The Church of England is made up of three parts: evangelical Protestants, Anglo-Catholics, and liberals.  They have long been at war, and soon this war will lead to the final rending of that Church.  The Anglo-Catholics will break away when women are ordained bishops, as some already did when the Church of England first ordained women priests.  From a pragmatic point of view, the ordination of women has proved to be a great success.  Not only have they proved excellent in pastoral care, but their arrival has staved off the crisis caused by the fall in the numbers of men seeking to join the clergy.

In Ireland there is a real emergency, since so very few men now feel they have a vocation to join the Roman Catholic priesthood.  This problem does not exist for the Church of England, since for both sexes, a prosperous spouse can supplement the meager earnings of the “clergy­person.”  There are even husband-and-wife priests who share responsibility for a parish or a cluster of small parishes.

Nonetheless, many are disillusioned.  Ex-canon Dr. Edward Norman, one of the Anglicans’ most distinguished intellectuals and a former supporter of women’s ordination who has since gone over to Rome, said in 2004,

I’m against it—on the evidence.  We were told that a whole dimension to humanity was missing from the ministry, but that enrichment hasn’t happened . . . women emphasise caring, relationships, suffering, healing and love.  Men are interested in truth, ideas, conflict, sin, wickedness and virtue.  Those are caricatures, but there was wisdom in Our Lord entrusting the office of the priesthood to men.

Many left for Rome when women were first ordained, including married Anglican clergy who, despite their wives, were eligible for reemployment in the Catholic Church, as well as many prominent laymen, notably John Sel­wyn Gummer, a leading Conservative politician and previously the staunchest of Anglicans, one firm in his belief that the Church of England was a fully Catholic descendant of England’s pre-Reformation Church.  Far more will leave when women become bishops.  Even the evangelicals will feel uneasy, for this is for them contrary to the unerring teachings of Saint Paul, who declared that no woman should exercise authority in a church.  At present if an objector to female authority lives in an Anglican parish where the priest is a woman, he or she can simply choose to attend a different church where a man presides.  However, it is clear that the new women bishops will, if not immediately, eventually come to have unfettered authority within their dioceses, and this will cause a crisis for entire congregations and their priests.  The evangelicals have nowhere to go, but the Anglo-Catholics will decide that there’s no place like Rome.

Until now the Anglo-Catholics have been sustained by their belief that Anglican orders are valid and Catholic because Anglican bishops are part of a valid apostolic succession.  The original Anglican bishops at the time when Henry VIII made himself head of the Church had been consecrated as or by Roman Catholic bishops, and more recent Anglican bishops have in addition been “co-consecrated” by Old Catholic bishops who broke with the Holy See in the mid-19th century but who maintained apostolic succession.  It is a precarious position, and many Anglo-Catholics have gone over to Rome because they had come to doubt its validity.  In particular, there was a controversy in the 19th century over the installation of the first Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Rabbi Michael Solomon Alexander.  No one doubted the sincerity of the rabbi’s conversion, which had been inspired by his study of the book of Isaiah.  The problem was that he was also to become a bishop of the Evangelical Christian Church of Prussia.  This joint venture with another Church that had specifically rejected apostolic succession was one of the factors that led the pioneering Anglo-Catholic John Henry Newman to convert to Catholicism, later becoming cardinal and recognized today as a Venerable Servant of God.  Newman’s coming beatification will coincide with the final disillusionment of the Anglo-Catholics in regard to the validity of the Anglican Church’s claim to apostolic succession.  They will all follow Newman’s example, and for essentially the same reason.

The liberals who dominate the ruling committees of the Anglican Church have caused the split by reason of their secular zeal for the full equality of the sexes, a priority that far exceeds their commitment to tradition and continuity.  They hate the very idea of simper eadem.  The liberals are also seeking to force another split over whether open and sexually active homosexuals should be allowed to become bishops.  The election of the Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool, an open lesbian, as the Episcopalian bishop of Los Angeles is as much a luxurious delight to the liberals as it is wormwood and gall to the evangelicals.  The Anglo-Catholic clergy are rather more concerned by the fact that she is a woman.  A substantial proportion of the voluntarily celibate Anglo-Catholic clergy is homosexual, which is why they don’t mind homosexual bishops (there have been many), provided they are discreet about it.  However, for the closeted homosexual Anglo-Catholic priests, women priests are not only theologically unacceptable but are seen as a serious threat to the only masculine identity they have.  There are many strands to their rejection of women.

