Sunday, 4 January 2009
The Blind that Will Not Listen
See the report on the Anglican mainstream blog
The photograph above is one I took when I was giving a retreat two Advents ago at the Carmelite Monastery near York. I've always been fascinated by this particular scene. It reminds me of the choice put before us in the Scriptures - life or death. I thought I would use it to head what I want to say about the present difficulties in the Anglican Communion.
First of all, it has to be said that the vision of unity that some hold to within the Anglican Communion is a fantasy. When Jesus prayed for His followers to be united (John's Gospel) He asked that they be one as He and the Father are one. In no sense is this reflected in the Anglican Communion. Now, I know what some will say. They will say that there are problems in the Roman Catholic Church and there are even bigger problems between different Orthodox Churches. Yes, that is true, but what we see in the Anglican Communion are problems of a different order.
Orthodoxy is strong in its teaching and Liturgy, and in spite of procedural, pastoral and jurisdictional problems (some of which have almost brought some of the Orthodox into another schism), the Orthodox faith remains intact and strong. They know what they believe and the vast majority stick to it. The Roman Catholic Church has had, and may continue to have, some doctrinal disputes - some of them quite serious - but we have the Magisterium (the Pope and the Bishops). As long as the Magisterium remains united and strong, then there will always be an official body of Catholic doctrine to which all Catholics are expected to adhere. History also shows that even when things become so bad that it looks as though chaos is about to reign, something happens to unite the Church (and I do not mean war). This has not happened to the Anglican Communion (unless, in this context, we allow for war)
How can there be any sense of real unity when one bishop says to another, "you are not a bishop"? Bishops either have the Apostolic ministry or they do not. There simply cannot be a "church" which says to itself, "Here are some bishops which all of us believe to be validly ordained, and here are some which some of us think are validly ordained - but they all belong together". No, it's sheer nonsense, and that's why I put the title, "The Blind who will not listen". This is the simple truth; there is no unity where some believe some of the bishops are not bishops. There can be no argument here. Even with the most watery meaning of "unity", there can be no argument. Many of us saw this happening with the "ordination" of women. Now it is really happening, and Anglicans seem powerless to do anything about it.
I have some Anglican friends and I respect them deeply. They are men and women of deep faith and I continue to learn much from them regarding the spiritual life. However, it has to be said that the Anglican Communion is dying - if it is, in fact, still alive. Perhaps disestablishment will simply remove the crutches that are holding it up. As for the faith that many hold, this remains, and must find its expression in another place, another communion. I am deeply sorry for so many who feel that they are losing something even more valuable than their homes. To my Anglican friends I offer my sincere prayers and my hope that they will find a solution or an end to their present sufferings.