21 October 2009

rome sweet home (well, for some)

The big Anglican news this week is that the Roman Catholic Church has made it easier for large groups of Anglican Christians to reunite with the Bishop of Rome, a relationship officially severed by Henry VIII in 1534. Rome has established Personal Ordinariates, where groups of Anglicans (presumably a diocese or province) could come into full communion with the Pope. It allows married and celibate Anglican priests of that group to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests.

Many elements of this announcement are not new. Anglicans have always been invited to “convert” to Rome. Pope John Paul II created a “Pastoral Provision” in 1980, which allowed individual married Episcopal priests who convert to become Roman Catholic priests. It also allowed “Anglican Use” parishes, Roman Catholic parishes that retain Anglican distinctives in worship, vestments, etc.

The key difference in this announcement relate to Ordinaries. An ordinary, in this ecclesiastical context, is the man who has jurisdiction over a territory or group. Usually this person is a bishop. An Anglican bishop may be married, but Rome retains, with the East, the celibacy of bishops. Were a married Anglican bishop to convert, he would not be allowed to be ordained as a bishop in a Personal Ordinariate (an unmarried Anglican bishop could be made a Roman Catholic bishop). He could still have an administrative leadership role with that group as a priest, and be the Ordinary in that manner. However, he would not be able to carry out the sacramental duties of the bishop; a bishop would have to be brought in for ordinations, etc.

This news brings a new area of consideration for a number of Anglicans worldwide. The downward spiral of the Anglican Communion and the lack of strong, decisive leadership from the Archbishop of Canterbury make this option desirable for many. On the ground here in Tulsa, this announcement changes nothing—we are not now a Roman Catholic parish, nor are we now part of a Roman Catholic diocese. We maintain our utmost love and respect for our elder brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. We strive for the unity of Christ’s Church. Yet we also believe and trust that we are a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, fractured and broken though it might be.

Links of interest:
+ The actual announcement from the Vatican
+ A response from Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America
+ A response from Bishop Jack Iker of the Diocese of Fort Worth
+ A brief reflection on what this announcement says about the current state of Anglicanism, by Diocese of South Carolina Canon Theologian Fr. Kendall Harmon
+ The perspective of a former evangelical Anglican priest, now Roman Catholic priest, on some challenges presented by this news
+ Picture above is from an Anglican Use parish, Our Lady of the Atonement, in San Antonio, Texas

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