Friday, September 24, 2010

An Anglican view of Christian Unity?

I realise that a certain fervour in persisting with optimistic hope for true, global Christian unity can, at times, present as minimising difficulties or as a wistful love for the forms of Christianity with which Anglicans are not yet in unity ... thus, perhaps, begging the question why I have not swum across the Tiber or the Bosphorus!

Also, following various debates here and there sparked by the Pope's recent visit to Britain, I do realise that the word 'optimistic' in the sentence above should be underlined in triplicate because the unshakeable conviction of the one Roman who matters on questions of  unity, the holder of the papal office, is that he is the Vicar of Christ and Successor of Peter, so unity in Christ (upon which all Christians agree as desirable) must be unity with Christ as represented on earth in his Vicar (upon which many Christians disagree).

In reality, the logic of the situation is that my hopes for global Christian unity this side of eternity are necessarily hopes that Rome might change its mind. Cue images of ice creams on an equatorial beach at midday remaining frozen!

Nevertheless I am willing to persist with my hope! I cannot do much about Rome's mind at this stage. But can I (and many others, including those with greater luminosity of theological intelligence and ecclesial wisdom) continue to work for the truth on which unity is always based? Can this work be such that, this side of the Tiber and the Bosphorus, we can come together in the truth of the gospel? Therein lies a great question for Protestants to consider. Divided as we are we have no corporate strength to our witness that Rome is in error on key matters concerning unity (e.g. on their understanding of the character of the papal office as 'Vicar of Christ').

In the end questions of whether we who claim to be 'in Christ' are members of one body of Christ go well beyond which stole the Pope wore. They go to the heart of what it means to be those who have protested against Roman teaching and found ourselves also protesting each other's teaching!

ADDENDUM: reminder to commenters. No Anonymous comments!


Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, it is hard to support you in your optimism regarding Rome, especially after following some of the recent links through Bosco's blog to some very fervent Catholic bloggers, non of whom give me any encouragement to believe that the next Pope will be display any less ecclesial arrogance than the current incumbent. Those who rise to influence within the Catholic hierarchy do so because of their fervent need to believe that they, and they alone, embody the truth of Christ.

And yes, I just re-read Ratzinger's 2000 document, issued with JPII's endorsement. Depressing!

Catholic theologians have got much more fundamentally wrong than just papal primacy. Sexuality, for instance, in its broadest sense, as manifested in their unworkable insistence on clerical celibacy, and consequent inability to govern their own clerical house. They have simply got it wrong in so many ways that there is no hope that they might ever come to a more healthy attitude to homosexuality in their midst. They still hate women - how can they ever love men?

That leaves us Anglicans needing to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, without waiting for them to catch up with the rest of the Church, the world or God.

Peter Carrell said...

Plenty of trembling down here in Chch!

Andy S said...

When I walk through my town I see buildings once Churches devoted to worship of our Lord now converted to profane use.

Indeed, I believe I read on this blog that one of the first duties of the new Bishop of Dunedin was to
de-Consecrate a Church.

Indeed I find that far more depressing than Cardinal Ratzinger's (now Pope Benedict XVI)
2000 document.

Roscoe Mishmack said...

I think the key to this, Peter, is that (as you say) you would need to swim either the Tiber *or* the Bosphorus - or maybe the Moskva. Unity might depend more on healing the original rift between East and West than on anything we Anglicans can do.

Personally, I'd be looking East rather than West and I wouldn't be expecting to take all the Anglican Communion with me. Is it a case of more division in the interests of unity.

Andrew W said...

Howard, I'm not convinced there's any particular evidence that "clerical celibacy" causes or exacerbates an "inability to govern their own clerical house". For example, the Anglican Church in Australia is (has been?) a long way from squeaky-clean, and celibacy is not a requirement. And as far as I can tell, matters get worse - not better - once we start considering non-church institutions.