dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Quo Vadunt Anglicani?

I served for ten years on the United States Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue (ARC-USA). In the course of numerous discussions, I found one brief remark by an Anglican colleague especially illuminating. The remark was: "for us the THAT of communion is more important than the WHAT of communion."As the Lambeth Conference enters its final week, it appears as though, if the "what" of communion cannot be satisfactorily addressed, the "that" of communion may not hold.Austen Ivereigh continues his very helpful reflections today on the America blog:

It now looks as if the Lambeth Conference is beginning to go in the direction hoped for by both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Rome preventing schism through the centralisation of authority.

The three major proposals are these:

1. A new Anglican Faith and Order Commission which will looks a lot like an embryonic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The body would give guidance on doctrinal questions to the Anglican Communion.

2. A "blueprint" for a Code of Canon Law a set of rules which are descriptive rather than prescriptive. It is likely that these rules would prevent, say, conservative African bishops exercising oversight over conservative American dioceses which do not recognise their own bishops authority.

3. An Anglican Covenant a document setting out core Anglican beliefs and a biding agreement to abide by them. This would almost certainly exclude the possibility of a practising gay man becoming a bishop.

And he adds, somewhat portentously:

 

 

Conversely, if the proposals fail, the Anglican Church can expect a long dark night of balkanisation and Rome will all but give up on structured ecclesial dialogue. Whom would Catholics be talking to, and what would be the point?

 

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Good news for Anglicans, I think, if Lambeth follows the Windsor Group's suggestions. However, perhaps Invereigh is reading the Windsor Group's suggestions with too Catholic a sensibility. In the first place, I'd be careful of characterizing a code and covenant as some kind of "embryonic" CDF. These documents will simply describe the current norm and provide helpful guidelines in the event of future controversies. In the second place "embryonic" seems to suggest that eventually covenant and code will "evolve" into some kind of top-down hierarchy that will make rulings. That's just not how Anglicans operate.I see code/covenant helping bishops stick to the Middle Way, but not necessarily putting them on the Way to Rome.Even if the Windsor Group measures are adopted, hammering out a code and covenant will take decades, especially given the very polarized positions of some of the bishops who will have to work together.The beauty of doing that hard work, however, is that it gives the bishops a common goal to work toward in order the strengthen the Anglican communion, rather than allowing the wrangling with no direction that's taking place now, to continue. Question: The word "corporate unity" is used to describe what might happen (but not soon) if Anglicans adopt the measures recommended by the Windsor Group. Is this the same thing as accepting churches in the Anglican communion as "uniates"? If so, I think this will be a long time coming; the notion of papal infallibility is still an idea that is foreign even to Anglo-Catholics.

I found one brief remark by an Anglican colleague especially illuminating. The remark was: for us the THAT of communion is more important than the WHAT of communion.Fr. Imbelli --That comment is very interesting to me too, but for a somewhat different reason. As I see it, your friend's questions reflect clear as a bell the most fruitful insight of the great philosopher of language and logic, Gottlob Frege. His great insight is his distinction between the *reference* (THAT) of a term and its *sense (WHAT, descriptive meaning). The distinction is one of those simple things, like the insight into the nature of the wheel, that has revolutionized the world. Frege's insight made logic machines possible. For those who haven't heard of it, roughly the insight is this: a word or phrase can have two fundamentally different sorts of meanings at the same time, "reference" and "sense". Examples: the phrases "the evening star" and "the morning star" signify/mean the same referent, but the phrases do not signify/mean the same sense, so to ask for "the" meaning of the phrases is too simple a question. When we're talking about a relatively simple thing such as a heavenly body it doesn't matter very much. But when we're talking about real complex things such as "Anglican communion" and such abstract things and only possibly reall things as "religious authority" the distinction become urgent. . Obviously, clarifying the meanings of the "THAT" and the "WHAT" your friend mentions would be hideously difficult to do.. But mucking about without clarifyung them, even badly, seems to me like trying to conduct an orchestra with badly tuned violins. Screech!The Anglican hierarchy includes at least two fine linguistic analysts, Rowan Williams from Oxford and N. T. Wright, a Cambridge man. Maybe they should start a committee to analyse the various meanings of the THAT and the WHAT of the Anglican communion. Somebody's got to do itWhen they get all that ckarified, they can start to ask whether THAT is more important than the WHAT.Complexity, complexity.

