The principal beneficiary will be the Roman Catholic Church, but Orthodoxy in Britian may also benefit from the decision made by the Church of England House of Bishops. The bishops have decided that it is time for the purported consecration of women to join their number. At the same time, they have left opponents out in the cold.
Heretofore, those in the C of E who have faithfully received the sacraments from men of God were cared for under the shepherding guidance of “flying bishops” – officially known as episcopal visitors – authorised to cross diocesan boundaries to care for parishes objecting to women priests. If the General Synod approves the legislation, flying bishops will be no more and all of the Church of England will be ruled by women. For many Anglicans, any pretense of valid orders and valid sacraments will be gone.
As far as I’m concerned the C of E can do what it wants to do. I’m not opposed to women priestesses or bishopettes. As far as I’m concerned, just like any other Protestants they don’t have valid sacraments, so it doesn’t matter what they do. Since this new development will push more people out of the C of E, perhaps I should even view it as a positive development.
Being rather ecumenical as I am toward Rome, I’m not bothered that most of them will swim the Tiber. I know that most western Christians find Orthodoxy a difficult fit – something that I think is probably as much to do with the non-essential cultural and liturgical aspects of Orthodoxy as anything – but Rome has valid sacraments despite some theological deficiencies. Some, due in part to lingering anti-papal attitudes, will cross the Bosphorus instead.
The huge number of clergy threatening to defect to Rome will boost the declining numbers in vocations there. Perhaps this will enlighten the Holy Father to the possibility of extending the Eastern Catholic practice of married priests to the West as a normality rather than a concession to certain converted clergy. Thus, if played right, the knock-on effect of the Anglican decision could be quite significant. I’d still call it a long shot, though.
Even if they are only Protestant clergy, I still can’t get over the cringe factor of seeing a woman pose as a priest in a black shirt and white collar. No doubt I will double cringe at a woman in a cope and mitre.