Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What will the announcement of Anglican groups being received into full communion with Rome mean?

With The Washington Post putting the story of the Roman Catholic embrace of traditional Anglicans on the front page today, thought it might be good to delve deeper into what this event means - besides the fact that Rome has given up on the Episcopal Church and has opened the flood gates for traditional Episcopalians to be in communion. The division in The Episcopal Church continues to widen. Here is quite helpful insights from the inside. A "Pastoral Provision" has been in place, though in a very low-key sort of way. Now it seems that the gates are being opened. From here:
First, the Pastoral Provision is local while the Apostolic Constitution is universal. The Pastoral Provision is in effect in the United States and provides a process by which former Episcopalian or Anglican priests may be considered for ordination in the Catholic Church, temporarily suspends the discipline of celibacy during the lifetime of the priest's wife, and allows for groups of former Episcopalians to retain some of their liturgical traditions using an approved modification of the Book of Common Prayer called the Book of Divine Worship. The Pastoral Provision is also in force in Great Britain, but British bishops have not approved an Anglican based liturgy. The Pastoral Provision does not apply in the rest of the world, although individual priests may convert and be considered for ordination on a case by case basis.

Second, the Pastoral Provision has a limited but indefinite time-frame. Its purpose was to allow Episcopalians and Anglicans to be absorbed into the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Constitution is being issued at a much higher level of authority and is not intended to be time-limited. It appears that the Pope envisions that an Anglican community will exist within Catholicism for quite some time and even provides the possibility of separate Anglican tracks within Catholic seminaries to provide for future continuity.

The new Apostolic Constitution can apply anywhere in the world, and it provides the possibility of much more autonomy for former Anglicans. They will not have the same level of autonomy as our sister Eastern Rite Catholics, but there will be some similarities. The Anglican Ordinariate will remain within Western Rite Catholicism, part of the Roman Catholic Church.

This Apostolic Constitution is a very, very generous gift, made in response to petitions from as many as fifty different Anglican bishops around the world. It was said earlier this year that the Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth was discussing such a move. They have since separated themselves from the Episcopal Church, but have not said definitively that they want to join the Roman Catholic Church. Locally, several small Anglican parishes in Kansas City may be members of the Traditional Anglican Communion that made a petition to become Catholic. The TAC is a worldwide body. We will have to wait and see what happens locally. Bishop Finn has established an Anglican Use community as part of St. Therese Little Flower Parish which is already receiving converts to the Catholic Church and using the Anglican Use liturgy from the Book of Divine Worship.

Most news outlets will reduce this to conflicts between liberals and conservatives about women and gays. The truth is much richer. Let me ask, was John Henry Newman a liberal or a conservative?

Anglicans have been converting to the Catholic Church since the reformation. Since the 1840s, some Anglicans have been working and praying for reunion. In the late 19th century an Anglican religious order, the Francisan Friars of the Atonement (Grayfriars) in Graymoor, New York joined the Catholic Church to pray and work for reunion from within Catholicism and since then have provided the leadership for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Since Vatican II, Anglicans and Catholics have been in high level discussions aimed at creating the kinds of mutual understandings that would someday lead to reunion. Vatican II paved the way for Catholics to make the kinds of concessions Pope Benedict made that will allow Anglicans to retain some of their liturgy and spirituality, recognizing that Catholicism is enriched and not diminished by this kind of diversity. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism who helped pave the way for Vatican II, will be beatified in 2011 when the Pope visits England. If miracles of healing can be attributed to his intercession, you can’t convince me that he hasn’t had a hand in preparing the way for this new Apostolic Constitution. Anglicans and Catholics flocked to visit the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux as they made a very recent pilgrimage to England. Her relics rested on her 2009 feast day at York Minster, the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of York. When I read about that, I told the people here at St. Therese Little Flower that she was working on something big. In other words, preparations for this Apostolic Constitution have been in process for 170 years, and some of the preparations have been made at levels that are higher than popes.

The news reports are right. The Anglican Communion, which understands itself to be part of the Catholic Church already, is convulsed with issues of fundamental sacramental theology and ethics. Constituent parts of the Anglican Communion are arriving at opposite answers. Constituent parts are fragmenting. I concluded that the Anglican Communion is not equipped to deal these issues, that the Anglican claim to be part of the Catholic Church is a beautiful illusion, and that these issues cannot be resolved apart from the Church that is undoubtedly Catholic. Does that make me and many other converts liberals or conservatives?
Read it all here. Tip of the Tinfoil to PC. The Rt. Rev'd Michael Nazir-Ali has this to say in a statement from the London Times:

I welcome the Roman Catholic Church’s generosity of spirit and its recognition of what Pope Paul VI called the ‘legitimate prestige and patrimony’ of the Anglican Communion.

