Thursday, October 22, 2009

Understanding Benedict's message to Anglican bishops

Reading, quickly, quite a few posts on Rome's amazing offer of grace to Anglicans, I sense many are missing the main message in what is being proposed! (Though Kendall Harmon, cited in the post below, comes closest). The message is not 'on the face of it this will affect many, but in reality it will be a trickle not a flood taking it up' (so, many posts), nor is it 'Ah, check the fine print, its not really about Anglicans being Anglican in a Roman context, it's about Anglicans signing up to Roman contracts, becoming more or less RCs in the process, but being allowed to say their Anglican prayers and have an "ex-Anglican" as their Ordinary' (so, other posts).

No. The message is this: in a time of great difficulty for the church, decisive leadership is possible and, by God's grace, can be given; problems can be solved in a manner which enhances the unity of the church.

Pope Benedict has grasped an Anglican truth (strange though it may seem): Christians can be in fellowship together across their differences by accommodation. How can we assist Anglicans rent by division? How can we draw them into our fold while respecting their special character? By accommodating them with a special arrangement.

At one stroke of the pen Benedict has done what (say) ++Katherine Jefferts Schori, ++Rowan Williams, and others have failed to do: to find a way to accommodate those who share the faith but differ in practice.

++Katherine Jefferts Schori, I suggest, comes out particularly badly in the light of Benedict's luminous wisdom: litigating one's way through the courts of America is singularly divisive. Where has been TEC's hierarchy's bold, gracious offer of some form of accommodation to disaffected Episcopalians as an expression of intention to enhance the unity of the church? Why has the determination to expend money and energy on litigation not been matched by an 'extra mile' determination to arrive at an accommodating special arrangement for disaffected Episcopalians?

++Rowan Williams, surely, must be now reflecting carefully on the inability of the General Synod of the Church of England to find a bold, gracious means of accommodating the real differences between proponents of and opponents of ordaining women to the episcopacy - an inability exposed by Benedict's cleverness and courage.

++others: some of us need to look very carefully at whether, for the best of doctrinal motives, to be sure, we have failed to work out whether, in the end, an accommodation of difference might be possible in our contexts (conservative of liberals, liberals of conservatives, straight of gay, etc). [In an earlier version of this post I noted the case when +Peter Selby, as Bishop of Worcester, and Charles Raven of Kidderminster could not find an accommodation - Doug Chaplin in a comment below offers an explanation of the reasons for the failure to find a mutually satisfactory accommodation]. Nothing is easy here: but is life less difficult after splits, schisms, and divisions?

Yes, just before you comment, I am aware that Benedict's proposal involves a doctrinal unity (i.e. signing up to RCC teaching) lacking in various Anglican situations. But, then, for Anglicans, that lack of doctrinal agreement has not always been a barrier to accommodation of difference!

Benedict's game plan is the unity of all Christians, East and West (as Kendall Harmon astutely observes). What is ours, dear Anglican bishops?


Anonymous said...

Is Benedict really accommodating difference ... or merely allowing former Anglicans to use parts of the BCP?

Nazir-Ali's statement goes to the heart of the matter - there seems to be no accommodation of Anglican approaches on a range of matters.

Benedict is requiring former Anglicans to accept the Roman understanding of the Marian dogmas, papal authority, Anglican orders etc.

I'm just not sure that we are really seeing anything genuinely different here.

Peter Carrell said...

The detail certainly needs close scrutiny. But surely if nothing was genuinely new here then there would have been no announcement of this sort.

Kurt said...

Look on the bright side--–maybe the Brits can clean out the Anglo Papalists once and for all from the CofE. Although I’m an Anglo Catholic Episcopalian, most of us American High Churchmen/women don’t have much time for the type of Anglo Papalism that is so present in the Church of England. This particular school of thought has never been very popular in TEC---not since the Rev. Paul Wattson took the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement to Rome in 1907. Our anti-Roman, anti-authoritarian attitude no doubt also reflects the native American High Church tradition, and the fact that the Catholic Revival began here about 1783, rather than 1833 as in England. In fact, our American revival undoubtedly influenced the one in the UK (eg, Bishop JH Hobart’s visit to England in the 1820s, for example.)

As for a lack of accommodation to those in ACNA, they could have negotiated in good faith with TEC regarding properties---in fact, a few did, and found that TEC was willing to be very, very fair about terms. Most, however, tried to walk away with the properties by fiat---and they have suffered in most court decisions.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Kurt for helpful perspective on TEC's likely response to Rome's offer.

It would be good to have more information/public narrative about TEC's "good faith" agreements with leaving congregations.

Kurt said...

Father Jake's site has a lot of material relating to breakaway parishes. I got most of my knowledge about this issue from Fr. Martin's blog.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Doug said...

I pick up one point only, your reference to Peter Selby and Charles Raven.
I have been told by members of the church Raven was sacked from that whenever existing church members disagreed with him, he told them they could either accept his leadership as vicar or get out.
Peter Selby invited evangelical clergy to a regular seminar to share fellowship and discussion of the scriptures around and through their differences. Charles Raven said attending was a waste of time. The other evangelical clergy valued this time with their bishop.
Peter Selby offered Raven the compromise of having a bishop from the Southern Cone (Worcester's twin diocese of Peru) to do the confirmations that Raven refused to allow Selby to do. Raven refused, because any bishop coming with Peter Selby's authority was unacceptably tainted.
I do not think you can summarise this as Peter Selby's unwillingness or inability to find an accomodation in the face of a determinedly schismatic pope in his own parish.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Doug
I stand corrected and will make a note in the post accordingly - thanks!

liturgy said...

You ask why this announcement? And implicitly, why now?

Benedict has a pattern of expanding traditionalist options and placing them directly under his own authority. He did this with the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. Anglican Personal Ordinariates are a canonical, ecclesiological novelty that fit his pattern, similarly expanding the pastoral provision of Anglican Use and making this directly responsible to him. It is notable that the announcement was made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (previously called the Inquisition). The Council for Christian Unity has been extremely conspicuous by its absence. Possibly cynical commentators have noted the timing corresponds to its being the eve of another damning report on clerical abuse and cover-up in Ireland. Certainly which news have most English-speaking people been receiving: this or the declaration of bankruptcy by the seventh US RC diocese one day before eight clergy sexual abuse trials were set to begin?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Liturgy
Wisely you do not underestimate the intelligence of the man!