At the risk (?) of provoking controversy, some comment seems appropriate on reactions to the decision by the Church of England to allow the ordination of women. This is a comment on the reactions to the decision, not to the decision. I don?t see it as the role of other churches to criticize decision of the Church of England, an autonomous body following its own decision-making processes.
An apparently large number of bishops and priests have announced that they will convert to the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the decision. This is surely a very odd reaction. Presumably the day before the decision they were committed, at least minimally, to the faith and order of the Church of England. Presumably they were also happily receiving stipends from that Church. If they really held to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church they were engaged in fraud. They were also fundamentally in error as far as Rome is concerned. Roman Catholic doctrine is perfectly clear: it is necessary to submit to the Roman Pontiff. It is not possible, except in the strange fantasies of some Anglo-Catholics or Anglo-Papalists, to hold to the Roman Catholic faith while being out of communion with the Pope.
Apparently for the soon-to-be-converted Anglican bishops and priests some ?Road to Damascus? experience occurred after the final vote in Synod. Having been Anglican bishops and priests (and paid as such), they seem now to acknowledge that they are or ought to be Roman Catholic laymen, and are not now nor have they ever been bishops and priests (in Roman Catholic terms). Having undergone this dramatic change of heart and mind they seem not to have resigned, reverted to lay status and declined to accept any longer payments from the Church of England, but appear to be holding out for an acceptable offer from Rome. Can supposed conversion be based on negotiating a deal?
This is truly bizarre behaviour. Are these bishops and priests continuing to exercise the orders that Rome (and presumably now they) say they do not hold? How are their positions to be explained to those to whom they (apparently) continue to minister? ?I am your bishop/priest but I no longer believe in the validity of the church within which I am a bishop/priest and have converted, at least in anticipation, to a church which denies that I am a bishop/priest??
I can only imagine the response from my Bishop if I said: ?I?m thinking about becoming a Roman Catholic, but I?m waiting to see what deal the Vatican will offer me. If I don?t like the offer, I?ll stay with you. Meanwhile, I?ll just continue as a Priest in the British Orthodox Church.?
Just why Rome would accept converts on the basis that they reject the ordination of women as bishops remains a mystery. Either these men have always held to the faith as defined by Rome (in which case, what were they doing in the Church of England?) or they are simply Anglicans who reject the ordination of women. To what have they been converted?
There must be a warning here to the Orthodox. Some Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women have converted the Orthodoxy, particularly in the USA. Some have sought, as have some who converted to Roman Catholicism, to maintain their Anglican liturgy and ethos. Conversion to the Orthodox Faith ought to be a cause for joy and thanksgiving. However, it is conversion TO Orthodoxy, not conversion FROM something else. I am not Orthodox because I reject the Methodism of my childhood. I am Orthodox because I positively accept the Orthodox Faith.
I recently received an e-mail from a Church of England clergyman seeking advice on how to convert to Orthodoxy IF the ordination of women bishops proceeded. Objection to the ordination of women is not a basis upon which to become Orthodox. The Faith of Orthodoxy is not a single item: ?I do not believe in the ordination of women.? Conversion cannot be conditional: ?If the ordination of women goes ahead, I?ll convert; if not, I?ll stay? is hardly suggestive of a true conversion of heart and mind to the Orthodox Faith.
Those who are unhappy within the Church of England (or other churches of the Anglican Communion) may well seek homes elsewhere. They may, through the Grace of God, be drawn to Orthodoxy. However, true conversion to Orthodoxy cannot be negative. Orthodoxy cannot be some sort of refuge for disgruntled members of other churches.