Some headlines last month in the august Times of London were rather less than accurate. “Anglicans Against Unity: Methodists in Favour,” it said, when the merger scheme failed to go through (see News, August 1, page 38). For those too busy to read the smaller print, this description of what had happened perpetuated a durable fallacy—and showed that the publication which claims to be read by Britain’s top people badly needed a religion editor.

Dr. John Moorman, Bishop of Ripon, and the most prominent Anglican dissentient to the union scheme, had carefully emphasized that the minority’s vote was not being cast against unity, but rather against this specific way of achieving it. Taken merely as journalism, it is a strange interpretation that converts a 69 per cent majority vote into an implied total rejection. The scheme’s failure came because a 75 per cent majority had previously been agreed by both churches. While the Methodists had made it with 2.4 per cent to spare, the Anglican figure fell short.

Nevertheless, if ever a scheme seemed to have everything going for it, this was it. In the Church of England especially. There it had the support of both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (a canny couple not normally given to backing losers), the three senior bishops of London, Winchester, and Durham, and thirty-three of the thirty-eight other diocesan bishops.

Concentrating on the Anglican side, we might ask where things broke down to the extent that 31 per cent of convocation members voted against. The deciding factor was a rare alliance between Anglicans of the very lowest and the very highest sort who, looking critically at the proposed service of reconciliation, refused to accept it for ...

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