Future Church of England: Would you be ordained now?

With the advent of the women bishops in the Church of England and the possible move towards legitimising gay relationships/marriages, one of the comments made by conservative evangelicals (CEs) is that such moves will stop such CEs going for ordination.  In contrast, with the move towards women bishops, CEs were encouraged to think they could "flourish" in the Church of England.

One way to personalise the question is: Would you be ordained now?  Or would you chose another route to ministry?

In my experience, amongst CEs themselves there is little agreement and some polarisation.  I was at a ministers' meeting recently and heard the two sides again.  On the one hand, those who want to stay see the need - who will be a shepherd to the lost sheep?  They also believe in the inheritance - it's our church and they'll have to throw me out...On the other hand, people find themselves in increasingly impossible positions in terms of their theology, their consciences and their practical circumstances. Why would we compromise ourselves so much?

It's not an easy argument to tease out the "right" answer, because often it is down to individual personalities and circumstances.  For that reason, I am often wary of listening to people pronounce on it.  I'm also a little wary that the arguments for staying can come across as little more than bravado, to those who are struggling with the everyday realities of ministry in a denomination, where the pressure is on.

For myself, I theologically believe in the Reformed Protestant formularies of the Church of England. However, I don't believe in the reality of the church on the ground.  That we have so many clergy and bishops who, as far as we can tell, are not Christians, let alone suitable teachers, too often makes faithful ministry impossibly difficult and compromised.  I believe in what the Church of England could (and maybe should) be, but not in what it is.

And I think that's the heart of the question.  Some see the hope of what it could be.  Some see the desperate state of how it is.

I suspect that over the next five years quite a few will leave.  I suspect quite a few more will never be ordained in the first place (or at least will be taking a sideways route in) and of course that will make the problem worse.

I started out exploring ordination in the Church of England in 2003.  At that time, I felt conservative evangelicals had a future in the church.  The two integrities approach seemed to work (and I was willing to see the issue as secondary).  I have to admit that I think I have been naively optimistic ever since, always thinking the best - that there would be a good solution for CEs over women bishops, that people would stick to promises and commitments made, that the rules would be followed and that in time the obvious flaws in more liberal positions would become obvious to all.

If you asked me now, I suspect the Church of England in some sense will collapse (think of the churches in the opening chapters of Revelation).  I suspect it will take a long time.  I suspect CEs will be increasingly marginalised and pushed out, doing good but increasingly compromised work on the way.

Would I go forward for ordination now?  Would I have even gone forward for ordination then if I'd known where we'd be now?  Honestly, I'm not sure I would.  I pray for the renewal of the church and I do what I can in that direction.  More than that, I accept that, in his sovereignty, the Lord has put me where I am "for such a time as this" (although I suspect I may be a little less significant than Esther!). On the whole I wish he hadn't and I know there are hard decisions in the future.  But I think I am learning where to look for help:

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV)

And a little about the purposes of the tougher experiences:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)


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