We don’t need Bishops parachuted in from Africa to sort out the Anglican Church in Britain. We don’t even need Jonathan Pryke. We already have MALs!
As the Archbishops told us after ‘that’ vote in Synod,
“The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”
Who could possibly object to that? As one of the excluded I certainly wouldn’t.
“We need to work together” the Archbishops said “ – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.”
We can. We really can. The Mission Area Leaders are already in place and primed to do the job. I have been studying their qualifications and the Area structures. (see my blog of October 18th, last year.) To be an MAL you have to be exceptionally able with just the right qualities to bring
“about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity” and “a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”
One of the things the Re-organisation—20:20 Vision or whatever it’s called—has done is abolish Parishes. I haven’t yet met a single churchgoer who thinks that is actually a good idea but the Early Christians weren’t organised into parishes and look what they started. Mission Area Leaders now have a unique opportunity to re-organise their areas in such a way that all the different needs of the present Anglican Church here in Britain can live together in Godly Love and give up all this nonsense about good disagreement. That is clearly not working and is never going to work, given it involves people who insist on not just thinking but believing and feeling and yelling as well.
A better world could be achieved very simply. The structures are already in place.
All you need to make this initiative work are a minimum of four churches in a Mission Area to serve four different congregations. If you look closely on the left of the above diagram you will see that they are already in place. The first group, (Church St A) are obviously those who are still worshipping in their local ‘parish’ church, either because they love it the way it is, or through tradition and loyalty. And, of course, they will be the most difficult for the MALs to cope with because they have been Faithful and they will NOT want to be moved.
That leaves three other main groups, who have already left the church. These people will be much more accommodating because, after years in the wilderness, they will be only too thankful to have a church to go to that believes what they believe. So Church St B will become St AC (to accommodate Anglo-Catholics) and church St C will become Church St E for the Evangelicals.
Finally, there is the last group, Church of St D, to which I belong. We are the easiest of all to provide for. We accept women priests. We can even cope with women bishops if they’re not too stridently feminist. Our sticking point, the red line that is being crossed over and over again, is our simple belief that Christian Marriage is between one man and one woman.
That is really all we want, although the list of things we do not want is quite lengthy. We want a bog standard Anglican service, lead with respect and dignity, and—when it’s a Eucharist—with solemnity.
We don’t want fancy dressed vegetables, rainbow flags, dancing round paper fires, walls of cardboard bricks, altars made of tatty boxes, or arts and crafts with yogurt pots and sticky paper, all of which have featured in modern churches recently. And positively no Imans and no Koran readings.
The clergy allotted to this sort of church will be overjoyed. Just a prayer book and a bible will be all they will need. They will be able to devote the time saved to preparing a thoughtful, theologically based sermon.
It will make life so much simpler for the Mission Area Leaders, too. This bit of re-organisation should be a doddle since they’ve already got a blue print. All they will have to do is find four different sorts of clergy, for the different strands of Anglicanism required. There may have to be a bit of juggling once the system has been in place for a while. Some churches may be more popular than others and may need a bigger building, for example.
Here in Wales, Welsh language Anglican churches would probably also be most welcome. In the St Asaph Diocese, and possibly in others, the LGBTQ+ Chaplain may well choose to serve a predominantly Gay congregation. Of course, it does mean that the Bishops have got to play fair, too. Much as they may want SSM despite Lambeth 1:10 (1998) they will have to recognise that those congregations that can’t believe in SSM are neither homophobic nor bigoted.
The great benefit of this arrangement is that it would do away with disagreement—good or bad—in the churches themselves. We could stop wasting time listening to people with whom we cannot possibly agree. Instead we could go to church knowing exactly what to expect and then, when we returned to our villages, or communities, Christians, of whatever shape and form could get on happily with doing God’s work at the local level.
Of course, since all congregations are made up of human beings of the fallen, finite variety there will always be some who will complain that their specific needs aren’t met. Well, that’s something the MALs will have to wrestle with, because, once these new, belief-specific churches are up and running, there won’t be much else for them to do.
Go for it, MALs.