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Scott P. Richert

The End of the Anglican Communion

By October 20, 2009

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In an unprecedented move, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols held a joint press conference to discuss Pope Benedict's establishment of "personal ordinariates" to receive disaffected Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

At the press conference, they issued a joint statement discussing the future of Catholic-Anglican relations. The statement reads in full:

Today’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.

Pope Benedict XVI has approved, within the Apostolic Constitution, a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.

The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution.

The Apostolic Constitution is further recognition of the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition. Without the dialogues of the past forty years, this recognition would not have been possible, nor would hopes for full visible unity have been nurtured. In this sense, this Apostolic Constitution is one consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing cooperation. The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.

With God’s grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England’s House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission. Joint days of reflection and prayer were begun in Leeds in 2006 and continued in Lambeth in 2008, and further meetings are in preparation. This close cooperation will continue as we grow together in unity and mission, in witness to the Gospel in our country, and in the Church at large.

A few observations: By endorsing this statement, especially the first paragraph ("accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church"), the archbishop of Canterbury has essentially signaled that the game is over. Those in the Anglican Communion who truly believe that the Church is meant to be one, and to have one visible head, now have no excuse not to return to Rome.

Those who remain in the Anglican Communion will continue to move further away from orthodoxy. As Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for the Times of London, put it in a note on Twitter: "RC plans good news for women bishops."

The rest of the statement seems an attempt both to save face and to attempt to take some credit for today's announcement. Yet the simple fact is this: Despite the attempt to put a good face on the matter, today's announcement makes it clear that the ecumenical dialogue of the past 40 years has failed. At every turn, the Anglican Communion as a whole has moved away from Rome, not toward her.

Since restoration of the entire Anglican Communion to unity with Rome is no longer possible, Pope Benedict did what he had to do. Parts of the Anglican Communion will now enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, and the rest will see its long, slow slide into irrelevance pick up pace.

Comments
October 20, 2009 at 7:51 am
(1) Wolfwood says:

Good coverage, but I have to disagree about the first paragraph. Anglicanism in general doesn’t have a problem with a Petrine ministry of the Church for the reason that it views this as one of many possibilities. The Mar Thoma Church in India is claimed to have been begun by St. Thomas, and the Church of England often traces its ancestry in various parts to the Seventy sent out by Christ in Luke 10, to Joseph of Arimathea, and to the Celtic Church in Britain prior to the mission of St. Augustine of Canterbury.

Anglicanism doesn’t claim to be the “only” or even “best” form of Christianity. On Williams’ part, this statement simply recognizes the Church of Rome as a legitimate Christian church. It’s generous in tone, but not really earth-shattering in content.

October 20, 2009 at 7:57 am
(2) Scott P. Richert says:

Thanks for the kind words, Wolfwood. Here’s where we disagree: This statement isn’t simply suggesting that the Petrine ministry is “one of many possibilities”; it states that it is “willed by Christ for his Church.”

That’s more than a recognition of “the Church of Rome as a legitimate Christian church.” If Christ willed the Petrine ministry, it’s not simply “a” possibility, but the only possibility.

October 20, 2009 at 9:50 am
(3) kelly clark says:

so, Scott, would disaffected individual Episcopalians, under this process, first become affiliated with one of the separate Anglican structures, or could we “come in” to one of the new RC entities directly from where we are?

October 21, 2009 at 4:02 am
(4) Clement Uzo Chukwudifu says:

I would recommend that the earlier commentators on this matter go back and read the histories of the Anglican Communionand the Roman Catholic Church and be fully informed on their origins. If they know these backgrounds, then there will be no debate or argument about the Petrine Church. The sad part of it all is that some people have either ignorantly or mischievouly twisted the history of the Church and so, many people have been deceived and consequently, led astray. May we pray for the truth to be finally unveiled.

October 21, 2009 at 7:19 am
(5) TD says:

To (poorly) paraphrase an essay by William Temple on Christian unity: It (unity) will not be achieved by one side moving towards another, but rather all sides moving towards Christ.

October 22, 2009 at 4:32 am
(6) Clement Uzo Chukwudifu says:

TD, what is the direction towards Christ? We need to be honest about Christianity and its many years of disruption concerning heresies, false teachings which are based on the so-called freedom of speech. Christ founded only one religion and one Church: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church”, Christ said, and not “Churches”. It is difficult to swallow the bitter pill of truth especially after the “untruth” had been held on to many centuries. Christ, our Saviour had prayed “That they may be one”. It is apparent that we are getting there to becoming one in spite of many unsavoury things being said. “Truth” will eventually prevail.

October 24, 2009 at 11:13 am
(7) Chris Birke says:

Scott, well done on being among the first sites to start a serious exploration of these events.

It is significant that the Archbishop of Canterbury, here in England, has joined with Cardinal Vincent in a statement on this significant decision by our Church. Its unlikely that the Primate of the Church of England thinks the “Game is over” though. He is very much on the low church wing of Anglicanism and may even be quietly happy to see traditionalists opposed to women priests and gay freedoms depart for our shores. If you look at my website (http://members.lycos.co.uk/chrisburke52/index.html) you will see some glorous pictures of Brighton’s Anglican Church and hear of my experiences there earlier this month at Labour Party Conference. It is very high and I wonder if we will see some return to our very rich and colourful masses of old?

September 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm
(8) Kaleb Lippert says:

I have to agree that theres is no “game over”. Pope Francis met with archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to talk about FULL Communion with the Anglican and Catholic churches!

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