Dear Ann,It's complex enough being a Yankee fan in the middle of Red Sox Nation, without throwing Frege into the mix!I do share your esteem for both Williams and Wright. However, I think both of them have at different times shown that great expertise in one field does not necessarily translate into competence in another. But that danger, of course, is by no means limited to them.

But. Fatjer. it seems to me that Frege helps us to make justified *simplifications* where possible. That's the beauty of insights such as his -- they're simple, and help us to put complex things (thoughts) in order. This helps us to clarify, and clarification helps us to stop talking past each other. I particularly like Wright because he gets into some lilnguistic theory in The New Testament and the People of God. But I think it's also true that a great deal of his theory is dependent on a notion of the reliability of history that Ii think can't be warramted as strongly as he seems to think it is. Since Tradition is a big chunk of history, I think that leaves him as a bit too much of a fundamentalist to suit me. But I would certainly trust his and Rowan Williams best efforts to clarify some of these issues. Notice that I'm really not talking about *settling* the issues, just *clarifying* what different Anglican's mean by the various terms. It's only after such clarifications the *senses* of the terms that the historical questions -- which are questions of *reference* -- can be addressed. I'm sure Jean is right -- these questions can't be settled at one conference. they're much, much to complex. And people hate to look at fundamentals. Especially the fundamentalists in any group.

This is very interesting! Instead of achieving unity through theology--the route I would have thought might work--perhaps we may become closer through similarity of structure.Fascinating times we live in!

What kind of unity comes as a result of a hostility to homosexuals and women? Are the RCC bishops who too often follow Cicero instead of Jesus and Charlemagne instead of Paul the ideal group to be united to? We might be aware that we are talking about unity of sinners not perfect individuals despite all the better than thou language. Ecclesia semper reformanda.The proposed unity seems more to be based on what the parties are against rather than what they are for. A lot of hypocrisy floating around. Politics makes stranger bedfellows. No pun intended.

Bill,In my personal experience it is not always possible to live up to my standards of right and wrong. That's a big problem--but what is the solution? Some would say, lower the standards. In order to lower the standards you mention, we would have to rewrite Scripture. In order to do that we have to be in a position above Scripture. Are we subject to the Scriptures or are the Scriptures subject to us? That is the issue: are we for the endurance and dominion of the Word of God?There are Anglicans and Catholics who say "yes."

If I read Ivereigh correctly, the hope is that a "centralized authority" will provide the structure Anglicans need to pursue theological solutions to heal divisions within their own communion. And some Catholics, including Ivereigh seem to feel this will put Anglican/Catholic relations on a better footing. It may, and we can certainly pray that it does.But at this point, healing the rift with Rome strikes me as a far-off and minor concern, even among conservative Anglicans. Conservative Anglican and Episcopal parishes and dioceses certainly might have recognized en masse conversion as a solution to their differences with maverick Anglicans. But they didn't. They elected instead to follow fellows like Archbishop Akinola. That tells me that while Catholics and Anglicans might support "the endurance and dominion of the Word of God," they still perceive that they have some fairly strong differences about the interpretation of that Word.Catholics may believe that those differences derive from an Anglican preference to keep moral standards "lower," and that may be true, but I wonder if that kind of language is really helpful to the unification cause.

Kathy,The Roman Catholic hierarchy has been subverting scripture for centuries. It is not a question of lowering standards. The RCC bishops have to elevate their standards also. How you continually misread my words is a wonder to me.

I don't think I'm misreading your words. You are suggesting that homosexual activities and women's ordination should become accepted in the life of the Church. Correct?

I thought the issue here was whether Anglicans and Catholics can agree on following the world of God, not on Bill's orthodoxy or lack thereof.This looks like it's turning into a witch-hunt. I'm off before somebody suggests Bill submit to the chemin de fer.

I'm not sure why you exaggerate so, Jean, and inflame the conversation. Bill did suggest (correct me if I'm wrong) that the magisterium of the Catholic Church should undergo a "conversion" that leads them to accept progressive policies re: homosexuality and women's ordination.He thinks this will be an elevation and a correct and charitable reading of the Gospel; I think it first of all cannot happen, and secondly if it did it would be a lowering of standards. That's where we differ--it is not a misreading but a difference in theology.

