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City of Confusion – Part II

Just when we were beginning to think that things couldn’t get any more schizoid in the Anglican Communion, things are getting, well, more schizoid.

This spring we were treated to another fine display of the polarizing tensions that are rending Anglicanism asunder. At a meeting of the House of Bishops in May, the Church of England announced a new policy lifting long­standing restrictions on consecration to the bishopric of divorced priests and priests married to divorcées. The topic of divorced bishops was fiercely debated among the British Anglican hierarchy — insofar as fierce debate is possible among genteel men — who had been engaged in secret discussions for months. But, in step with the overall direction of Western Anglicanism, the liberal forces were able to declare victory in yet another controversial clash with traditionalists. A measure of their success was attributable to Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, the primary figurehead and ranking prelate of the Anglican Communion, who supported lifting the ban. Cases of divorced clergy nominated for the office of bishop will be handled on a “case-by-case basis.”

Back in 2002 the Church of England lifted the ban on “remarriages” among divorced laymen — originally only in “exceptional” circumstances, mind you — so it was really only a matter of time before the relaxing of the rules was extended to the clergy and eventually the episcopacy. Once again, the exception proves the rule.

Naturally, the traditionalists were up in arms over yet another give-away: “The doctrine of matrimony is closely associated with ecclesiology and so it would seem utterly unacceptable that divorce and remarriage be part of the regimen of those who are called to represent and effect the unity of the Church,” argued Fr. Geoffrey Kirk, national secretary of the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith.

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