church should not appoint men to senior positions if there is reason to doubt their loyalty to its official teaching and should not tolerate bishops who try to discipline their clergy for nothing more than their determination to defend orthodoxy. Church leaders who castigate the antics of conservative clergy but do nothing to remedy the defects that have caused their protests must realise that they are the ones who have done more than anyone else to bring AMiE into being. Just as the Archbishop of Canterbury is the true founder of GAFCON by virtue of his own prevarications, so these leaders of the establishment have created a market for the likes of AMiE.

Having said that, England is not the USA and there are serious difficulties about adopting a tactic that has been developed and employed in a very different ecclesiastical context. For a start, it appears that AMiE has ignored the legal status of the Church of England, something that puts it in a very different position from that of TEC. There are legal constraints in England that make it much more difficult to operate the kind of parallel system that the supporters of AMiE seem to want. Those ordained outside the official framework of the Church cannot minister in it without a licence, which can be hard to obtain if the circumstances of the ordination are irregular. This may not matter to the enthusiasts, but it is bound to be a consideration for many
who lack the support base that some of the larger churches can command. Could an AMiE church function outside the suburbs of our big cities? It is a safe bet that hardly any rural parishes or clergy will be attracted to it, nor will those engaged in non-parochial ministries find it attractive. The grassroots of the Church of England are averse to disrupting the system and those who try to do so are liable to be left high and dry.

Another factor we must consider is the growing weight of conservative voices inside the existing Church establishment. The recent General Synod elections have shown this, and there are signs that more orthodox men will be appointed to senior positions in the future. Perfection is unlikely to be achieved, but it
may well be possible to vote down unwelcome liberal initiatives in Synod and make it clear where the limits of tolerance for episcopal eccentricities lie. Read more (*.pdf download)

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