I’m sure you all know Erika Baker?
This post is partly a tribute to her, and partly a conversation between the two of us. First, the tribute. Ever since I began this blog, Erika has been the greatest possible support and encouragement. I know many other bloggers would say the same thing – we all rely on her to tease meaning out of what we have written, and to pose questions which relate to our post but bring in angles we had perhaps not thought of. I read her comments not just here, but on many other blogs and she is unfailingly polite and considerate, while still probing and occasionally challenging.
I and many of her other friends are continually exerting pressure on her (so far without success) to start her own blog. She refuses, but we persevere. However, although I think this is a loss to cyberspace, I can see that she is exercising a real ministry to those of us blogging about the Church: I hope she won’t mind my saying I regard her as my fairy godmother (though I hasten to add that she is considerably younger than me). Today was a case in point: we were having a discussion on the post about Bishop Steven Croft and his (presumed) candidacy for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. The conversation was getting a little bogged down but Erika saw my smoke signals and flew to the rescue.
The following is taken from Erika’s comments on the post – I felt it deserved a wider circulation, particularly as the points she covers are much broader in their implication than the candidacy for Archbishop of Canterbury of +Steven Croft.
EB: I think … makes an important point that has been left out of the discussion so far. To what extent is an Archbishop of Canterbury required to connect to the society around him and not just to the members of his church?
LS It may not be so important in other parts of the Anglican Communion, but since the Church of England is the Church of the State, it is surely of supreme importance in England? I wonder what you think about the issue of same-sex marriage in this context?
EB: If it is true that Steven Croft is against same sex marriage, it has to be stated that he is against something that is becoming commonly accepted in Britain and even within the Church of England.
It is still just possible to be against it and to retain moral authority in the Church of England, but the time when those views will be considered immoral are not far away.
++Rowan Williams floundered on this obvious development and he was torn in half because the more conservative majority in the Anglican Communion opposed it strongly.
I agree … that it would be foolish to dismiss a candidate because he does not agree with my own views.
But the political facts remain: the new ABC is the most visible Christian in the CoE, the religious head of the CoE and also Primus inter Pares in the Anglican Communion.
Bearing in mind that we have spent decades arguing about the place of women and of Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the church and in society,
that our own society is becoming increasingly progressive,
that our own church is becoming increasingly progressive,
but that our Anglican Communion is still largely conservative – what kind of candidate could possibly succeed?
++Rowan tried to listen to all sides and prioritised unity over all else. The unity he presides over is one in name only – his approach, though laudable, did not really succeed at any level.
Regardless of where any individual stands on the gay question or the question of women priests and bishops, the overarching question is:
Is it even possible to be the religious head of the Church of England as well as of the Anglican Communion?
LS: I think that there are murmurings throughout the Anglican Communion about exactly this. Everyone keeps harping on about the need to have a new Archbishop of Canterbury who will be young enough to host the next Lambeth Conference, but I am not at all sure that the next conference of the Anglican Communion will be held in Lambeth.
Can +Steven Croft bring anything to the role that could resolve the deadlock we’re in?
Because unless we resolve that deadlock somehow, neither the Anglican Communion nor the Church of England will survive in a meaningful way.
LS: Thank-you for sharing your thoughts, Erika
The illustration is a photograph by Martin Kemp of a carving of a bishop at Winchester Cathedral, via Shutterstock under licence.