Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Romanizing the Anglicans

The news was all over the place Tuesday: The Roman Catholic Church has found a way to say “welcome home” to disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians. The Episcopal Café has a good story, full of helpful links, as does Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans. Go there. Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman Curia [formerly the office of the Inquisition] made the announcement for the Roman Catholic Church.

For a long time, there have been some in our midst who have been livid – first about the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, then about women in holy orders, and more recently about gay men and lesbians in holy orders and the blessing of same-sex relationships. Many of them have talked about or yearned to “swim the Tiber.”

This week, the Roman Catholic Church made it official: a systematic way to welcome Anglicans into Mother Church. Strangely, they will allow Anglican/Episcopal male priests to come into the church with their wives. [Apparently, you can be a married male priest if you’re an Anglican, just not if you’re a Roman. Go figure!] But they will draw the line at married male bishops. And, of course, no girl-cooties and no queers.

As Bishop Christopher Epting observes, this merely “formalizes what has already been happening informally ….” The media are having a feeding frenzy anyway.

I was grateful to find this statement from the Very Reverend Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Phillip, Atlanta. I commend it to you:
I welcome the news of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to make provision for the conversion of certain Anglican Christians to the Roman Catholic Church.

In the past ten years, I have noticed many of my disenchanted Episcopal and Anglican friends drifting toward Roman Catholic structures. They have been arguing for more ecclesiastical order and authority. It has long been my prediction that our current Anglican controversies will be cleared up, finally, with a choice between distinctly Anglican and distinctly Roman ecclesiologies. Much of our current controversy, having been precipitated by sexuality issues (ordination of women and homosexuality), is more accurately about authority, uniformity, and legal order.

The Roman Catholic tradition, certainly a long and esteemed tradition, is very good on these very issues: authority, uniformity, and legal order. The Anglican tradition (in my opinion having begun in the fourth century A.D., and thus almost as old as the Roman tradition) is very good on other matters. In particular, the Anglican tradition of Christianity is very good at allowing local authority and jurisdiction to exist in partnership with wider authority and jurisdiction.

Many disenchanted Anglicans and Episcopalians have actually been arguing in the last ten years for more centralized and universal jurisdiction, when the Anglican tradition of Christianity has always resisted such universal and centralized jurisdiction. Thus, it is gratifying that the best centralized and universal jurisdiction in the world-the Roman Catholic Church-has been able to make provisions to welcome such disenchanted Anglicans.

I note, too, the gracious words in the joint statement of the Archbishop of Winchester and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is good relationship between these two branches of Christendom, the Roman and the Anglican. Fruitful ecumenical conversations have certainly enabled the Vatican to allow go forward with these provisions, and I salute all those who have beeninvolved.

I believe there is room in the kingdom of God for various ecclesiastical styles, and I pray that God will direct us all to a place where we can more freely preach the gospel and work toward the kingdom of God.

20 October 2009
I think Dean Candler has it exactly right: There has been a minority within the Episcopal Church who have yearned for a rule-based faith firmly ruled by a father figure. Now they have a formal way to enter into it. Godspeed to them.


Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

I say, let ALL the disaffected Anglcans go be Roman. Meanwhile, I'll just go, "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" to them all.

10/20/2009 10:24 PM  
Blogger MarkBrunson said...

I posted this on TA, but I'm easily impressed by myself, so:

I honestly don't see the problem. Dean Candler summed it up beautifully in his commentary. This provides - effectively - the separate province that Anglicanism can't.

But more:

God has such a wonderful wideness in His Mercy. He's given us an ecclesial structure for all tastes, because it really doesn't matter to anyone but us. These folks have found a place that suits them right down to the ground - for now - and it's likely that such an accommodation will make some liberal RC's wonder if there is such a big deal in switching to another church.

It's great, really. Very amusing. God just wants *us* and gives us all these places to make it easy to be with Him - constantly, He makes it easy for us. The joke's on us, because we talk about sacrificing and losing, when, inside, we know we're just going someplace that does things the way we like it done.

His yoke is easy, His burden light.

10/20/2009 11:12 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Amen, KirkE!

And I can agree with Mark, too. I hope this makes it easy for constipated Anglicans to go to Rome. And for uneasy Romans to come to TEC, too.

10/20/2009 11:18 PM  
Blogger Laura Toepfer said...

I have trouble being upset by this news, myself. I appreciate the comments you printed here. If this is where these folks spirituality takes them, then God bless them and God bless the Pope for making a place for them, I feel. It may be because of where I am in California, but I can't get worked up about this. Perhaps I'm missing something. At any rate, I was glad to read Dean Candler's statement.

I just wish there could have been some reciprocation, some way the ABC could have said, "Hey, thanks for your gracious hospitality and, btw, if any of you Roman clergy want to get married; any of you women religious want to get ordained, come on over."

10/20/2009 11:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I'm with ya, Laura. I think many of those folks will find a happy home in Rome. And I am glad to see so many leaders in our church offering a welcome statement.

