On the eve of the General Synod and the Lambeth Conference, Theo Hobson says that the sleeping giant of evangelical and orthodox Anglicanism has been awoken by liberal agitation and Rowan Williams’s failed leadership. The church is damaged beyond repair
Some years ago a vicar gave a sermon in which he tried to explain the latest developments in the Anglican Communion to his congregation. Afterwards an old lady came up to him, a bit bemused. ‘How does all this stuff about Anglicans affect us?’, she asked. ‘Well,’ he replied, smiling warmly at the old biddy, ‘we’re all part of the global Anglican Communion, aren’t we?’ She looked still more bemused: ‘I thought we were Church of England.’
She had a point. Over the last few decades, the Church of England has increasingly presented itself as one part of the global Anglican Communion. This seemed a way of reinventing itself, of edging away from the embarrassment of being a state church. But the move has turned out to be disastrous. It has been the undoing of the C of E and has led what was once a pacific, tolerant church to its present state of exhausted collapse. On the eve of the Lambeth Conference (it begins on 16 July) we are witnessing the End Times of the C of E. The bickering factions in the worldwide Anglican Communion have simply pulled our church apart.
Every day, in the run-up to Lambeth, there’s a new crisis for poor Rowan Williams. On Monday, 1,333 ‘traditionalist’ clergy threatened to defect to Rome in protest against women bishops. The same day, 2,300 clergy in favour of women bishops signed a statement protesting against the protesters. On Friday this week the General Synod will discuss the two separate, but equally intractable breakaway groups — the English traditionalists (whose beef is with women) and the worldwide evangelicals (who complain most of all about homosexuality).