Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Flying Bishops: A Correction

Archbishop: a Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ.
H. L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major ch. 4 (1916)

Yesterday, I used the example of "Flying Bishops" as an example of where churches had pastoral oversight not from the Bishop of their own diocese, but of that of another.
This was intended as a very rough and ready analogy to show how being part of a diocese differed from oversight of a Bishop of that diocese, which is the position Jersey now finds its way in.
I cited as a local example Dr Gavin Ashenden of Gouray Church, as it appears he has stated that he does not accept the validity of the ordination of women, and would have probably pastoral oversight from a "flying bishop", which is usually the case in such circumstances. Flying Bishops are for those who see it as their task "to divide that which is defective in the Church of England from that which is orthodox."
It is the Church of England's way of "having your cake and eating it"! It allows the ordination of women, but it allows some priests to be able to refuse to accept that ordination as valid. To some people,  women priests are actually women just "dressing up" as priests who cannot really celebrate communion. It is all "decadent liberalism".
(It is ironic that I have heard a Catholic priest state exactly that about Anglican clergy!).
But the situation about "flying bishops" is actually a little more complicated, as my correspondent James tells me.
I should have realised that nothing in the Church of England is every quite simple!
"The governance of churches in England is done on the basis that the task is shared between the minister and the Parochial Church Council which is elected by church members. The PCC and the minister (who chairs it) both have to request alternative oversight; this used to be done by passing three resolutions known as resolutions A, B and C. Only when churches passed Resolution C did they come under alternative oversight (quite a lot passed Resolutions A and B, but not C), and even then (the key point) the existence of alternative oversight was only for specific pastoral reasons. In all other respects the so-called "C Churches" were as much part of the local diocese as anywhere else."
"PCCs are strange beasts: some are very compliant with the wishes of the minister, but others are quite willing to say to the minister, in this case you are wrong and we will not back you. This explains why there were never that many C churches."
"I have no idea whether Gouray actually has a PCC, nor how such legislation would be applied in Jersey (whose model of church governance makes the English one look a model of clarity). I also do not think that the small congregation at Gouray would wear Gavin or anyone else pushing them that way - remember that his is only a part-time appointment. "
So this is quite unlike the situation with the current agreement for oversight of the Channel Islands from Canterbury, which has definitely been imposed from above, with little or no consultation with congregations.

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