The crisis came when Jeffrey Hy­wel John, a Welsh Anglo-Catholic clergyman of undoubted intellectual gifts, was nominated to be the next bishop of Reading in 2003.  Dr. John had been a practicing homosexual, and he declined to express proper repentance for his past.  The evangelicals were outraged, and there was a very disagreeable public controversy that only ended when Dr. John’s fellow Welshman, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, persuaded him to withdraw.  Within months Tony Blair had made Dr. John dean of St. Albans, and in 2006 Dr. John contracted a civil partnership with the Rev. Grant Holmes, with whom he had lived for many years.  (No doubt Dr. Spooner would have called Jeffrey John “our dear old queen.”)  Deans have administrative, not episcopal, responsibilities and are appointed directly by the prime minister, acting for the Queen, who is the head of the Church of England in England.  Left-wing prime ministers have often abused their power in this respect, as when a Labour prime minister appointed Dr. Hewlett Johnson, a groveling Soviet apologist, to be dean of Canterbury, where he was known as the “Red Dean.”  In fairness, whereas Johnson was a fool, a liar, and a traitor, Dr. John is a much-respected dean and will probably in time become a bishop, not of course in England but in his native Wales, which has no established church and where he is held in great esteem.

The “Church in Wales,” as it is termed, will then join the Episcopal Church in the United States as part of the homosexual-affirming faction in the Anglican Communion, the faction that has aroused the ire of the evangelical Anglican bishops in Africa, whose scriptural conservatism is reinforced by a hatred of sodomites inherited from tribal custom.  (Uganda is about to make sexual relations between two men or between two women a crime liable to capital punishment.)  Bishop John Spong of New Jersey, an American liberal, said of the Africans who opposed gay rights that “they’ve moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity . . . If they feel patronised that’s too bad.  I’m not going to cease to be a 20th century person for fear of offending someone in the Third World.”  His views were widely interpreted as meaning that African Christians are “just one step up from witchcraft.”  This caused outrage among other Anglican liberals who could not and cannot bring themselves to make the mildest criticisms of any African; to do so would be “racist.”  The high-liberal Mark Santer, then bishop of Birmingham, tried to get the Africans off the hook by saying that their “homophobia” was merely a repudiation of the well-remembered pedophilic practices of Anglican missionaries in Africa (many of whom had been celibate Anglo-Catholics).  It was a truly wonderful row with liberals howling abuse at liberals across the swamp.

Later Catherine Roskam, suffragan bishop of New York, suggested that some male Anglican prelates beat their wives, particularly priests from countries “where it is culturally accepted to beat your wife.”  The Africans were furious; the liberals, paralysed.  The archbishop of York, John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu (originally from Uganda), declared, “I have never beaten my wife though I can’t talk about other people,” and said that the American bishop “should not throw out Aunt Sallies which become divisive.”  It was another sad reminder that the Anglican Communion is an uneasy international aggregate of independent churches, from the ultraliberal Episcopal Church in America, which has already split, to the churches of Africa and Asia, which hold fast to what the missionaries taught their ancestors.

In the wings is Prince Charles, heir to the throne and to the headship of the Church of England, who wants to amend his coronation oath so that he will no longer swear to be Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith), a title conferred on the young Henry VIII by the papacy in 1521.  He wishes instead to vow to be “defender of faith,” and Britain’s Muslims are ecstatic at the thought that this nincompoop will be defender of their faith, too.  It is a multicultural gesture that may even include atheists with their absurdly fierce faith that there is no God.  If and when (increasingly if) Charles becomes king, he will not take the title Dei gratis, by the grace of God, enjoyed by the present Queen, but instead “by the grace of God and Allah and thousands of Hindu deities, too.”

As ex-canon Norman has put it, “Anglicanism is going to tip into the sea . . . There is a big hole at the centre of Anglicanism—its authority.  I don’t think it’s a Church; it’s more of a religious society.”  The Church that is not a Church.  This is the way the Church ends.  This is the way the Church ends.  This is the way the Church ends . . .