Sunday, July 10, 2005

ABC and the Synods

A few thoughts about the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC for short!) and the role he fulfils so well.

Here, in this office, presents itself the best of Anglican inclusiveness and willingness to tolerate dissent. So, at any one time, the "true faith" (seen only by history not its contemporaries!) can exist alongside whatever fad or fashion has taken hold of our corporate life, our worship, or our beliefs through the media, the synodical structure, and the power and influence of the individual ministers in their parishes and posts.

In Anglicanism the Archbishop sits, as it were, alongside his fellow diocesans in the House of Bishops, as primus inter pares not a despot. Below are the seried ranks of the other Clergy. This structure held as the "Convocations of Canterbury & York" presiding over doctrinal liturgical and such matters. This was changed, radically, by the conversion of this struture into that of "Synodical Government" in which the Houses of Convocation were replaced by the General Synod with its three-part structure of Houses of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity. Some would say this was unconstitutional - but I have no intention of entering that cogent but outdated argument! Only Parliament has influence over it, a set mainly of outsiders, primarily interested in that curiously English ideal of "fair play."

Below this this synod power trickles down to Deanery Synods and Parochial Church Councils. In theory an excellent system of consultation. In reality, only the General Synod counts.

The old General Synod has gone and we are busy preparing for a new one. Elections will soon take place for the Houses of Clergy and Laity. The Bishops seem immune from the democratic process of election. No doubt they are, thereby, officially regarded already as some kind of "Elect."

My hope and prayers are that the new Synod will not continue its predecessors' history of arrogance over doctrine and our corporate life. Despite our detractors, Anglicanism does have parameters of which they should take heed. These are described and grouped in various ways:

The Bible, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles;

Scripture, Tradition, and Reason;

The Lambeth Quadilateral, a four-sided affair: The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments + The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed + The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord + The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted.

No doubt those nominated for election will have varied views as to the form and content of our faith, and the continued legitimacy of these Church of Engand formulae. Whatever they may be, it will the work of the ABC and hs senior colleagues and advisors to make sure that we use this inheritance to good effect, and the service of our country and the world around it.