What started out as a provocative and important thread has turned into the usual debate on teaching authority.Jean has provided some good knowledgable stuff on the Anglican perspective of moving forward and what it might mean. I think she's right that that is what the topic is.

On the one hand, it would not surprise me at all for the Church to modify its teachings on homosexuality, although probably not for a very long time, based on continuing discoveries in biology and neuroscience. The Catechism currently acknowledges, "Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained," but increasingly it will be explained, and it will be seen (I am guessing) to be natural in some sense of the word that would merit the removal of the "intrinsic evil" designation. On the other hand, the position of the Church against the ordination of women seems to me based on reasoning so distant from what would be practical and what women can do just as well as men. So I would not be willing to predict that there would be any real change in Church teachings on homosexuality even at the point where the sciences arrive at a deep understanding and find proof that it has existed from the beginnings of sexuality itself and has served an adaptive purpose beneficial to the species in which it occurs.It would be interesting to travel 500 or 1000 years in the future and see in what form the Catholic Church will exist and what it will teach.

I would suggest that one approach is to use the Eastern Rite of Catholicism as an approach. Authority and structure are defined as service not as centralized power; ordination is a reflection of the call to service vs. papal primacy and apostolic succession defined in scholastic terms as an "ontological" reality is not stressed. Eastern Rite in some ways is a looser structure within the service structure. Guess some may see this as "balkanization" - do you allow regions to set ordination practice e.g. female bishops, homosexual bishops within an overall church structure or do these practices create schism because some regions see them as outside their concept of their beliefs? Not sure the solution is the centralization of authority.

Jean,I don't think Kathy's comments amount to a witch hunt. She probably had the same reaction I did. The underlying assumption of Bill's comment was that the Church's teachings, and probably the opinions of those who agree with them on these subjects, is motivated by "hostility."I don't agree with Church's teachings out of hostility to anyone. Why is it fair comment to make that assumption, but a witch hunt to respond to it?

The underlying assumption of Bills comment was that the Churchs teachings, and probably the opinions of those who agree with them on these subjects, is motivated by hostility.Sean,I think it's an extremely rare individual (or organization) who arrives at a position on homosexuality or issues related to gender without being strongly influenced by the culture in which they were raised. And of course when it comes to the culture in which many of the Catholic priests and bishops were raised, that would tend to be within a subculture even more "conservative" than the wider culture. There's just no way Church teachings are not at least partially reflective of a strong bias against homosexuality. By bias I don't mean a tradition of moral teaching, but rather a visceral reaction of fear and disgust. It's probably made all the worse among celibate clergy by the fact that so many live in an all-male environment in which homosexuality is taboo.In the first Catholic grade school I went to (mid-1950s), the eighth grade nun used to punish boys who misbehaved by making them wear a girl's uniform (white blouse, blue jumper) and putting a bow in their hair. What message did this convey about masculinity and the status of women? Of course, girls who misbehaved were not forced to dress up as boys.

Sean, the whole Bill-Kathy exchange looked to me like some petty little Inquisition in progress, with Bill making cryptic references to women and gays, and Kathy trying to extract a statement in direct opposition to Church teaching from him by way of "clarification."I was certainly annoyed over the irrelevance of these comments re the Windsor Group's rec's and Ivereigh's read of them, which derailed a thread that had promised to be interesting and insightful.And in letting my annoyance show, I'm now once again accused of exaggerating, inflaming and generally being mean. Sigh.Lesson learned: I'll try harder to just shut up and go away without comment when the thread tanks.

David, this eighth grade nun you speak of sounds like she was disturbed and was engaging in a form of mental abuse. The complementary nature of men and women is a gift from God that should be respected. I hope someone in your school had the courage to speak out against this mental form of abuse.Bill, if you do not believe as a Catholic that the Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church, than who is?

