Thursday, October 22, 2009

A New Perspective

Many years ago following the signing of the Affirmation of St Louis, a large number of the continuing Anglican Jurisdictions fragmented into to many Churches. During this period, Arch Bishop Louis Falk, Primate of the Anglican Church in America (ACA), who also served as Arch Bishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) for a number of years was instrumental in opening contact with the Holy See. Arch Bishop Falk quickly saw the necessity of opening dialogue with Rome with the goal of coming into full communion with them, but not being absorbed by the Roman Church. The initial contact with the Holy See was made by Arch Bishop Falk on a trip to Rome over 13 years ago. This type of dialogue with Rome has been a continuing effort by many clergy in the Anglican Church from 1534 following the Church of England’s initial break with the Holy See, however due to various political and ecclesiastical roadblocks it has waxed and waned over the years. From that initial contact by Arch Bishop Falk this dialogue had been quietly on going and was continued later by Arch Bishop Hepworth, through numerous contacts involving high ranking members of the Roman Catholic Clergy

The final approach to Rome was made when the College of Bishops of the TAC met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC had agreed that no member of the College would give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.

One may ask at this moment in time why this movement toward Rome? At the most theological level it was the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate, with its consequent undermining of sacramental certainty and the classical Anglican understanding both of authority and the given-ness of the Faith. More recently the growing ambivalence towards authentic Christian sacramental and iconographic teaching on gender and sexuality, upon which the ordination of women depends, has given rise to the homosexual crisis which threatens to blow the world wide Anglican Communion apart.

As to the current press; the Holy See has responded and most favorably. However numerous articles fail to make clear the status of this announcement. First of all those members of the Anglican Communion who choose to take part in this momentous undertaking will be received in full communion with Rome yet as a complete and separate rite, a so called “uniate” church. These are ritual churches "sui iuris" - in other words, are churches with their own rites, cultures and canon law. And although, as Archbishop Hepworth has pointed out in a previous statement, "most of these rites are descended from ancient churches that have never been part of the Roman or Western rite". There are some twenty-eight of these churches, and they appoint their own bishops by the synodical processes, and since they are in communion with Rome they routinely inform the Bishop of Rome of their actions.

It is evident that the Holy Father has extended to the fractured Anglican Communion a unique rallying point containing a method allowing us to return to our rich sacramental and liturgical heritage which has been abandoned by numerous Anglican jurisdictions worldwide.

What does this all mean? First of all, we know that we will not be converting to Roman Catholicism or otherwise be absorbed. Rather the Apostolic Constitution provides the canonical vehicle for full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while at the same time retaining our Anglican liturgy, spirituality, patrimony and ability to function suri juris. Additionally, we will retain our autonomy in that the Constitution creates Anglican Ordinariates that will exist parallel to the existing dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church. As such, we will have complete autonomy from the local Roman Catholic Diocese. That being said then it is evident, contrary to some press statements, we will not become” Roman Catholics “but as we have always been, Anglicans within our own distinct Church with our very own, Deacons Priest, and Bishops.

There is much work to be done on the parish, diocese, and national level before we will see the fruits of our labour. I am sure that much give and take will occur between both churches before a truly common ground is reached. However the ultimate goal is the bringing together Christ’s Church on Earth. Pray my brothers and sisters that our efforts will be fruitful.


Rev. Dr. Bobby C. Hall, SSM