This week I’ve been particularly interested in the authority of bishops. I realised that the status of the authority of bishops has changed significantly in my lifetime, in a way that I had been intuiting but hadn’t quite identified. I haven’t found it easy to find the right words to describe this, but I believe the bishops of the church, the teachers and leaders and theologians, senior staff at Church House and Lambeth Palace, the members of the Archbishops’ Council, no longer, ontologically, embody the kind of wisdom authority to the same degree that many church leaders embodied in my youth and my years in parish ministry.
Jesus’ authority is predicated on God’s authority. Biblical authority is predicated on God’s authority. Jesus declines to answer the question posed by the chief priests and elders. He poses instead a question they find it impossible to answer – clever move. But the question of what authority Jesus has remains unanswered. What amazed the people was not Jesus’ authority - the people were amazed at his teaching because, unlike the scribes, he taught with a note of authority. It’s the teaching, not the authority, that is fundamental.
Jesus is the one supreme teacher on being the West has. Only Jesus has fathomed the depths of being. Jesus’ way of putting it – I am – engages viscerally with the fundamental of the self. The Jesus teaching comes in the form of a story and compels us to engage with his experience and what he learns on the way – and to walk in his shoes. It is within the mystery of the narrative that Truth resides.
In my experience, a paradigm change is taking place in the Church of England, difficult though it is to discern if you look at the central structures of the Church. Change is happening at parish level and in the many friends I have and networks I am part of. Many of my friends have abandoned attendance at or involvement with the Church, despairing of its teaching, worship and leadership and finding it no longer fit for purpose.