It would be useful perhaps to do a little research on the Church of England, from Bishop Butler who would not accept Canterbury, seeing no purpose in serving a dying Church - through such as Bishop Barnes and Abp. Temple and the curious Dean Inge, a strong supporter of eugenics. This might help unravel some of the strands which make up the Church of England. Another guide is that by their finest of theologians, John Henry Newman's ANGLICAN DIFFICULTIES.

Moving along,I find Bill dH's remarks intriguing and wonder what the options are. For one thing, does anyone know Pope Benedict's position on the patriarchates? For example, why did he not take the title Patriarch of the West? Also, what was the significance of the parallelism of concelebration (Bartholemew and Benedict) during the Vespers of Sts. Peter and Paul?I ask because, as I mentioned above, it seems strangely possible (strange, because unpredictable even 5 years ago) that Anglican-Catholic unity might be closer on the basis of structure than on the basis of theology. At least this is how it seems to me. Unity can happen when there is a meeting caused by reasonable and positive motion undertaken reciprocally within two bodies. Two--or in this case, maybe three. (How many lungs does the Church have, exactly?)

I will stand before God and defend a homosexual who is loving to his lover and who loves his neighbor as herself. Likewise will I defend a woman priest who will not stand by and let people be ashed to death in incinerators. I do criticize Augustine of Hippo who accepted force and the idea that coercion fits into the mind of Christ. To take Jesus' description of the non-invited wedding guests as literal is utter stupidity. I do criticize Bernard of Clairvaux who urged popes to conduct crusades. (He did seem to think better of it later)It is time to look at the person not the sexual orientation. Meanness and promiscuity are not acceptable in any gender. We have a hierarchy who still resemble Cicero's Rome more than Jesus' Nazareth. Leadership which has umpteen titles for the pope, including Pontifex Maximus, taken from Pagan Rome. As are the names Prefect, Rector, Provincial, etc. Jerome used to do penance every time he read Cicero because he knew something non-Christian was going on. At least he acknowledged the need for penance for all that Romanita.

"Bill, if you do not believe as a Catholic that the Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church, than who is?"Nancy, Jesus gave us the barometer. "By their fruits you shall know them." There is a place for teaching authority but is it is mostly as Jesus said: "I have give you an example.." And Paul who labored, loved and drew people to God...Words fly, but example attracts. Always the Spirit.

Bill, Christ did give us a barometer. He gave us the fullness of Love in His gift of Himself on the Cross. The fullness of Love is desiring Salvation for someone. Only Christ's Sacrifice, His Passion, Has the power before God, The Blessed Trinity, to forgive sin and lead us to Salvation. Such is the power of the Union of God's Love and God's Mercy, a perfect complement.Christ is more than an example, He is the living definition of Love, the Word Made Flesh.

P.S. " Let us make man in our image."" In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him, nothing came to be."From the beginning, the Word has been a perfect complement to God's Love. Peace.

I'm having a little trouble understanding the connection between Nazis and the ordination of women. And I'm also at sea regarding the connection between Nancy's confession of almost entirely orthodox Christology (not sure about the word "complement") and the discussion at hand.I worked 4 years in ecumenism. It's an unusual discipline, covered in a fog like war, stumbling in its labors, racing in its enthusiasms. But it does seem possible that there can be breakthroughs of insight. I hope this is one of them.

Ecumenism is about communion without compromising The Doctrine of Faith.

Kathy, I recall you're having mentioned on other threads that you worked in ecumenism. I'd be interested to know more about what that was like and why you think the Windsor Group might open new insights.Catholics tend to be much more--I'm grasping for the right word here--let's say protective of the Eucharist. You don't get to come to the table until you've been examined through a long RCIA process and made a full confession, etc.So can Catholics, practically speaking, do anything but smile and encourage others to adopt Catholic teaching?As Nancy notes, communion is about not compromising the Doctrine of the Faith. Is she right?

