From the editor: July 18, 2014

Three Men & One Faith

Stratford Caldecott
Stratford Caldecott

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Stratford Caldecott from cancer earlier this week. I have read him with benefit from time to time since meeting him and interviewing him (with David Mills) in 1998. Touchstone published three of his essays. The first, Speaking the Truths Only the Imagination May Grasp, will be the lead essay in a new volume of classic Touchstone articles, Creed & Culture II, which we hope to have available soon. He was the author of many books, and his last: Not As the World Gives.

Perhaps it is because 16 years ago this month I made my first visit to England where I met Caldecott that I have been thinking about the UK. Church news has also prompted me: the Church of England this week approved the consecration of female bishops. I was struck by one response to this from the Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate's Dept. of External Church Relations, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion:

"The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.

"Such practice contradicts the centuries-old church tradition going back to the early Christian community.... The consecration of women bishops runs counter to the mode of life of the Saviour Himself and the holy apostles, as well as to the practice of the Early Church.

"In our opinion, it was not a theological necessity or issues of church practice that determined the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England, but an effort to comply with the secular idea of gender equality in all spheres of life and the increasing role of women in the British society."

What does the issue of ordination have to do with Christianity such that it could harm unity? For one thing, innovations in such matters as apostolic ministry are subject to a scrutiny that that has been in place from the beginning. C.S. Lewis wrote about a common Christian core uniting "Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic against the Liberal or Modernist;" they share the "Christian religion as understood 'ubique et ab omnibus' (everywhere by everyone)." He might have added 'at all times,' quoting Vincent of LĂ©rins, 5th-century monk, who proposed a common rule to identify truth from error.

The application of such a rule is not always easy (we have had controversies and councils!). Yet to innovate female bishops you have to suggest that our Lord, despite his many gifts, was simply unable to buck Jewish "gender bias" in this regard. (But there were female priests in the pagan religions, the mission fields of St. Paul, so having them would not have been "culturally insensitive.") Perhaps, you might suggest, Christ exhausted himself in challenging the Temple establishment and entrenched pharisaic teachings, not to mention his confrontations with the High Priest and one Roman Governor. A Messiah can only do so much, and has been content to wait for enlightened moderns to set the world straight on "gender roles."

Of course, this Messiah also said, "By their fruits..." Lewis predicted the innovation of "priestesses" would lead to us calling God "Mother." Churches with them and female bishops do not seem to have fared well in holding the line on doctrinal and moral innovations that reflect the secular culture and morals and not Christian tradition.

I return, at last, to the Catholic convert Stratford Caldecott, who made his way to the Christian faith from a non-religous background. What, I think, we shared, is something Lewis called "clear and momentous," as "thoroughgoing supernaturalists," we believed "in the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, and the Four Last Things." Caldecott, Hilarion, and Lewis--Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican--thus share much in common. May Stratford Caldecott rest in the peace of Our One Lord.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner