Thursday, July 10, 2008

Evangelicals - remember the High Churchmen

[Stand Firm] 10 Jul 2008-- This post seems almost too obvious to write but I'm going to do it anyway.

I'm an evangelical, there's no surprise about that, but it occurs to me that as an evangelical I haven't really got my head around quite how big a deal the decision by the Church of England General Synod not to provide legal protection for dissenters on the matter of women bishops is. Let me explain.

The decision is, of course, a big deal even if you're an evangelical. For many of us it represents another step away from Biblical authority. But, if we are honest, the impact upon us is not as great as it is for our High Church colleagues. The reason why lies in our ecclesiology. Evangelicals have generally understood that we don't need bishops (as an example see this article from last year). We like bishops, especially when they do their job properly, but we don't consider them vital to the church. That's why we are the most ecumenical of creatures, able to join hands with evangelicals of all denominations.

For our High Church friends, on the other hand, bishops are vital. They are not just symbols of unity - they are in one sense the essence of the church. They understand that the Church has thought this way ever since Ignatius insisted on the priority of bishops. Furthermore, bishops are sacramentally important. To be fair, I have never 100% understood this in all its detail but I have long since accepted that this is how they make sense of ecclesiology.

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