And I'm with ya about wishing Rowan had said some such thing. But he'll never do it. He seems to want to be the Pope's #1 Bitch. Yeah, I know that's unseemly of me. But -- really! -- have you ever seen an Archbishop of Canterbury who seemed so eager to hand over the keys of Canterbury to Rome?

10/20/2009 11:55 PM  
Blogger TheraP said...

This is exactly the issue, Lisa. (and I'm speaking here as someone who "identifies" as RC, but is part of the hidden, but loyal, opposition within it!) Rome is obsessed with "authority" - and male-centered authority to boot. The whole thing the pope has done is to present the issue as a "spiritual" one. Well.... no "church" owns spirituality. And seeking God really has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation or one's gender. (something that should go without saying, of course!)

My bet is that many who seek the "authority" will, in the end, be turned off by it. They will be turned off by Rome's unwillingness to give them power or influence - or any say at all! Dependent personality disorders ONLY need apply!

Now, some of us, remain within the RC fold. WHY IS THAT? Because, if you were baptized RC, there is no one who comes calling asking you what you believe or interrogating you to make sure you follow the party line. Those, like me, who "remain" but are not "dependent personalities" simply think for ourselves, pray to God, and try in our quiet way to subvert the system! I think that's what Jesus did in Judaism. He remained a Jew - but he was a subversive influence. He followed his father.

WHY DO I STAY? Not because I believe the pope. But because I feel called to "minister" to all these poor RC's who have almost no one to minister to them! No one can ordain me, of course. I'm a woman! And married. On the other hand, because I am not an "official" RC minister, no one has ANY control over me! They don't know who I am, where I am, or in what ways I am subversively (in their view) serving God and my neighbor. (And believe me, I take very opportunity to do so!)

Let them come after me! God knows exactly where I am. And can strike me dead any day of his/her choosing! Meanwhile, I carry out my "work" for God and my neighbor - without regard for what the pope thinks! It's very freeing!

I do not urge anyone to convert to RC. If you're born into it and you feel called to stay and do as I'm doing, fine. But to convert means you'd have to force your mind to assent to things that I would never assent to! I pity anyone who converts. I really do. I pity anyone who is ordained RC becomes part of the party line.

Yes, Lisa, the whole thing is related to "authority" - "despotism" might be a better word!

Let's see if those folks who convert can stomach what they signed onto in 20 years.....

Me, I never signed onto anything! I was 2 weeks old.... God is the only one I am following .... and in that way, I truly think I am following in the footsteps of Jesus.

10/21/2009 7:16 AM  
Blogger The Rev. Mr. David Gillespie said...

Well done response by Dean Candler for sure.

10/21/2009 7:26 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

TheraP, thanks for adding your comments here. I appreciate your perspective.

BTW, you’re not alone in this. Many of us are friends with FranIAm – another RC who hangs out with Anglicans/Episcopalians in the blogosphere, but feels called to work the “inside strategy” as a Roman Catholic. Like you, there’s no doubt that she is a “minister” – though there’s no possibility of ordination. Have no doubt: I respect you! And I recognize you as a sister in Christ. No hesitation. Heck! I was toying with the RC Church before I discovered the Episcopalians.

It does strike me as ironic, TheraP, that the clergy who have disdained the authority of the Episcopal Church and who have violated their ordination vows yearn for the much more strict authority and hierarchy of the RC church. Ditto many of the laypeople who eschew their priests or bishops, running to Mother Rome. Like you, I suspect many who flee to the ordered authority of Rome may eventually rebel against it, too. I fear Pope Benedict and cardinals under him may one day rue giving safe harbor to these revolutionaries. We shall see.

You wrote: ” I do not urge anyone to convert to RC…. But to convert means you'd have to force your mind to assent to things that I would never assent to! I pity anyone who converts. I really do.” That’s an astonishing statement! -- especially your choice of the verb “pity.” As I said, there was a time when I flirted with the Romans. But I just couldn’t do it. Maybe I’m too much a Statesonian. Or maybe I was protecting my own spirit. I don’t know.

10/21/2009 7:59 PM  
Blogger IT said...

I wonder how many will really submit to Rome. They might find it a little hard to be a cog in a 5th wheel under strong central authority--none of this ability to speak out and disagree institutionally. I will be that a number of them may come home rather shame-facedly in a few years. As for the others, well, if that's what they want, that's what they got. Many people have a need for structure and authority, especially when times are hard.

I think rather than being passive about this, the ABC should have announced his own plan to welcome liberal Catholics who disagree with the church on women, gays, etc, to have a "Roman rite" in the Anglican tradition. Except based on our experience, you don't really need it, many TEC churches are already filled with RC who have fled the intolerance and mediaevalism. Some consider it a sabbatical. Others consider that it's the RC church who left them. And others still will be received completely into TEC and won't look back at the RC. Living a "don't ask don't tell" life in the RC church with the constant threat of abuse and lies fron the pulpit does rather wear on one.

I will be interested to see what happens in the RC Diocese of Maine, where the people and the bishop seem badly split on Question 1. With his support of the lies in htat hate-filled campaign, I think he may have deeply harmed his diocese.

10/22/2009 1:52 PM  

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