Thinking Out Loud

October 22, 2009

Disenchanted Anglican Congregations Invited to Adopt Catholic Brand

When the large Pontiac dealer out on the freeway near my house got dropped by General Motors, it didn’t shut down.   It emerged as a Hyundai dealership and simply carried on business as usual.

With large numbers of Anglican churches frustrated with the issue of ordination of gay clergy, The Vatican is inviting those churches to be rebranded much like my local Pontiac franchise was.

Here’s the lead from writer Cathy Lynn Grossman on the USAToday Religion page:

USA TodayThe Vatican has opened an express lane to traditional Anglicans — unhappy with their own church’s moves toward accepting female and gay bishops — to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church their forefathers left nearly 500 years ago.

In a surprise announcement from Rome, Pope Benedict XVI approved a provision to create a new church entity that will allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church in a format similar to Ukrainian or Eastern Rite Catholics, keeping their liturgy and married priests, but not married bishops.

The announcement Tuesday stunned many in the 77-million worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly the Church of England, where the Archbishop of Canterbury has wrestled for years with factions that opposed female bishops.

Pope - confessionIt’s a sell job where you want to emphasize the similarities, not the differences:

“Don’t forget, we had 1,500 years of unity with their forebears and today’s Roman Catholics. It’s the same apostolic tradition,” said the Rev. James Massa, head of the interfaith and interreligious affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The move is certainly being seen as born out of pure motives:

Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, saw the Vatican announcement as a global event, “maybe one of Benedict’s biggest moves.

“Rome is trying to find a structural solution to an unbearable pastoral problem,” Harmon said. Vatican leaders “clearly feel that if they don’t intervene now, it will get worse. Their motive is the reunification of Christianity. If Anglicanism wasn’t going to provide a catholic solution, the worldwide church would fracture even more.”

But the move is complicated by The Vatican’s refusal to accept married clergy elevated to the role of Bishop.   This, of course, and the more obvious complication:

Archbishop Robert Duncan, founder and leader of the breakaway traditionalist Anglican Church in North America, issued a statement calling Benedict’s move “a momentous offer,” and he “blessed” those who choose this new path.

However, Duncan spelled out major obstacles between Anglican traditionalists and Rome that still stand. He cited “our historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the nature of the priesthood.

One leader noted that while Catholics have welcomed Anglicans and former Anglicans in the past, this move ends up in “creating what he called ‘parallel structures’ for entire groups of converts.

You can read the entire USAToday article here.   BTW, the religion page at USAToday is always bookmarked on this blog.

Ottawa Gatineau…For my Canadian readers, here is an analogy I’ve always found helpful.   The conversion of an Anglican to, for example, Pentecostalism, might be compared to someone living in Ottawa who decides to move to Windsor.   It’s all the same province, they keep their driver’s license and their health cards, but it’s a major move — around 800 km — and a complete change of both climate and culture.

The conversion of an Anglican to Catholicism could be compared to the that same person in Ottawa deciding to move to Gatineau.    The moving van might only have a ten-minute drive across the river, but it’s a new province, requiring a new driver’s license and even a new way of looking at common law.   Compared to moving to Windsor, it’s a cakewalk, but at a deeper level it is a much more radical change of address.  Which one is the bigger move?

For Anglicans, the Roman Catholic Church may seem like a comfortable fit but it is, to use the above analogy, “a change in province.”  It might meet some short term needs; there is this huge emotional bonding to multiple levels of ecclesiastic oversight and generations of history; not to mention robes, processions, choirs and liturgies.

But personally, I see disenchanted Anglicans and former Anglicans finding a better long-term fit in another Protestant denomination or in the creation of a new entity.    What works for car dealerships may not work where matters of faith and doctrine are concerned.

COMMENTS:  If you see your ministry as flitting from blog to blog leaving remarks which attack or tear down another denomination, please note those comments will not be posted here.    On the other hand, if you want to actually discuss the finer points of the topic of absorption of some Anglicans into the Catholic Church, or the Catholic church’s decision to make this offer; then those on-topic comments will be published.   You know who you are.

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3 Comments »

  1. I was glad to see you addressing this topic here…I do feel that Amglicans have much more in common with liturgical mainline protestant denominations that the Catholic Church. But I believe that the motives of the Pope are “pure”. I am certain that He would love nothing more than to bring us all “home”

    Comment by Cynthia — October 22, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

  2. I agree with Cynthia about the purity of the pope’s motive.

    On the other hand, I don’t think the kind of Anglicans who would be drawn by this do actually have more in common with mainline protestant denominations. Most if not all of the Anglo-Catholics I know–I have been one myself for 10 years–consider Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy their only viable options. Evangelical Catholics may be in the majority among conservative Anglicans, but they aren’t the ones who requested union with Rome. And we should remember that those requests were the impetus for this.

    Interesting times.

    Comment by Annie — October 23, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  3. Ooops, that should say Evangelical Anglicans, not Catholics!

    Comment by Annie — October 23, 2009 @ 8:16 am


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