Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ecumenical Bombshell: Anglicans Invited Into Reunion with Rome

Yesterday's announcement from the Vatican in Rome, along with a press conference held by Archbishop Rowan Williams of the fragmenting Anglican Communion and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of the Roman Catholic Church, was a bombshell. The announcement today was the biggest event in ecumenical relations since the formation of the World Council of Churches and the Second Vatican Council. Although it was denied in an attempt to save face, the fact is that Rome has given up on ecumenical reunion with the Anglican Communion as a whole, which has chosen to become a liberal Protestant denomination and give up its catholic identity. The decision of the Church of England to procede with female bishops probably sealed the deal.

Basically, what happened was that the Pope responded to pleas from traditional Anglo-Catholics for a legal structure by which they could convert to Rome as a group and retain something of their liturgy and ethos while coming into full communion with Rome. The structure announced is modeled on the non-territorial military chaplain dioceses and allows the former Anglicans to have an Ordinary (either a bishop or senior priest) appointed to oversee them by Rome from among their own ranks. They also get to have married priests, but not bishops and their own seminaries. The Roman Catholic Church stands to benefit from the beauty and theology of the Book of Common Prayer even as its riches are tossed aside by liberal Anglicans.

Here is Archbishop Williams' letter to his bishops and the joint statement issued by Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Wiliams at their press conference.

The Times of London has been sputtering in rage since yesterday - calling it "poaching" and whining about the Catholic Church stealing away its dwindling flock - even to the point of having incindery headlines like this one. (They must have hired Ian Paisely to write their headlines; nevertheless the article itself is not bad.) The Times' approach is to blame the Pope, blame the traditionalists, blame the orthodox, blame the Africans, blame everybody except the liberals who have caused the whole mess in the first place. This kind of response, however, is undignified and embarrassing for liberals because it refuses to face up to the fact that the Church which has resisted liberalism - the Roman Catholic - stands firm and is growing in spite of secular hostility, while the Church which has embraced liberalism in a futile effort to find approval from the enemies of the Faith - the Anglican - is disintegrating before our very eyes. It is time for Christians everywhere to read the signs of the times and discern the truth about how to survive and be effective in our mission in a secular, post-Christendom world. Compromise leads to death.
Last summer the Church of England voted to ordain female bishops, in violation of Christian tradition and the consciences of up to 2000 of its 14,000 clergy. It basically said to it Anglo-Catholic wing: "You can like it or lump it. Secular ideas of human rights and women's liberation are more important than church tradition." The Anglo-Catholics were being asked to participate in something their theology (along with that of the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, many Evangelicals and the majority of Chrisitans worldwide) forbids.

So the Anglo-Catholics cried out to Rome for help and Rome now has responded generously and graciously. The first group to enter will likely be the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group of some 400,000 conservative Anglicans from around the world. But up to between 1,000 and 2,000 clergy of the Church of England, including bishops and some whole dioceses, could end up swimming the Tiber as well. The consquences for the Church of England legally, theologically and otherwise are immense.

The Church of England could wind up polarized between a liberal majority and an Evangelical minority. The Roman Catholic Church could overtake it as the largest Christian church in England in terms of attendance. The Church of England could go the way of the Episcopal Church in the US with all manner of heresies and immorality coming to dominate its life and the splits that result could well lead to disestablishment. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is already getting started in the UK and Ireland. (See ths letter from the GAFCON primates to the new group.)

The attitude of the liberals who blame Rome for this mess is laughable. Here they are abusing their flock, abandoning tradition, departing from biblical doctrine, and conforming to the secular world - and they blame Rome. Well they should remember what we were taught in seminary about "sheep stealing" and that is that healthy, well-fed, happy sheep seldom allow themselves to be stolen. It is always easier to blame others, but it is time for liberals to take a second look at themselves and, if possible, try to re-discover the faith of their fathers.

3 comments:

billysunday said...

I'd love to be a king of response someday.

Craig Carter said...

Hey BS,
I suppose that if you keep on doing spell-checking for me, I'll have to put you on the payroll. Glad to see you read closely, though.

billysunday said...

There's a payroll? You should have hired someone for this long ago in that case.