Tuesday, October 20, 2009

River Tiber no longer deep nor wide

Today’s announcement that the Roman Catholic church is welcoming Anglicans into the fold is far more sweeping than had been rumored over the past few years. (Yes, as a reader pointed out in response to Sunday’s posting, many of the Schism I types have long longed for reunification with Rome.)

The best coverage so far is in the Telegraph (sorry Ruth) which points out that the plan creates a church within a church that is broader and deeper than previous accommodations to Eastern- and Anglican-rite Catholics. The Guardian notes that (as long expected) the 500,000-member Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) is first in line, and the TAC primate makes it clear they will immediately start working on building institutions of cooperation and unity. (Time to print more Tiber River Swim Club t-shirts).

The British press (including the Telegraph and Times) make it clear that Archbishop Williams was gobsmacked by the announcement. (It’s such a great term — and perfect here — so I’m surprised they didn’t use it). Meanwhile, the US press is doing its typical terrible ahistoric job of covering the ongoing fissures in Anglicanism, as pointed out by former Episcopalian (now Orthodox) religion writer Terry Mattingly in GetReligion.

I don’t pretend to understand all the theological and ecclesiastical implications of the announcement, nor to be able to predict how popular the option will be with Anglican clergy or laity. The British press makes it clear that this will have a major impact in the UK and its 25 million nominal Anglicans; if only 10% jump to Rome, that’s more than the 2 million remaining in the TEC.

In the US, there is the lingering problem here of a corrupt RCC hierarchy tolerating and then covering up all those priests who were buggering little boys. (It was also a problem in Canada and Ireland). The worst news is out, but the scandal is not quite over.

Here in the US, I’m guessing that Schism I Anglo-Catholics will leap at the opportunity, but the Schism II evangelicals will prefer to keep their own ACNA hierarchy and their ordained women; today Abp. Duncan made it clear he’s not ready to sign up. I believe the fragile confederation that is ACNA will be put to the test, as individuals, parishes and even dioceses (Ft. Worth? San Joaquin?) are tempted to follow the Anglican Church in America (the US branch of TAC) and swim the Tiber.

Update 4pm: Abp. Duncan and Williams share a common interest in keeping the Continuing Anglicans with the CoE/AC rather than have even more join the Tiber River Swim Team. My initial reaction was that if Abp. Williams (and the other instruments of communion) are going to recognize ACNA and bring them into the Anglican Communion fold, he should do it sooner rather than later. Bp. Martyn Minns of CANA essentially said the same thing this afternoon.

So without knowing who and when and how many parishes, priests and parishioners, it’s impossible to predict what this will do to Anglican worship. The Telegraph notes that in the UK, some Anglicans may prefer the new translation of the Roman rite while Catholics could choose Anglo-Catholicism over the mod liturgy that passes for the RCC nowadays.

The one prediction I feel comfortable making: the English-speaking Anglican Catholics (Catholic Anglicans?) will need to develop a liturgy shared around the world, whether based on 1662 BCP or some other instrument. Once the dust settles — and a significant number of ex-Anglicans are aboard — I’d expect the first order of business would be a new prayer book, of course under the doctrinal supervision of the Vatican and presumably in cooperation with the ICEL.

It is a leap of faith to say that this international cooperation would also extend to finding a replacement for The English Hymnal and Hymnal 1940. However, I think this suggests that the chances for a New Anglican Hymnal in North America are becoming close to nil. Perhaps the Schism I, II Anglo-Catholics will adopt the Catholic-Anglican hymnal when/if it becomes available, but that is clearly more than a decade off.


Matthew Lickona said...

Hey. I'm writing a piece for a newspaper on this whole issue (I'm a staff writer for the San Diego Reader, but I'm not writing for the Reader on this one), and it's going to touch specifically on liturgical music - how the Anglicans might improve what we've got in the Catholic Church in America these days. (I'm Catholic myself.) Any chance you'd be up for a chat tomorrow (Thursday, October 21)? My email: mlickona AT cox DOT net. I'd be happy to keep you anonymous.

Matthew Lickona said...

Never mind. Didn't pan out. Keep up the good work.