Thursday, March 29, 2012

The End of the Anglican Communion?

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is resigning, of course you know. And now comes news that the Anglican Communion, of which the AofC kind of leads, is breaking up. Williams had backed a Covenant to hold the Communion together in spite of the fact that it is breaking up over doctrinal and moral issues: the Covenant didn't really address any of the issues. The BBC has the news here:

The Church of England cannot sign up to a plan aimed at preventing the global Anglican Church from splitting up after half its 44 dioceses voted against it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury backed the Anglican Covenant in a bid to ensure divisive issues - such as gay bishops - did not cause the Communion to split.

A vote by the diocesan synod of Lincoln meant 22 dioceses had opposed the plan.

The covenant had already been rejected by conservative global Church leaders, whom it was intended to placate.

So his own bishops and dioceses in Great Britain would not support Williams' plan. William Oddie, who blogs at The Catholic Herald, pointed out that Rowan Williams' failure as AofC was pre-ordained by the establishment of the Church of England:

All Archbishops of Canterbury fail, quite simply because the Church of England isn’t a Church at all, it’s a theme park: you wander about and choose the rides you want to go on. It’s not there to change you but to reflect what you already are. It has no consistent theology; it has a portfolio of theologies, each one inconsistent with the others. We all know that.

Oddie comments that Archbishop Williams has not lived up to the expectations created by all those who called him a great theologian. He has not applied a consistent theological position to his leadership of the Church of England and/or the Anglican Communion, according to Mr. Oddie.

I don't feel qualified to comment on all the Archbishop's theological efforts--I've read one book of his, on St. Theresa of Avila, for whom he did not seem to have that much sympathy. But I agree with William Oddie on the Church of England: since it is a political construct, a compromise handled by the Tudor sovereigns and successive Parliaments, it has never functioned as a universal church, but as a national establishment--and the foundations of that establishment have certainly weakened over the years. I write that while acknowledging that it has members who believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World and follow orthodox Catholic doctrine, sometimes in spite of their Church. Some of those members are being welcomed into the Catholic Church through Pope Benedict XVI's Personal Ordinariate structure, and some of them are coming in one by one. Like Blessed John Henry Newman and so many of the converts that followed him, they recognize the Truth: their Church does not have the authority to proclaim some central teachings as the sina qua non of communion. Certainly, it was Baptism in the nineteenth century with the Hampden and the Gorham cases. Lately, it has been the issue of women's ordination, which really led those opposed to re-examine the true meaning of priesthood, and recognize its absence in their church and its presence in the Catholic Church (and in the Orthodox Church, too).


  1. As in Parlement I say "here, here". This is unfortunately what the current administration wants for us.

  2. Please pray for me, an Anglican, and the many like me, who have watched the disintegration and rejection of much that we were brought up to hold sacred. Unless you have experienced this you cannot imagine what it feels like. Please, welcome us.
    [Valerie, NZ]

  3. Valerie, welcome to the Catholic Church! I hope you find a warm welcome in your New Zealand parish.