Almost exactly a year ago, I was getting ready to go to the airport to fly to England to study at Oxford. I still remember the excitement of arriving in then exploring Oxford on a pleasant late summer afternoon.
The Autumn there had its dark times with its quickly shortening days, academic stress, and exhaustion. But I’m very glad I went. It was an enriching time with good memories to last a lifetime. And, yes, it greatly furthered my education.
At the same time, I’m glad I went a year ago and not today. A big part of the attraction of Oxford was to worship there, especially to go to choral evensong every day after studies. Yes, I knew that neither Oxford nor England was a bastion of orthodoxy. But I felt it wasn’t off the deep end either and that the Church of England knew how to worship, especially in Oxford. And for that, the CofE and Oxford had my deep respect. And I still feel Oxford knows how to worship, particularly at New College and Pusey House. The times I spent there were wonderful.
But if I were to go to Oxford today, I would go with that respect greatly diminished and with a deep sense of sadness.
The main reason is the recent Church of England Synod. I am still appalled that it chose to give no adequate provision for objectors to women bishops. This was something I would expect out of the Episcopal Church, not the Church of England. For all its faults, I thought the “broad church” of the CofE was broad enough to provide adequate space for traditionalists. At least as far as the Synod is concerned, I and many others thought wrong. (There is still some hope that Synod’s actions will be undone.)
So today were I to go to most of my Church of England destinations of a year ago, it would be hard for me to drum up the respect of a year ago for what has become such an illiberal institution. The difficulty of worshipping under that circumstance is obvious. And I would go even to Pusey House with a deep sense of sadness, seeing that its days as an Anglican institution may be numbered. A year ago, it became an oasis where I could take communion. After I became fed up with ++Rowan, it was about the only place. But will that become impossible in the future? It will if Pusey House goes to Rome. And they may soon feel they have nowhere else to go, which would be sad indeed. (I hope my pessimism is mistaken. And I should state I’m not in close communication with Pusey House at this time.)
Some may feel my feelings are a bit overdone to come from one act of Synod. Others may feel I was naïve about the Church of England a year ago. That may very well be so. In any case, I’m glad I went to Oxford a year ago with overall good feelings towards the Church of England. For those good feelings have sadly waned since. And the nagging feeling that the days are numbered for the glory I experienced a year ago have increased.