A plea for openness
he voices calling for a group of Conservative Evangelical bishops to be consecrated for the UK are undeniably geting louder. Fuelling the growing sense among
Reformed Anglicans that the CofE is going the way of TEC is the near certainty that there will be no legal provision for opponents of women bishops whilst civil partnerships are gaining institutional recognition. Te discussions are said to involve ‘senior figures’. Only time can tell whether the talk will turn into acion. But this parish plodder would make two appeals if an agreed plan emerges.
Firstly, there should be no secrecy over the consecrations.
Tere needs to be a strong local mandate from as many as possible within our constituency in the Church of England. Whilst one understands the need to safeguard the position of those men who volunteer to be bishops, the process does need to be as open as possible, with consultation about the individuals and good advance notice of the consecrations. Simply to be told at a gathering of the clans hastily convened by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans that the consecrations are taking place the following weekend and asked for an endorsement would be very far from providing a positive mandate. It would leave the new bishops vulnerable to the charge that they had been parachuted in by the big churches and their church plants, and the lack of ownership would effectively kibosh their ministry from the start. Secondly, there should be real sensitivity to those
incumbents in small non-evangelical parish churches. Not only do they minister in net-receiving churches, but their PCCs and congregations are not going to be sympathetic to the new bishops. Tese ministers are surely Christ’s vulnerable ‘litle ones’ in all of this. Writing them off as mediocrities
are not cartoon characters. One of the major areas of our
work is sorting out failed exorcisms, usually from do-it-yourself free church ministers, but also from over-zealous CofE vicars. This may explain why there is no rite of exorcism in Common Worship. The only such text I know of is in the supplement to the South African book of 1989:
1. The full rite of exorcism is in the
custody of the Bishop and may be used only with his permission. In unavoidable emergency, the following form may be used by the Priest.
2. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, I command you, evil spirit, to
If plans to consecrate a group of Conservative Evangelical bishops come to fruition, openness and sensitivity will be needed, writes Julian Mann
without the management skills to get their PCCs on side is just ignorance talking about the reality of ministry in a church where the Word has not been taught and there are few shared spiritual priorities. It takes a lot longer now to turn a non- evangelical church around than it did even thirty years ago.
Clearly, there are many outstanding questions to be
addressed over the pracicalities and legalities. If the bishops to be consecrated are already ministers who hold a bishop’s licence to officiate, presumably those licences would have to be forfeited. Effectively, the new bishops would leave the institutional Church of England but would have a pastoral relationship with clergy and churches that remained in. It is likely therefore that the new bishops would be senior clergy about to retire and/or younger episcopally-ordained church planters already ministering without a bishop’s licence. Tere could be some interesting alliances once, God
willing, they come on stream. Te growing army of dogmatic neo-liberals in the institutional hierarchy are bound to be furiously opposed. Any incumbent presenting Confirmation candidates to one of the new bishops should expect to be threatened with the Clergy Discipline Measure. Te Open-Evangelical Fulcrum constituency is also likely to provide vocal opposition. But some old-school liberal bishops could well be inclined to cut deals with the new cats on the block. Tey have not got the same axe to grind as anti-FCA evangelicals, coupled with the fact that old-school liberals are oſten generous people. What is the merit in driving out a financially generous and lively congregation? Tose courageous enough to undertake this process on our
behalf deserve our prayers. May their ‘love abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment’ [Phil 1.9].
come out of this person (or N), and to harm no one but to depart to the place appointed you and remain there for ever.
3. Prayer should immediately follow
that the Holy Spirit may fill the gap left by the departure of the evil spirit. 4. It is essential that pastoral ministry
accompany such exorcism, especially in the period that follows it. Wherever possible, the Bishop should be notified of the exorcism without delay.
In so short a space, it is eminently
wise instruction and advice. Note that it does not offer a rite and there is no laying on of hands, and it emphasizes both the authority of the bishop and the need for a sound pastoral context.
‘Pastoral ministry’ makes it clear
that the parish priest has the central role. It would be good if clergy were better informed, and more confident in this shared work. Perhaps the discretion has become too close to secrecy. The CofE is currently reviewing its procedures and organization for this ministry; I hope it does not make things more bureaucratic (though that is almost inevitable under vulnerable adult protection legislation). The most important aspect is still a sound theology – something we always need in our church. It is Christ’s victory over evil that we
share with those in need. Don’t worry about exorcisms; worry about the Devil.
April 2010 ■ newdirections ■ 25
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