Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Published Plan Positively Papist, Possibly Pure Posturing

The headline is a little shocking:

Churches back plan to unite under Pope

The lead is just as strong:

Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt.

The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches.

In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the Pope.

The statement, leaked to The Times, is being considered by the Vatican, where Catholic bishops are preparing a formal response.

This makes it all sound rather monumental. But I get the feeling there is nothing all that new here. I believe this is just another step in the long slow dissolution of the Anglican Church as we know it. Try as I might I just don't see the Anglican Church as a whole deciding to accept the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Dissatisfied elements within the Anglican community might long for a time when there was a unified doctrinal vision within their Church, but they won't be strong enough to reunite the whole Church with the RC. Instead you will see individual Anglican clergy "swimming the Tiber" and the occasional parish switching over...just as we have seen for the last 20+ years.

Where it might be different is in Africa. Sometimes it does seem that there is a greater divide between fellow members of the Anglican Church, such as the difference between Anglican Church in Africa and the Episcopal Church in America, than there is between the Catholic faith and the African Anglicans. When it comes to doctrine, the Catholic adherence seems far less alien.

But there is always the sticking point of that Pope guy.

In one significant passage the report notes: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.” Anglicans rejected the Bishop of Rome as universal primate in the 16th century. Today, however, some Anglicans are beginning to see the potential value of a ministry of universal primacy, which would be exercised by the Bishop of Rome, as a sign and focus of unity within a reunited Church.

In another paragraph the report goes even further: “We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.”

Can anyone ever see this flying in England? It simply isn't going to happen, and the article owns up to this fact:

In today’s Anglican Church, it is unlikely that a majority of parishioners would wish to heal the centuries-old rift and return to Rome.

However, the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the present dispute dividing his Church gives an indication of how priorities could be changing in light of the gospel imperative towards church unity.

Dr Rowan Williams, who as Primate of the Church of England is its “focus for unity”, has in the past supported a liberal interpretation of Scripture on the gay issue. But he has made it clear that church unity must come before provincial autonomy. A logical extension of that, once this crisis is overcome either by agreement or schism, would be to seek reunion with the Church of England's own mother Church.

That is the first time I've ever heard of "schism" as a way to "overcome a crisis," ("Have a happy schism!") but that might just be a indication of how deep the differences are right now in the Anglican community. But even given all of that I do not think there will be a major change in the Anglican Church in England or North America. The Archbishop of Canterbury will not become just another Roman Catholic Bishop, at least not in my lifetime.

Gleaned from TMV.


Tully said...

Wasn't "schisming" (Grammar Panda says "Ouch!" My bad.) to "overcome a crisis" how the CoE got started in the first place? I seem to recall something about Henry VIII's sight marital crisis....

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

You have to love any "solution" that leads to decades worth of civil wars.