Thursday, February 18, 2010

When will Rome catch up with the reality of communion with Anglicans?

For those who have never visited both our cathedrals in Christchurch - Catholic and Anglican - I can assure you that you are in for an aesthetic treat when you visit both. Neither can pretend to be an ancient foundation like their European counterparts but both, in different ways, Renaissance and Gothic respectively, represent the glories of European architecture with extraordinary finesse. I also suggest you would be in for a spiritual treat. It is hard to be in either building and not to have your heart drawn heavenwards.

So it was last evening to be in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament sharing in a joint Catholic-Anglican Ash Wednesday service. Brilliant. Liturgically. Musically. Sacramentally (if I may call the imposition of ashes a sacrament). Part of the brilliance was to see the clergy sharing the leadership at the front of the church: a female priest, three male priests, a female bishop, and a male bishop. All called by their proper titles in the written order of the service. Ministries recognised, we could say. The preacher, incidentally, was Bishop Victoria Matthews.

You will understand, given my bias towards Christian unity in the spirit of John 17 and Ephesians, that I particularly noticed when Catholic Bishop Barry Jones introduced the Sharing of the Peace with these words (more or less as I recall),

"Through baptism we have communion with Christ, and therefore with one another. Let us therefore share a sign of peace with one another."

For Catholics and Anglicans on the ground in places such as New Zealand but also in many places throughout the world, these words accurately express the sentiments which surround our relationships: we are in fellowship with one another through Christ - a fellowship in which we actually recognise each other's ministries - though respectful of authority, the rules prohibiting full sacramental sharing of ministries are not broken.

But Rome does not see things that way. Anglican orders are "null and void". Eucharistic communion may not be offered to those with whom the Catholic Bishop of Christchurch has said he is in communion through baptism in Christ.

When will Rome catch up with reality on the ground?


Mark Weatherley said...

A hopeful story of cooperation and shared faith. We the people will nudge the church as a whole forward because we seek to be in communion with our brothers and sisters even if their practice is different. Our leaders locally have to respond. Rome will move when it sees the benefits or is left with no other choice.

Anonymous said...

Peter - thank you. An encouragement is way work our through these 40 days towards the paschal season.

My experience in Europe, by the way, is that RC-Anglican eucharistic hospitality is the norm.