Jean,I was the Director of Communications for the Washington Theological Consortium, the non-profit that facilitates cross-registration among Washington area seminaries. Most of the schools require MDiv students to take at least one course outside of their own tradition so our office arranged for all that registrar business. I was more on the dialogue and PR side. This website overhaul http://washtheocon.org/was my last and arguably best contribution, though some of the newsletter interviews weren't too bad either, I think.My job included working with the student reps from the schools and arranging meetings of professors according to discipline. I often attended the meetings of some of the faculty groups, esp. the systematics group, and was asked to join the discussion of that group. (Other groups seemed to think of me variously as a grad student, which I was, or an office flunky, which I was, but the systematics group let me in.) There was always a lot to talk about.The people who seemed to see me coming from a mile away as someone impossible to talk to tended to be Catholics who were working adamantly for progressive change. I could talk with people who wanted change (one delightful friend is a priest-monk who feels he's successfully, theologically challenged HV) but not those who were fighting for it. But that was a very small part of the picture. Mostly I got to know people who were happy enough in their own traditions, but interested in talking. One memorable conversation started with me impishly asking a Lutheran pastor on the way to a restaurant to whom he prays when he's looking for a parking space, since he doesn't say the Hail Mary. I learned a lot about Lutheran Marian devotion that day!Another friend was a progressive Baptist pastor. One of the most helpful insights I heard over all those years was from an ecumenist, a Lutheran on the faculty of an Episcopal seminary. She wrote an article that argued that some (not all) barriers to unity are cultural rather than doctrinal. I think this is a very helpful basis on which to begin any dialogue: some of the differences among us are cultural.

I meant to say:http://washtheocon.org/

Correction: I should have stated that for Catholics, ecumenism is about communion without compromising the Doctrine of Faith. Culture does not transform The Word Made Flesh, it is Christ who transforms us.

I wonder whether Willims has been influenced by the theological movement called communion ecclesiology, which has played a leading role in Angliican-RC-Orthodox (and other) dialogues in tbe past decade. This is a movement I've generally resisted, because in some of the dialogues it has not been, to my reading, clearly defined. As Nancy's last comment suggests, it is absolutely necessary that our communion is in Jesus Christ--not in ourselves or in our ideas, but in Christ. It has seemed to me that without clearer definition of communion, the Church could be manipulated by various ideologies.Perhaps my resistance has been an error on the side of caution. In the immortal words of Jesus Christ and Bill Mazzella, "by their fruits you shall know them." If the fruit of communion ecclesiology is a well-founded reunion of Christian bodies, then it must be pretty good stock!

Kathy, here's what I don't get: Earlier you said this: This is very interesting! Instead of achieving unity through theologythe route I would have thought might workperhaps we may become closer through similarity of structure. Fascinating times we live in!The above struck me as dismissive of the Windsor Group's rec's--fine, I understand that people come to unity through common belief rather than structure--at least I think that's what you were saying.But then you say this: I worked 4 years in ecumenism. Its an unusual discipline, covered in a fog like war, stumbling in its labors, racing in its enthusiasms. But it does seem possible that there can be breakthroughs of insight. I hope this is one of them.So are you being dismissive or hopeful about what's going on at Lambeth? As a former Anglican, I'd hoped that you, with ecumenical experience, might have something to say that would resonate with mine.But, alas, I keep failing to grasp the tone and content of your posts, which often strike me as full of the kind of Catholic arrogance I keep encountering as a struggling convert.

Jean,I wish we could focus on the greater issues, rather than on your perception of my tone. Particularly because your perception is fault . In the first comment you cited my tone was overjoyed.

Jean, if you believe that Christ Has entrusted His Church with the Deposit of Faith, the fullness of God's Truth, why would you not want to share this Truth with everyone that you Love? Charity, out of Love for one another, requires that we share God's Truth. This is not arrogance but Love.

In all cordiality, how can I understand what your point on the greater issue is if I don't understand whether your tone is dismissive or overjoyed? My reading may have been faulty, but it wasn't intentional. I think it would be interesting to know WHY, as someone who's worked in ecumenism, you're overjoyed, as a Catholic, by the Windsor Group's recs. But I fear that asking more questions will simply open me up to accusations of focusing too much on tone, inflaming and exaggerating, having faulty perceptions and other bad things.So I thank you for clarifying, sharing your ecumenical experiences, and wish you good day.I'll also point out that Father Imbelli has posted a new update on ABC Williams' take on the covenant/code and say that I appreciate his tracking this story's developments.

I'm overjoyed at any move on the part of the Anglican Communion towards a global identity and mutual accountability on moral issues.

Share

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is an associate professor of theology at Boston College.