Robert P. Imbelli September 26, 2007 - 5:50am
A post below, on the resignation of his office by Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson, elicited a long and fascinating thread.
Now Bishop Steenson has addressed the House of Bishops and given some of the personal and theological reasons for his choice.
Our spring meeting this year at Camp Allen was a profoundly disturbing experience for me. I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. Perhaps something was defective in my education for ministry in the Episcopal Church, but, honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.
This sent me to reflect further on that crucial text from Vatican IIs Lumen Gentium: Many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside the Church's visible structure. These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, possess an inner dynamic toward Catholic unity." If this is true, then what we say and do as Anglicans ought to be directed toward the goal of reunification with the Catholic Church. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission strove valiantly to bring this about, and it once seemed that Anglicanism might offer itself, even sacrificially, for the sake of authentic Christian unity. It is much to be regretted that its 1998 report, The Gift of Authority, has been largely forgotten in our present conflicts, especially its call for the re-reception of the historic ministry of Peter within Anglican life.
He goes on:
From time to time it seems necessary for some to embark on these personal journeys as a reminder that the churches of the Reformation were not intended to carry on indefinitely separated from their historical and theological mooring in the Church of Rome. I believe that the Lord now calls me in this direction. It amazes me, after all of these years, what a radical journey of faith this must necessarily be. To some it seems foolish; to others disloyal; to others an abandonment. I once thought that it would be a simple matter of considering the theological evidence and then drawing a rational conclusion that surely would be self-evident to reasonable people. But faith is also a mystery and a gift, and this ultimately becomes a journey of the heart.
Towards the end he says:
My old teacher, Dr. Mark Noll, writes in Is the Reformation Over? of his surprise at reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and finding himself stopping to pray. That is exactly it, the experience of giving your heart to Jesus Christ again because you have encountered his words anew, now embodied in his ecclesial Body at its source. I do want to assure you that I have tried to follow the Ignatian principle of discernment, to make no important decision while in a place of spiritual desolation. I have especially sought to give no place to that anger which darkens understanding and clouds judgment.
I think his appeal to "The Gift of Authority," an Agreed Statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has particular relevance, with its call for a "re-reception" of the Petrine Ministry.
The full text of Bishop Steenson's Statement is here.
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.