I am unclear, however, as to whether there is agreement about the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints’ on which such an offer must be based.

For orthodox Anglicans, the supreme authority of the Word of God is, naturally, a basic requirement for any such agreement to be reached.

If Anglican patrimony is to flourish, in the context of unity, what arrangements will be made for the study of its theological tradition, method, spirituality and approach to moral issues?

In particular, this is important for the formation of ordinands in institutions which give adequate regard to such considerations.

Orthodox Anglicans should see this recognition of patrimony by another church as affirming the elements of apostolicity and catholicity in their own church, for which they have always stood.

In the meantime, there is a need to build confidence in the evangelical basis of the Anglican tradition and to make sure that it survives and flourishes in the face of the many challenges it faces. However, before some fundamental issues are clarified it is difficult to respond further to what the Vatican is offering.

Read it all here. The Washington Post is having a discussion here. Here's a sample:

Some critics see the new procedures as a blow to relations between Catholics and Anglicans, but leaders from both churches deny this. Cardinal William Levada said that the Catholic Church is still committed to ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Communion leading to unity in future, but the Vatican felt it could not turn away the many Anglicans who want to be reunited with the church now.

Some would argue that if these Anglicans are going to leave the Anglican Communion anyway, it would be better to have them join the Catholic Church than be off on their own.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Anglican primate, accepted the Vatican explanation and in a letter to Anglican leaders wrote, "In the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression. It is described as simply a response to specific inquiries from certain Anglican groups and individuals wishing to find their future within the Roman Catholic Church."

After the Catholic Church adopted numerous reforms following the Second Vatican Council, many people hoped that Catholics and Anglicans would reunite as ecumenical dialogue progressed. But Anglicanism continued to evolve in directions that led it away from Catholic practices, especially in the ordination of women and in its teaching about homosexuality.

These developments also divided the Anglican Communion, leading some Anglicans who opposed the ordination of women and gays to approach the Catholic Church about union.

The Catholic Church has always been willing to accept individual Anglicans who want to join the church. For more than a decade, it has allowed married Anglican priests to act as priests after they were ordained by a Catholic bishop.

What is new in these procedures is the possibility of admitting not just individuals but groups and even whole dioceses. Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, said that 20 to 30 Anglican bishops have enquired about union with the Vatican.

Also new are provisions for personal ordinariates, headed by a former Anglican bishop or priest, where the new Catholics would be allowed to preserve their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage. These ordinariates are similar to ones that minister to the military in various countries and could even have houses of formation to train future priests.

Married Anglican priests and seminarians joining the Catholic Church could be ordained and function as priests, said Cardinal Levada. Married bishops could be ordained priests but could not function as bishops since this is not the practice in either the Catholic or Orthodox tradition.

The consequences of these new procedures are yet to be seen. How many Anglicans will take advantage of them? Only a handful of Anglican parishes took advantage of a much smaller program established for the U.S. in 1980. But this new structure is both more generous and universal.

Catholic liberals, especially Catholic feminists, fear that an influx of conservative Anglicans will further discourage reform in the Catholic Church. In any case, someone should warn these Anglicans that two out of three U.S. Catholics support the ordination of women. They will not find in Catholicism a controversy-free zone.

But if the new procedures are used by large numbers of Anglicans, the result will be a more liberal Anglican Church and a more conservative Catholic Church, especially if liberal Catholics decide to go in the other direction. These procedures may be an admission that leaders in all churches have lost control of the ecumenical movement and people are simply voting with their feet.

Read it all here.

PM UPDATE - I've written some first thoughts here at SF:

I wonder if it’s entirely possible that rank and file Roman Catholics are not very happy about this development, no not at all. Not just the liberal Catholics, mind you - and they do exist, but the conservative Catholics who are of the mind that if one is going to become a Roman Catholic then for God’s sake, become a Roman Catholic.

The idea that traditionalist Anglican Catholics are going to get a full seat in Roman Catholic governance is naive, anymore than 19th century Native Americans got a say in the local state governments where their reservations were relocated. It’s almost like Rome is taking the traditionalist Anglican Catholics and creating a reservation for them where they can be quarantined off from everybody else. Just saying.

