To read some of the post Benedict Personal Ordinariate offer commentary one could be forgiven for thinking that at one stroke he has blown the Anglican Communion apart, its future now determined to be two incompatible entities, one shaped by a dour Calvinist Puritanism, the other by a flamboyant anything goes North American liberalism. That is, Benedict will draw the best, brightest and most orthodox among us away from a church which we now see with the brilliance of hindsight to be a patch up job cobbled together under various political exigencies of the English landscape. Time to farewell the bold, brave and ultimately futile experiment called Anglicanism.
There is always the small matter of considering where the truth of Christianity lies! This is a difficult time for Anglicans, and the difficulties may or may not be helped by Benedict's creative compassion to distressed Anglicans, but there is no reason to become jelly-minded about what it means to be an Anglican!
It is a good time to recall Bishop Jewel's words:
"We have returned to the Apostles and the old Catholic Fathers. We have planted no new religion, but only preserved the old that was undoubtedly founded and used by the Apostles of Christ and other holy Fathers of the Primitive Church."
The distinctive contribution of the Anglican Communion to the world ecclesial scene is to be a church in continuity with the undivided church yet reformed of unwarranted accretions. That we ourselves these days might need quite a bit of reforming, perhaps more in the direction of restoring things we have lost than removing accretions, does not change the basic shape of Anglicanism in relation to other churches.
Notwithstanding all we may admire about the personal characteristics of Benedict as a leader, and about much Roman theology which we are agreeable to, not least because it is scriptural, the unwarranted accretions of Roman theology remain. The goal of communion between all churches, including between Anglicans and Romans remains a worthy ecumenical goal. Benedict's offer does not draw us closer together on that score, and the communion it promises Anglicans who cross over to the new arrangement is still a communion based on signing up to Roman theology.
There is another element of Anglican distinctiveness worth noting. Some unhappy Anglicans look the other way, to Eastern Orthodoxy. Again, there is much to admire there. But some things are unsatisfactory. I have in my possession a copy of the recently published Orthodox Study Bible in English. Browsing through it I have been intrigued to find that it includes a piece of bad scholarship: it conforms the text of the Lord's Prayer in Luke 11 to the text of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew's Gospel. The footnotes acknowledge this. But there is no basis (I am aware of) in scholarship for doing this, though undoubtedly there is a basis in E. Orthodox tradition. Anglicans have been distinctively honest and rigorous in our biblical scholarship.
Finally, Anglicans have also been distinctive (as a church valuing continuity with the undivided church) in our readiness to engage contemporaneously with the culture around us, a consequence of embracing what it means to be a national church in each nation. In contrast to the Eastern Orthodox in particular which generally does not engage with cultural change (though curiously in Russia manages to keep close to whomever rules), but also with greater speed than the Roman Catholic Church, we have acknowledged change in society, culture, philosophy and politics. Our debates today are not necessarily a church going the wrong way so much as a church engaging with change before our Roman brothers and sisters do so. Those Anglicans drawn to Rome because they do not like the idea of women priests or partnered gay clergy actually have no idea what the Roman view of these matters will be at the end of the 21st century. (One brief lesson from modern church history: the RCC once rejected critical biblical scholarship then did a volte-face a few decades later).
As an aside I am aghast at the cheap shots being made about those Anglicans who might take up Rome's offer - accusations that Rome is pandering to homophobic, woman-hating Anglican conservatives - that is unfair (have these Anglicans been personally surveyed?) and shallow (there are many good theological reasons for viewing Rome as a true interpreter of the gospel, even if those reasons are disputed by those of us who value the Reformation).
An ongoing contribution to the truth is ours as Anglicans to make - but not if we give up and fold into the lives of other churches!