Update: I am thrilled with the interest in this post, which is currently running about a reader every 8 seconds. It is also gratifying to see such helpful and positive comments. If there are any developments, rather than altering this post I think I would produce another – I already have some ideas in mind. So if you are interested, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or other ways of seeing what is new here.
Update: part 2 of this reflection is here
A few hours ago there was an absolute internet frenzy as people predicted and then reported, tweet by tweet, the announcement from the Vatican and the joint press conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster.
Let me add my own initial thoughts to this confusing dust-cloud following the announcement that the pope will create “Personal Ordinariates” for Anglicans who wish to come home to Rome. Archbishop Rowan said that it would be a “serious mistake” to view the development as a response to the difficulties within the Anglican Communion. As we in New Zealand say: “Yeah right!”
To anyone who has been watching the direction that Pope Benedict has been moving, and those he has been welcoming into his fold, the commentary that this is “surprising” is itself surprising. Just to mention recent events that have been in the news: the reconciliation with Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson and his Society of St. Pius X, the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” giving wider possibility to celebrate the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, reconciliation with the traditionalist “Transalpine Redemptorists,” and so forth. I want to highlight some things I have not yet seen mentioned:
- married priests in Anglican Personal Ordinariates will have to marry prior to ordination to the diaconate
They will not be able to marry after ordination. Should his wife die, or he gets divorced (sorry – his marriage is annulled) he will not be able to marry. Roman Catholic deacons can be married, but in order to do so, must be married prior to ordination. In the tweeting frenzy Scott Richert wrote, “There is no warrant in tradition for marrying AFTER receiving Holy Orders. None.” He may very well be right. I am genuinely interested in this point, and hope that people in the comments box below might provide evidence for or against this. My reply to him for clarification has not yet been responded to.
- bishops in Anglican Personal Ordinariates are celibate
- there has been no rescinding of Apostolicae Curae.
Anglican orders are not accepted by the Vatican. Anglican “priests” joining Anglican Personal Ordinariates in order to function as priests will have to be ordained twice (or at least conditionally ordained twice). And they will have to be males. Anglican “bishops” joining Anglican Personal Ordinariates in order to function as bishops will have to be ordained thrice (or at least conditionally ordained thrice). And they will have to be males. And celibate.
From a church (New Zealand Anglican) that leads Christian history in having created a “Tikanga” structure (where there are parallel episcopal jurisdictions according to cultural streams) I am intrigued by the concept of “Personal Ordinariates.” These are described by John Allen as “non-territorial diocese” (which sounds like an oxymoron to me!) My comment to Scott Richert and anyone else is: There is no warrant in tradition for “Personal Ordinariates.” None. But, of course, as usual, I am very very comfortable to be demonstrated wrong on this also. Please… anyone?
The end of the Anglican Communion?
As Mark Twain would say, “The reports of the end of the Anglican Communion are greatly exaggerated.” Andrew Brown, a regular person lining up for the funeral of the Communion, highlights his own weak grasp on the issues by declaring that only homosexuals can be celibate! Clearly heterosexuals, it would appear according to him, are either too weak or too immoral to be able to control their urges (not to mention that Andrew Brown is unable to distinguish doctrine from discipline). Scott Richert may have a slightly better grasp on the consequences for Anglicanism. Whilst no one would want to impugn curate’s-egg motives to the Archbishop of Canterbury, one cannot help wondering if there is just the flicker of a smile under that beard. In one Roman gesture he may be rid of, at one estimate, up to 2,000 of his CofE priests who have been holding out against his strong conviction for women in all three orders. Rowan Williams is well-known for ordaining openly practising homosexuals. Traditionalist Anglicans around the globe have struggled with women and with gays in a committed relationship being ordained. Commentators are repeatedly highlighting that this is an invitation from Rome to misogynists and homophobes.
In North America some Anglicans formed a new denomination The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). This brings together two extremes of the Anglican spectrum – Rome-facing and Geneva-facing. This marriage of convenience, like the 1977 followers of the Affirmation of St. Louis, cannot last, as, at its heart it is united around being against one thing. Rome’s declaration cannot but affect it. If the Rome-facing ACNA (married) bishops can stomach losing their purple, pectoral crosses, honorary doctoral gowns, and complex titles, they may yet lead their groups home to Rome. This will impact the attempt of some Anglicans to produce a “covenant”. Nigerian “Anglicans” have already formally removed the Archbishop of Canterbury from their constitution. Sydney Anglicans, leaders in GAFON/FOCA/Mainstream, are now not only struggling with theology, church history, and liturgical practice, but have recently realised they haven’t been that good at investments either (their $265 million assets are now worth $105 million). This Geneva-facing, congregationalist end of the Anglican spectrum does not need a Communion in the way that others see it. Rome’s announcement may help towards trimming off the extremes leaving an Anglican Communion that is certainly leaner but hopefully spending far less energy on peripherals and with a stronger focus on the end of the Communion, in the sense of the purpose of the church.
It is not the numbers inside the church that is ultimately significant IMO. It is the focus on service – in the two senses: our liturgical worship of God, and our service to God by our care of people and God’s world. Anglicanism may yet, through this, become more clearly a 21st century church episcopally led, synodically governed, and adapted for the particular context in which it finds itself, working “together with other Provinces and with our ecumenical and interfaith partners to promote God’s reign on earth.”