A few years ago, the Church of England's General Synod passed a resolution declaring that both those who agree and those who disagree with the ordination of women are 'loyal Anglicans'.
Since then, this phrase has been repeatedly quoted by those who disagree with women's ordination. Look here, the argument runs. We are loyal Anglicans - Synod has agreed - and we cannot be called disloyal just because we don't support the church's decision to ordain women. You have to let us have everything we feel we need to flourish. Separate bishops. Separate dioceses, preferably, but failing that certainly separate Chrism masses, separate ordination services, separate selection conferences. It isn't disloyal or separatist to ask for these things, we are assured: how can it be, when we know everyone involved is a 'loyal Anglican'?
Let's leave aside, for a moment, the illogicality of basing your argument on a declaration that both sides are loyal, and then using that declaration as an excuse for disowning your opponents as invalid innovators who are not loyal to the inheritance of faith.
Instead, I want to consider the phrase 'loyal Anglicans' as a historian. Because from a historical perspective, this phrase 'loyal Anglicans' is a very richly evocative phrase.
It is hardly going too far to say that the entire basis of Anglicanism is loyalty. Loyalty to the Crown over the Pope, mainly. And secondly, loyalty to a prescribed way of doing things rather than to our own ideas.
Reading the Book of Common Prayer, and contemporary texts such as the Book of Homilies, it is very clear indeed that loyalty, for the founders of the Church of England meant 1) Unquestioning obedience to the Crown, and 2) Conformity to the set forms of worship.
Much of the language in which this is couched sounds ridiculously sycophantic and even downright creepy to modern ears. But to put it in context, the early Church of England was being formed at a time of terrifying political and religious turmoil across Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the wars that raged between Spain, France and the Low Countries. England's monarchs and ruling class were understandably petrified of being drawn into these wars. They were petrified of religiously motivated acts of terrorism - such as the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They were terrified of invasion by Spain under the pretext of religion. They were terrified of invasion by France via Scotland, ditto.
In these circumstances, the equally fierce war of words between those of Catholic and those of Puritan persuasion within the Church of England was seen as a grave danger. Nothing that might cause the war of words to flare up into open violence could be tolerated, because it might give an opening to invasion from abroad. And anything that looked too much like Roman Catholicism was viewed as potentially treasonous, because the Pope had declared Queen Elizabeth to be an invalid ruler.
For several decades, it was uncertain how things would turn out. One key turning point was the Spanish Armada of 1588. As the mighty Spanish fleet sailed up the Channel, and Elizabeth made her famous speech at Tilbury, it was notable that several prominent Catholic noblemen were there with their retinues. The threat of invasion had cystallised their loyalties: they had decided that they were Englishmen first, and Catholics second.
You might be secretly harbouring a Catholic priest to say Masses for your household, you might regularly pay your fines for non-attendance at your parish church: but ultimately, loyal Anglicanism meant being there at Tilbury.
And if you were a thorough-going Calvinist, and thought candles, vestments and the BCP were a load of papist nonsense, you could believe, privately, what you liked: Elizabeth famously said that she had no wish to "make windows into men's souls". But you couldn't do what you liked. You were required to use the prescribed prayer book, preach only the prescribed Homilies (unless you were granted a special license to preach your own sermons), wear the prescribed vestments. Conformity was all.
So loyalty was the heart and soul of early Anglicanism. Loyalty to the Crown, and loyalty - shown by conformity - to the church. Explicitly not, ever, loyalty to your personal theological convictions, or the claims of any other church body. Explicitly not, ever, loyalty to a certain theological position over loyalty to that proclaimed by the bishops, monarch and parliament.
So I find these current pleas of loyalty rather unconvincing, especially when they come from those most eager to claim continuity with our traditions.
Loyal Anglicanism means accepting the decisions of the Church of England - and of the Crown-in-Parliament - and being prepared to act in conformity with them even if you personally think they are mistaken. Now, you might validly dislike that idea, and you might validly think that your loyalties are to a different body. But this is what the history and tradition of Anglicanism are.
Why else would a declaration in Synod be quoted so repeatedly, so triumphantly? The very fact that 'Synod says so' is being used as an argument is a tacit acceptance that Synod has the right to decide on such matters, and that conformity to Synod's rulings is appropriate.
But if Synod's statements are to be taken as the grounds for argument, there is no getting away from the fact that Synod has said that women can be ordained. That women can and should become bishops, that there are no fundamental theological objections to women's ordination. And since Synod has declared women can be ordained, there is no grounds for refusing to accept that your (male) bishop is a loyal Anglican, let alone demanding an alternative one with whom you can agree.
We should stop the creeping separation that we have allowed to infiltrate the Church of England since the Act of Synod. Let's all go to the same Chrism masses, the same ordination services. Let's enact unity, rather than talking about it. Or let's stop, please, claiming to be loyal.