Where is the Gospel? (aka the return of the Corkscrew of Anglican Infallibility)

26 10 2009

Much has been said about the recent announcement from the Vatican about allowing disaffected Anglicans to become Roman Catholic and still retain much of their spirituality and liturgy.  Under this new “Personal Ordinariate,” this will allow for married Anglican deacons and priests, but not bishops.  Those who have been agonizing over the fact that the Anglican Communion works best on a missional and consensus-driven model rather than a magisterial way of governance will find safe harbour at the Vatican.  Of course, these clergymen (and yes, they will all be men, make no mistake about that!) will have to be re-ordained because the Vatican does not recognize the vaildity of Anglican Holy Orders.

Many questions arise out of this announcement, and the answers will probably be sorted out in the actual Apostolic Constitution document when it comes out over the next few weeks.

Some questions include (most of which have been discussed elsewhere):

  • What about bishops who are currently married?  One case in point is a bishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion over in the Philadelphia suburbs.  His commentary on the matter may be found in the NY Times at the link above.  He hopes that the sea of purple can be “grandfathered in” and presumably going forward, once the initial crop of bishops dry off from their swim across the Tiber, the celibacy requirement will be in force.  Regardless, I think the ban on married bishops will prevent many from leaving the Anglican Communion than we might at first be inclined to believe (i.e., I don’t see +Jack Iker of Fort  Worth, or any of our African Bishops running off to Rome any time soon).
  • Will this bring up again the taboo topic of discussing whether or not it is a right, good and a joyful thing to require the clergy to be celebate? This has been brought up several times over the past week, recently on NPR’s All Things Considered, which featured interviews with Jim Naughton of Episcopal Cafe; +Robert Duncan of ACNA; and Fr. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest in Washington, DC.
  • And what about the laity?  In the USA, Canada, and also to an extent the United Kingdom, I believe that lay participation in the councils and structures of the church is rather robust … Is there room in a top-down magisterium for such a group?
  • Oh, yes and the property questions, and what to do with their stipends, pensions, etc.

Lots of questions, not a lot of answers …

For those of us in the US, and perhaps Canada also, this will not prove to be such a big deal.  Actually, I think it affects the Anglicans in Europe much more so than here in North America, which tends to be the consensus amongst the Anglican pundits.  The Anglicans in North America who have left TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada are busy forming their own parallel province, so I doubt seriously anyone will want to take advantage of this move … However, one really big question I have is ….

Where is the Gospel in all of this?


At first glance, it appears that the Vatican is making room for those in the Anglican Communion a means to sign up.  This would include others who claim Anglican heritage in their worship and who have serious sympathies and affection for the Roman Catholic Church.  But, I have trouble in seeing  the Gospel in this: a church is welcoming a group of people who want to maintain a structure where one of their chief distinguishing characteristics is to keep certain groups of people out of Holy Orders and refusal to recognize their God-given gifts and the work of God in their lives, namely those of women and LGBT people.

This also goes on to prove a point that many believe but is never said in polite company (and certainly not in any ecumenical statements coming from various committees and councils), that talks of corporate union involving the Roman Catholic Church will tend to be one-sided conversation.   Thanks to Tobias Haller for bringing this up.

It will be interesting to see things unfold.  In the meantime, I am happy to report that on this side of the Thames and Tiber rivers are a robust bunch of clergy and laity committed to living out the Gospel of Christ in The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion, ready to love and challenge each other to live by and into that Gospel, and a Eucharistic table where everyone who calls themselves Christian are welcome.

To those who may choose to live out their relationship with God  on the other side of those rivers, I truly hope they will find what they haven’t been able to on these shores.  They should also know, that they may always come back home and will be welcome with open arms and hearts.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat has his own take on this in the NYTimes today.  It’s so ridiculous, I can’t link to it.  But he is attempting to reframe this latest chain of events as not of conservative vs liberal, but an attempt by the Vatican of consolidation for the so-called conflict Christianity vs. Islam, going so far as to strongly imply (if not directly say) that Islam is “Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.”

Forgive me, but I thought our most enduring and impressive foes were things like  The Enemy and the Powers of this world (Sin, Death, etc.), not another religion.

Ross is off his rocker.



3 responses

26 10 2009
Robert Thomas

Great thoughts and right on target!

26 10 2009
Reverend boy

Thanks Robert. I admittedly banged this out in the morning before the coffee set in, so I went back and edited for clarity.

27 10 2009

Bye Bye and shut the door behind you.

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