Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Plague On All Three of Your Houses

Our dilemma is twofold. In the first place it is doubtful whether it is right to appoint these new bishops; in the second place it is doubtful whether the authorities who presume to decide the question are the proper persons to do so.

Firstly the question is whether it is possible that they should be validly consecrated, and secondly whether those who allow them to be consecrated have the right. Their consecration is contrary to the tradition of the Church of England, although Jesuitical scholarship claims to have found precedent; but, on the other hand, it is convincingly urged that the conditions of the present day make it imperative to accept this development, lest the standing of the Church of England be permanently compromised.

It is indeed very strange to find King William appointing bishops to sees which are not vacant, and no bishop can be consecrated who does not possess a see. And yet it seems contrary to nature for the bishops of the Church of England to refuse their loyalty even to a de facto sovereign. The dilemma, for the traditional Anglican, is acute.

Let us take the question of authority first. No loyal Churchman can approve of the way these matters are now decided by those who have never really known the tradition of the Church of England; but happily there are still some Church of England queens who will maintain the filial pieties. At Plumstead Rectory we can hardly pretend to approve the new regime, but we fear that those who ought to be actively defending it have found their own loyalties elsewhere. In such circumstances they cannot expect High Tory resistance to be anything but passive.

The validity of their consecration follows. As the sovereign is, so will the bishops be. No Bishops; No King: and though we are more than sympathetic to those who claim we have neither, we have in practice submitted to the alteration of the character of the sovereign, and will have to in the alteration of the bishops’. We regard the whole affair as a monstrous incursion of secular influence into the councils of the Church, but hardly the first. And if the throne was vacant enough to require in practice to be filled (we just about admit this much), then the sees of the non-Juring bishops must needs in practice to be filled also.

Not without misgivings, then, we regard the Williamite bishops as properly and validly appointed. Our regret is less for their preferment than that the conduct of all parties in the past should have led us to such unhappy divisions.

We regard with pity those first nominated, the (we trust) unwilling instruments of disunity. We submit to the bishops as a matter of course, but in the sad knowledge that some will not. Unless those opposed can find their way to St-Germain, we fear theirs will be a sad case. Perhaps, in a century or so, they will be able at last to take a genuinely honoured place; if only in the Kalendar.

In conclusion, we did not seek this change, but we do not resist it. We would not, in other circumstances, have chosen these bishops, but we will not refuse them. We accept the ministrations of Dr Kidder, but we regret the loss of Dr Ken, and we are surprised that our regret is not more widely shared.

We have no opinions to offer on any other episcopal preferments, and this makes us almost unique in the Church of England. However, we at least remember her doctrine, and what we wrote here remains sound advice:

...we advise hotheads on either side to refrain from Associations, and Jacobites and Non-Jurors to cease scorning the Church of England. A little Passive Obedience and Non-Resistance would do wonders for every party.

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