On the other hand, this decision crumbles the idea that I was taught when I became an Episcopalian that The Episcopal Church is the “bridge” church between Roman Catholics and Protestants. That’s dead in the water. This new experiment for Anglican Catholics worldwide becomes the new bridge church and TEC is out of a job.

What this action does is proposition the idea to separate the traditionalists from what I might call orthodox Anglo Catholics like Michael Nazir-Ali and to a certain extent even Bishops Iker and Ackerman - there are differences within the orthodox Anglo Catholic movement, make no mistake about it. The most traditionalist of Episcopal Anglo Catholics (even like Iker and Ackerman) are still broader than the rank and file continuing Anglo Catholics who have been out of the Episcopal Church for at least one generation, if not more. Culturally and even theologically, it’s not a good fit. And that knowledge reveals a flexibility in ministry that is suspect by many rank and file traditionalists. In fact, it divides the orthodox Anglo Catholics from the Traditionalists. They are not the same, no, not at all.

What this decision does do is strengthen the evangelicals in both the CoE and in the ACNA. Some of the ACNA members who are traditionalists may either move into this hybrid experiment or just drift off without fanfare. But that leaves the evangelical majority strengthened, which could prove fascinating as we align evangelicals together in an eccumenical fashion with other denominations, perhaps bringing them formally or informally back into the Anglican fold.

Without the traditionalist voice - either in England or the U.S., then evangelicals are freer to move forward in areas of breaking down the old silos of religious organization and though firmly biblically orthodox, become more flexible in how that biblical faith is expressed to a unchurched world. By taking the traditionalists out of the picture, it lowers the boom on the remaining Anglo Catholics (in TEC and in ACNA) and, ironically perhaps, strengthening both the progressives and evangelicals in the Anglican Communion.

After all, that’s where the crux of this struggle has been all along.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous Catholic here. Some thoughts: I converted when I was 35. My wife and The Church saved me from myself. I’m a traditional conservative. Or am I? I don’t have an issue with married Priests or female Priest or even married, female Priests! But I do feel that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don’t want to know the sexual preference of anyone; currently, all Catholic Priests should be celibate except for our new, married Episcopal Priests– wife only, please!

So what does that make me? Who knows!?

I will say to all who join My Church: Welcome!

(Now, if we can only get back the Lutherans …. ‘;0)

Don said...

After the announcement, I got a spike of visitors on my blog, especially to this piece, which is actually five years old. (My discussion of the current situation is here.)

Your comment that "The idea that traditionalist Anglican Catholics are going to get a full seat in Roman Catholic governance..." is correct, because Roman Catholics don't have such a seat! The authoritarian structure that TEC thinks it has is reality in the RCC.

It's not as easy a leap as people might think, for not only theological reasons but cultural ones as well. The Apostolic Constitution goes a long way to addressing some of the issues but not all of them.

But it completely reshuffles the deck on what it means to be ecumenical.

Thanks for reposting your comment on T19. Because of its rather frustrating policy re commenting on changing churches, I have taken a break from there, although this news will certainly push that policy and its counterpart on SF to the limit.

Anonymous said...

For some of us this is really a non-event - having been raised as RC with several strong family connections including 2 priests (OFM Cap) in family and mucho Catholic education I can say that anyone who thinks TEC or Anglicanism is a bridge is naive - TEC may have trappings of Catholicism but it is Protestant to the core - thanks be to God for that!

Rolin said...

I watched the video of the joint 'announcement' and the difference between the two men was truly amazing. Archbishop Rowan Williams looked as if he was suffering from severe cramps and attempting to hide the pain, while Archbishop Vincent Nichols was beaming broadly, as if he had just been proclaimed the father of a new bouncing baby boy.

Ralph Webb said...

I posted this first at Stand Firm:

“Without the traditionalist voice - either in England or the U.S., then evangelicals are freer to move forward in areas of breaking down the old silos of organization and while biblically orthodox, become more flexible in how that biblical faith is expressed to a unchurched world. By taking the traditionalists out of the picture, it lowers the boom on the remaining Anglo Catholics (in TEC and in ACNA) and, ironically perhaps, strengthening both the progressives and evangelicals in the Anglican Communion.”

