Saturday, December 18, 2004

Bishops, bishops and more bishops.

Dear Fr Kim,

You ask me for a comment on the news that the Traditional Anglican Communion has appointed Fr Moyer as its next bishop.

I say nothing here about Fr Moyer at all except that I believe him to be a faithful presbyter and parish priest. Rather I comment on the plurality of bishops in the Continuing Anglican churches. My comment is intended as light relief but also as an expression of pain at what I see happening to the Anglican Way in North America.

Bishops, bishops and more bishops.

Extra-mural Anglicans love bishops and they keep on consecrating them so that often a bishop does not have more than a few hundred people in his diocese.

In the America Colonies the Anglican Way did quite well up to the 1780s without bishops present and continued to do well for much longer with few bishops present. But things changed rapidly with the formation of the Continuing Anglican Movement in the 1970s. The desire to become a bishop became a passion for many presbyters!

Now, the fervent desire of the present members of the extra-mural Anglican Way to have a large supply of bishops is such that - to borrow from Presbyterian Polity -- all presbyters should be regarded as bishops and all bishops as presbyters and so all presbyters consecrated bishops; and then henceforth the normal way of ordination for all postulants should be deacon for one year, presbyter for three years, and bishop then onwards.

After all the Holy Scripture states: "If anyone aspires to the office of bishop [overseer], he desires a noble task." Let all clergy be allowed to have this noble task!

Trouble is that the same Scripture has nothing to say about becoming an archbishop - of which the Extra-Murals have a good, perhaps plentiful, supply as well.

My own belief is that rather than more Bishops and more presbyters, extra-mural Anglicans need more committed and consecrated members brought to Faith through evangelization, mission, winsomeness in worship and fellowship and polity! Hold the number of clergy steady while the number of the laity greatly increases. Let's have a moratorium on ordinations until the membership has doubled and there is greater unity amongst Extra-Mural Anglicans.

Advent IV (eve of 2004)

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

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