In the last few weeks there has been a lot of fuss in some Church of England environments about the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.
The Pastoral Guidance quotes Canon affirming that every clergy “shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ”, then it goes on saying that it is “particular responsibility of clergy to teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church”; concluding with a not-so-veiled threat, “at ordination clergy undertake to 'accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it.' We urge all clergy to act consistently with that undertaking.”
However, how it is that the members of the House of Bishops have taken the time to express themselves so caustically on the issue of marriage equality (not same sex marriage, as they call it) when the same words could be used about the widespread disregard for points of Doctrine among clergy?
Recently I have encountered problems relating to the teaching of heresy within the Church – and when I say “teaching” I mean just that, not the casual overlooking of flaws in theological arguments, but the systematic and institutionalised support for heretical doctrines relating to core beliefs of Christianity. In my limited experience as a priest I have encountered (a) refutation of the Kingship of Christ; (b) Pelagian views and (c) low-Christology, bordering on Arianism; and (d) the breakdown of orthodox ecclesiology, particularly with regards to the role of threefold ordained ministry.
Crucially, I have not included the filioque clause and I have left out of the list those contentious issues which have historically divided Anglican faithful, such as the significance of the Eucharist and the role of the Mother of God. In fact, the errors listed above can be rejected simply through Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer.
(a) is not a Protestant move against Rome who introduced the feast in the Western calendar in 1925; rather it is the ridiculous thought that Christ cannot be king because history is full of kings who have acted wickedly towards their people. It is a simplistic idea championed by Canon Keith Lamdin, principal of Sarum College and goes against the testimony of Scripture. “The Lord, said to my Lord…” and all that.
(b) and (c) Are the most worring errors in this lot. They often are the trademarks of distorted all-inclusive theologies. Pelagian views are often propounded on the back of fuzzy readings Celtic Christianity and the irrational revival of resentment for the Synod of Whitby.
*soft, patronising voice* “Not original sin, but original blessing”.
(d) is symptomatic of the Church’s loss of confidence in herself and in the ordained ministry which serves her. The threefold understanding of ordained ministry is at the heart of orthodox ecclesiology, including Anglican ecclesiology and it ensure continuity in the faith. Oh yeah, and it is the pattern on which the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has settled since the early patristic age.
To my knowledge, the House of Bishops, which at the moment appears hell-bent on alienating a considerable portion of the clergy, is not spending half as much effort in stamping out doctrinal issues – particularly in the field of Christology.
Why is that? Why are they hasty to threaten clergy with CDM on the subject of equal marriage, but they turn a blind eye to heresy? If it is a “particular responsibility of clergy to teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church”, why some individuals are ordained and allowed to minister even though they are actively promoting error?