Unfortunately, BB, without that theological diversity, we really don’t have Anglicanism, I’m afraid. And it’s all too likely that Anglican evangelicals “becom[ing] more flexible in how that biblical faith is expressed to the unchurched world” will end up looking remarkably like non-denominational evangelicals, particularly here in the U.S. Some of us evangelicals on the Canterbury or liturgical trail came to the conclusion long ago that “the old silos of organization” really are far more important than we held them to be when we were non-denominational evangelicals—not, of course, that they are above the gospel, but that the gospel and the organization—the Church—really are inextricably linked (cue Michael Ramsey here).

Unknown said...

We still have an abundance of theological diversity as the first Provincial Assembly of the ACNA illustrated.

Even our former/current Episcopal Anglo Catholics are very different than the Traditionalists in England. For one thing, our Anglo Catholics like Bishop Ackerman for example have been through the charismatic renewal. Not so common in England, where there are two extremes. Traditionalists and liberal Anglo Catholics.

The odd thing in England is that both Rowan Williams and Michael Nazir-Ali are hybrids, neither of them are purely Anglo Catholics. Rowan of course comes from the liberal end of the spectrum but has managed to piss the majority of the Anglo Catholics off. Michael Nazir-Ali, with his emphasis not on the sacraments but on scripture, does not find himself getting cozy with the Traditionalists. His recent statement made that point.

This provision is aimed at a shrinking group within the C0E. The application in the U.S. is commonly toward what are called "continuing Anglicans" who have not been in communion with Episcopalians in generations, nor the Anglican Communion. They are a very separate - and often separatist - group, as we learned when one of the groups pulled out of Common Cause. Common Cause was just TOO LIBERAL for them!

No, I think we have quite a lot of diversity, but it's imperative to understand that the coalition that has been formed between the evangelicals and Anglo Catholics in the U.S. - this coalition still has some major elements of commonality that one might not find in England - two of these common element are an emphasis on the preaching the Word as well as an emphasis on renewal.

We did some mighty Holy Spirit praying in the Undisclosed Location at Lambeth last year with Bishop Ackerman leading the Eucharist. I am not so sure you'd find that amongst the groups being "wooed" by the Pope. What do you think?


Rolin said...

Agreed, bb.

As an enthusiastic member of the convergence movement, I don't think we'll ever find unity in Christ's true Church until we incorporate the Evangelical, the Charismatic, and the Traditional Liturgical strands of its expression.

Br_er Rabbit

Ralph Webb said...

I see two issues here:

*First, while the Anglican announcement by the Vatican primarily comes in response to traditionalist requests, it’s ultimately aimed at all Anglicans. Rome wants to have every Christian body reunited under the Roman Catholic Church’s banner. Pope John Paul II, in particular, was very explicit about that, and Pope Benedict XVI is no different.

*Second, while I agree this will mostly impact England and perhaps continuing churches that left TEC in the late ‘70s and ‘80s (and please note that the continuing churches themselves do not agree with the assessment that they left Anglicanism—just like many of us, they believe that Anglicanism has left them and are waiting for it to be renewed), I’m afraid it will impact many of those Anglo-Catholics within ACNA who cannot live with women’s ordination as even an option. We’ve already seen people voicing their conviction that they can live with women’s ordination as a short-term temporary arrangement, but not a long-term solution, in our lifeboats. We’ve seen some Anglo-Catholics within ACNA stating outright that they are hoping to change ACNA regarding women’s ordination. Consequently, we very well could see a considerable number of Anglo-Catholics leaving ACNA, depending upon whether they can accept Rome—although most likely that will occur gradually and will be preceded by a period of time in which they wait to see if ACNA can be changed. And if we do lose even a significant number of Anglo-Catholics, our Anglicanism will be minimally greatly diminished.

Your comment about the charismatic influence is an interesting one, BB, but I think it’s a bit too general. The more prevalent trend (at least in the U.S.) has been for the charismatic to have become a smaller part of a larger evangelicalism, as Martyn himself noted at GC ’06. The most interesting question to me is whether the Anglo-Catholics who remain in ACNA will become more evangelical. Martyn said after GAFCON that evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are agreeing on the gospel. That points to an evangelical dominance, which fits in well with the larger number of evangelicals among our Anglican groups. It will take years or decades to see if this is the trend, however. And there’s a flip side: evangelicals are slowly becoming more catholic in the sense of valuing church unity and appreciating the importance of the worldwide body of Christ to a greater degree. Maybe in the future we’ll even see the common evangelical emphasis on the invisible Church at least matched by a sense of the importance of the visible Church. It’s this evangelical-becoming-more-catholic trend that gives me the greater hope so as to end more of our unhappy divisions.