Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rome to Anglicans: time to end your fudge

Religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill of The Times of London had an explosive posting this week on her blog:
Hard words for Anglicans from the head of the Council for Christian Unity in Rome. Cardinal Walter Kasper has told the Catholic Herald that now, with Lambeth approaching, is the time for Anglicans to decide whether they are Catholic or Protestant.

'Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong?' he said. 'Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox - or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions.'

The genius of Anglicanism has always been its ability to straddle the divide, but maybe the Cardinal is right and the Communion's present difficulties reflect the impossibility of continuing to do this.
The posting has attracted many comments, including a variety of political and theological perspectives. But let me quote two:
Hasn't this always been obvious to people [who disagree] that the [Anglican] failure to have a coherent theology is a genius, [but] rather [believe it to be] a crippling flaw.

If Anglicanism is Catholic then why are half the Anglican congregations not very Catholic at all, and if it is Protestant then what is Walsingham all about? Anglicanism does need to make up its mind, and maybe that will require that it become the 3 or 4 Churches it really is. It cannot be either Catholic or Protestant while it is trying to be both.
Another helpfully quotes the Cardinal himself:
Cardinal Kasper has already touched on the subject in his 2004 book, “That all may be one- the call to Christian unity today”

“Thus we are confronted with two different approaches: on the one hand, the universally-oriented, episcopal approach of the Anglicans and some Lutheran churches, inspired by ancient church tradition; and, on the other hand, a more local, community-centred, presbyteral approach.

Behind the two approaches lie different interpretations of the precise intention of the Reformation. Did the Reformers intend to renew the then universal Church, maintaining continuity with its fundamental structure, as the Augsburg Confession (1530) suggests? Or was the development of a new type and paradigm of the Church an inevitable and deliberate consequence of their actions? Is there a fundamental consensus or - as many state nowadays - a fundamental difference?
I would be inclined to agree with the Cardinal — like Gledhill and many of the commenters — that the “Anglican fudge” has reached the end, and that the fissures can no longer be papered over.

In England, there’s enough parishioners to split Anglicanism into 3 or 4 Churches, but in the US you couldn’t. However, part of PECUSA wants to be just like its bigger brother ELCA, so perhaps those two could merge. And the evangelical wing might align with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, assuming they get to keep their bishops. Not sure where us Anglo-Catholics are supposed to go — become Anglican Rite Catholics?

1 comment:

jleecbd said...

You know what I'd say :)

Realistically, thought, I've heard that the future of the Anglican Rite is somewhat dubious. Likely it will die off as the first generation of priests retire and are replaced with Latin Rite priests. I suspect the Anglicans will not even be fortunate enough to be treated as the Unia were for many years.