Skip to comments.No bishops?
Posted on 08/29/2006 5:42:31 PM PDT by sionnsar
Hallo again to all.
Not long ago, we read with amazement a serious, rather high-profile proposal for the abolition of bishops in the Church of England. Suggestions about the deletion of bishops from the ministerial rolls (always by people other than bishops) have cropped up before in church history. In many cases, bishops themselves have in obvious instinct for self-preservation protested plans for the eradication of their kind; in others, the office has in fact been allowed to fall into desuetude and to die out for a time. There have also been periods when a clamour was made for smaller territorial diocesesand hence more bishops, not fewer of them or none at all. The recent, noteworthy growth in the number of bishops and dioceses in our communion establishes the general tenor of recent Anglican life in this latter camp.
We are quite sure that no one took this particular proposal to be anything but another provocative salvo in recent debates about the internal arrangement of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion as a whole. And as is often the case, the debate is quite as intense on the outside of those bodies as it is inside of them. What struck us most here, though, was the idea that a perceived problem in the churchcontroversy about bishops, discipline and authoritycould be eradicated for the greater good just by removing an entire class of people from our ranks. Never mind that church government by these people is usually understood as the touchstone of our polity, and that it has been so for much of our history. Since bishops are the problem, says this odd line of reasoning, they must go. Be gone, gaiters! away, mitres! no more episkope! The days of the Root and Branch Petition are back, at least for some.
We are here (as almost always) more convinced by a rationale of church improvement that involves something other than the removal from our numbers of people perceived as problematic by another group of people. Surely the Gospel is meant to be spread rather than diminished, to grow in influence instead of becoming a precious commodity in danger of perishing from its own exclusivity, dignity and respectability. If bishops wish to come to the holy table, what business have priests, deacons and layfolkor commentators outside the churchin turning them away? They, too, have roles and gifts for the building up of our common life.
We suspect that most Anglicans today have real contact with their bishops only in the context of confirmation or administration rather than in a more extended pastoral way. Sadly, this can make children into bartering pawns in arguments about jurisdiction or allegiance, and turn bishops into absentee landlords demanding fees for services rendered. It is not ideal, and it must in some sense minimize the lived apostolicity of our dioceses if we think of bishops as people who come to visit from time to time, or as the ones who sign the dotted lines and chair the meetings. But we stick with the theory that abusus non tollit usumabuse of a thing does not abrogate the right use of that thing. And we think we have met bishops whose life work is the magnification of God in the Church rather than the jealous guarding of their own official prerogatives, or the uncareful government of the blessed company of all faithful people to its detriment. By all means, let us keep the bishops, good ones, tall ones, short ones, quiet ones and even some loud ones. In addition to being a tactile link to the remote past, they focus our ecclesial life in a way the New Testament already assumes as regular. It strikes us as more worthwhile to refresh and repair an office distorted in places instead of just getting rid of it in the face of everything scripture, tradition and reason have to offer on the subject.
Could the Anglican tradition live on without any bishops, as it did for a full 48% of its history in North America, and as Roman Catholics did in Japan from 1596 to 1847, or Orthodox Christians in Alaska did from 1740 to 1841?* We imagine it could well do so, and that such a situation would bring out unknown strengths in unexpected places. Should it have to go without bishops, and would it be wise at this juncture to send them out to pasture, no matter what alleged financial and therapeutic benefits could redound to the communion as a result? The question looms large from time to time, but we lodge herewith a cheerful, decided No in the debate. Vestment makers will rejoice, but so, in some sense, will the holy church throughout the world.
See you next week.
Of course Anglicanism could survive without bishops -- it always has.
I don't know about Anglicans - but the main function of the bishop in the Catholic Church, aside from his connection with the Apostles, which is documented on every bishop's ecclesiastical record (that is, "consecrated by X, who was consecrated by Y, who was..etc.") - is his teaching function. There have been times when Catholic dioceses have gone for a long time without a bishop, and it has never been good. When Spain was under Muslim domination, there were many sees without a bishop or where the bishop had been appointed but could not occupy his chair. The resulting corruption or loss of orthodox teaching had a terrible effect on the Church in Spain and actually was one of the things that made the Inquisition seem like such a good idea.
It was initially an investigation, limited to baptized Christians only and focusing particularly on the clergy, into the state of Catholic belief and practice, which was not very healthy after so many years of neglect. One of the reasons it became so politicized and went well beyond its mandate was the lack of local bishops strong enough to resist power-crazed local "Inquisitors" and stand up to the secular political forces that saw the Inquisition as the ideal way to get back at their enemies.
Other places that have had no bishops have had difficulties - the Church never really grew in Japan, for example, and the delicate situation of bishops in China makes the life of the Church precarious.
So, yes, bishops do matter (although the situation may be different in the Anglican Church).
Your ignorance is showing.
Somewhere in heaven, St. Thomas More is laughing at your post.
I have to say my Presbyterian side LOVES that illustration. Crocodile bishops.... Wonder where it's from?
Will I get in trouble again if I post here? ;)
Actually, many people could say that the Catholic Church has survived without bishops, since most of ours have been so spineless. But bishops are important; if you accept Anglican bishops as valid (which I am assuming you do), do you have any ideas on this subject?
You LOVE an infamous example of 19th Century Know-Nothing anti-Catholic bigotry?
It's a cartoon by Thomas Nast. We get the word "nasty" from Mr. Nast.
No, it would be ignorance to assume the succession of bishops continued after the sixteenth century among the Anglicans. This issue has already been decided, definitively, over a century ago. Ignorance would say otherwise.
I don't really care who the cartoon is drawn by, it's just a clever illustration. I always have thought bishops' mitres looked a little strange--but as crocodile mouths? Too much.
Lighten up--I'm not an anti-Roman Catholic bigot, and I think Christian churches should have bishops--it's just a funny cartoon, whether by someone named Nast or Dr. Seuss.
You may find it funny. Of course, Nazis found carttons depicting Jews as monkeys funny. Racists found cartoons about blacks a laugh riot.
Yeah, you find this anti-Catholic cartoon that encouraged fear, paranoia, descrimination and ignorance funny. Of course you did.
Just remember the rule, the first to mention the Nazis loses.
Hope you learn to loosen up a bit, and know a cartoon for a cartoon.
Oh, being a student of history, I'd be willing to bet too, from 1517 onwards, for purely religious reasons for every killing of a Roman Catholic by a Protestant, there were ten Protestants killed by Roman Catholics...so please don't whine on about anti-Catholic bigotry--especially since most majority Catholic countries, even now, do not have full freedom of religion. Notable too, there never was a Protestant inquisistion.
Virtually no relgious persecution or killing occured in the USA too, due to our long history of freedom of religion (established by those nasty Protestant founding fathers).
And its still a cleverly drawn cartoon, Mohammed.
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