Not sure if I am surprised or not about Tom Wright thinking we should wait before pushing ahead with the consecration of women. If my memory serves me correctly, he was affected by Stephen Veneer's reaction to the proposal in June 2008 and wanted the church to exercise caution. I suppose what we have to admit is that we can not describe this issue as adiaphora because it really is threatening to split the communion, I wonder however how big the wing of the church is that would consider leaving, they are probably smaller than we imagine.
How do we bring theology into this?
Article 34 states:
'It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like, for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, [yet] so that nothing be ordained against God's word.'1
'Canons, Constitutions, and Laws which have been at one time meet, do not prove that the Church should always be bound to follow them.'2
There are interesting implications in Hooker's reasoning for the debate currently impacting Anglicanism, the consecration of women. Although Atkinson3 uses Hooker to support his conservative stance, Hooker reasoned that the church must change if change is justified by considering 'the ende for which it was made, and by the aptnes of thinges therein prescribed unto the same end.'4
Hooker's appeal to the Puritan conscience, disturbed by episcopacy, might speak today to those whom, for matters of conscience, can not accept the episcopacy of women. Hooker describes how if 'Things were disputed before they came to be determined; men afterwards were not to dispute any longer, but to obey.' Hooker calls for an obedience to the majority decision as 'ground sufficient for any reasonable man’s conscience... whatsoever his own opinion were as touching the matter before in question.' 5
So Hooker's call is for obedience, except if there is 'any just or necessary cause'6 against it. However, necessary causes must not be those that can not be substantiated by everyone else's consciences being equally disturbed. He explains, 'Neither wish we that men should do anything which in their hearts they are persuaded they ought not to do, but,' and the “but” betrays, with what follows, that he will not look kindly on individual dissenters, when 'my whole endeavour is to resolve the conscience ... [to] follow the light of sound and sincere judgement, without either cloud of prejudice, or mist of passionate affection.'7 Passionate affections can lead people astray, is the implication, and dissenters are to be guided by the majority opinion on a matter of possible controversy.
Hooker's aim, in the middle of controversy, is for unity.
For Hooker, the unity of the Church centres around its ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’ (Eph. 4:5-6).
Hooker encourages unity in all things and just as he describes how, 'the Church and the commonwealth... should always dwell lovingly together,'8 unity within the church is essential and motivates the way Hooker addresses his opponents with a 'Charity which hopeth all things, [and] prayeth also for all men'.9
Aware of the divergent hermeneutical approaches groups brought to the scriptures in his own day, Hooker, like Rowan Williams, would have valued indaba10 because we have every need to keep listening to one another. Anglicanism, if it really is imbued with Hooker's theological method is a modest, generous and listening church. Although a gifted polemicist, we can perhaps, with a less cynical approach, detect a genuine hope for fraternal unity, and sorrow at the prospect of schism, in Hooker's writings. He trusts that although,
...contentions are now at their highest float...that the day will come...when the passions of former enmity being allayed, we shall with ten times redoubled tokens of our unfeignedly reconciled love, shew ourselves each towards [the] other...11
1 C of E, The Thirty Nine Articles
2 Hooker, Op. cit. BOOK VII, Ch. xv. 14
3 See Atkinson, 'Hooker’s Theological Method and Modern Anglicanism'
4 Hooker, Op. cit. BOOK, III, Ch. x, 1
5 Hooker, Op. cit. Preface, Preface, Ch. V. 3,
6 Hooker, Op. cit. Preface, Ch. vi. 5, 6
7 Hooker, Op. cit. Preface, Ch. vii. 1, 2
8 Hooker, Op. cit. BOOK VIII. Ch. i. 5.
9 Hooker, Op. cit. BOOK V. Ch. xlix. 2
10 See Appendix
11 Hooker, Op. cit. Preface, Ch. ix. 4.
Unity must be the aim. Is it possible to see unity preserved and the consecration of women to the episcopate, I hope so.