October 20, 2009

We live in historic times.

I’ve often thought that one of the most logical ways to address a couple of long-standing desires on the part of the Roman Catholic Church – the furthering of worldwide Christian unification under Rome, and an answer to the acute shortage of priests – was to issue an olive branch to traditional Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics around the world by providing a means and structure through which they could be welcomed back to Rome while at the same time recognizing and seeking to preserve their theological identity.

While I doubt any worldwide unification under the Vatican is ever likely to happen anytime soon, Pope Benedict XVI appears to be taking a bold step in reaching out to to disaffected Anglicans around the globe to come home to Rome:

The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict is setting up special provision for Anglicans, including married clergy, who want to convert to Rome together, preserving aspects of Anglican liturgy. They will be given their own pastoral supervision, according to this press release from the Vatican:

“In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.”

Think about it: imagine going to an Anglican church and experiencing the inherent beauty of the Anglican rite of worship and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, knowing that in doing so you are reconciled with millions upon millions of Roman Catholics around the world? The whole idea is absolutely breathtaking in both its scope and impact.

I have no doubt the Pope is sincere in this effort, and I applaud him for his boldness. After all, he’s a keen observer of history and a student of Christianity and the Church, so he is well aware of the historical significance of such an initiative. Sure, there will be some out there who will accuse him of seeking to undermine the so-called “competition” by making it more difficult for churches who support actions Rome doesn’t (the ordination of women and non-celibate homosexuals, for example) to survive by providing an outlet for clergy and parishioners who simply could not swallow full conversion to Roman Catholicism, but to that I say, too freakin’ bad.

Orthodox Anglicans have had to put up with their various churches’ sad slide towards godlessness and irrelevance for far too long. Traditional-minded clergy in churches like The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Church of England have for too long been subject to (dare I say, persecuted by) the heavy hand of gay activists and moral relativists who long ago hijacked these once-venerable institutions and traded the altar of Jesus Christ for the new post-modern (actually, post-Christian) “trinity” of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. For both these groups, the Pope’s outreached hand is not only an opportunity to vote with their own feet and find a place in Christendom where they are truly welcome, but a 21st century affirmation of the Holy Father’s historic role in preserving and protecting the historic teachings of the Church to the extent where it is possible.

Bottom line comes from Jonathan Wynne-Jones, at The Telegraph, who writes:

Pope Benedict XVI has thrown a hand-grenade into the [Church of England], and it will potentially obliterate Archbishop [of Canterbury] Rowan [Williams]’s hopes of maintaining unity in the Church. He has been at pains to try and find a way of keeping Anglo-Catholics in the Church, but now that power has been removed from him with this formal offer from Rome. Years of protracted negotiations over how to keep traditionalists in the Church could effectively be rendered meaningless by today’s announcement.

(Hat tip: David Virtue)

Of course, the devil (pun intended) will be in the details, and for Anglican/Episcopal clergy and parishes there will be significant obstacles that will have to be considered (for parishes their very buildings, for clergy their pensions and other benefits). Nevertheless, I can see the Pope’s offer being seriously considered by African and Asian churches who have become increasingly restless and vocal in their opposition to increasingly-bold actions taken by their Northern Hemisphere sister churches in their support of the homosexual/transgender movement, and their overall lack of conviction in preserving and promoting the traditional teachings of orthodox Christianity.

As someone who has watched (and witnessed first-hand) the struggle of Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide who consider themselves traditionalists and found themselves, increasingly, outcasts in their own churches, I find this all incredibly interesting and historic. It will be worth watching to see how in the months and years ahead all of this plays out.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 18:50 | Comments (0)
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