Friday, October 23, 2009

Responsive notes to Rome's quest for Anglicans

(1) This kind of thing is repeated repeatedly: "Two years ago an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth, leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion which claims to represent 400,000 worshippers worldwide, went to the Vatican to seek terms for his flock to be accepted into full communion with Rome. Part of the Roman Curia received him sympathetically, but the dominant group of Vatican bureaucrats were against him."

Where are these 400,000 worshipping Traditional Anglicans? In ACANZP we might have some 35,000 worshipping Anglicans? Does TAC really have 400,000? If so, what is the presenting evidence?

(2) When brilliant, bold papal decisions are made - bear with me if you are not particularly enamoured about this one - I am reminded of a principle in church ministry I hold dearly: leadership matters, in the end one person must be leader of any group. This principle underscores episcopacy quite well, but, to be honest it also underscores, on a world scale, the papacy. Should Anglicans be more sympathetic to the Petrine claims?

Of course, one objection is that there is a long history of silly, weak papal decisions (as we were learning in church history recently in respect of Rome's responding to the post-Enlightenment world in the 19th century by attempting to deny the reality of change, and then in the early 20th century shutting down the French-led 'Modernist' movement in biblical scholarship only to backtrack a decade or two later). Another objection is that a better model might be a primatial bishop-in-council, which leads us Anglicans towards the Covenant ...

(3) We should take a very long-term view of Rome's offer. Perhaps only a few will take up the offer. Perhaps it will turn out to be to advantage for Anglicans who refuse it - some pundits are suggesting this is a Good Thing for the C of E because it could take many of the objectors to women bishops away. (Although others (of conservative evangelical variety) we should hasten to add are a little alarmed: take those objectors away and the ranks of objectors are thinned down to conservative evangelicals opposed to women bishops (which is less than the sum total of conservative evangelicals).

But here's the thing: in many, perhaps even all Western countries, Anglican attendance is on the wane and Roman Catholic attendance is either stable or rising. It is my view that an Anglicanism in the West which maintains a love affair with progressive theology will continue to lose adherents in the long-term - the only stemming of the tide will be the engagement of Western Anglican churches with a genuine evangelical theology of missional church. This could happen, but there would need to be a transformation in attitude by Western hierarchies to evangelical theology.

Thus, over the long-term we could see (a) Roman numbers increase (b) Anglican numbers trickling over to Rome (c) Anglican numbers declining through attrition in a secular age to the end point that Rome's dominance of episcopal Christianity in the West is complete.

Factor in steady improvements in relationships between Rome and Constantinople and by the end of the 21st century we could see a Rome-led world Christian communion, dominating West and East, the Americas, though perhaps not Africa and Asia, quietly triumphant about answering the prayer 'ut ubi sint' ... achieved, in the end, without the midwifery to which the Anglican Communion has aspired in the birth of such ecumenical hopes.

(4) A reminder here of why no Anglican need either swim the Tiber or a purpose built swimming pool beside it!

No comments: