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ANGLICAN UPDATE

By Fr. Wilson (articles ) | Dec 03, 2003

The preceding entry reminds me that we haven't done an update on the Anglican situation in the wake of the consecration of openly homosexual (and divorced with two daughters but living with his guy) Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

For observers, this has been an impressive disaster of monumental proportions. It is difficult to know where to start. On the ecumenical front, the formal relationships which Anglicans have treasured for generations as tangible validation for their claim to be part of "the Church Catholick" have collapsed. Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and Presiding Bishops USA love striding down long marble corridors in purple soutaned splendor to be received at the Vatican (where they get pectoral crosses and rings and stuff from the Pope) and Moscow and Constantinople. Well, the party's over: the Russian Orthodox, in a steaming broadside, condemned the Robinson consecration, and went on to say that they could not even participate in humanitarian cooperation with people who would bless such things. Other Eastern Orthodox churches followed suit. The Oriental Orthodox (the Assyrian Churches of the East, the Ethiopians, and the rest -- trust me, they're out there, and I don't know their names either) did likewise.

I was fascinated to note that even the Lutherans seemed unhappy about stepping into this quagmire. The Episcopalians have a new Concordat with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) which is an intercommunion agreement providing for the mutual exchange of clergy. When either side consecrates a Bishop, three Bishops from the other are supposed to participate -- but, significantly, no ELCA bishops were at Robinson's consecration. There was only a retired Swedish Lutheran bishop who happens to be in the States. And the ELCA Presiding Bishop simply declined to comment on the Robinson controversy at all. There was no Roman Catholic official presence there.

Within Anglicanism itself, all is in disarray as parts of the communion have declared themselves out of communion with the Episcopal Church. The largest province, the Anglican Church in Nigeria (17 million members) decisively broke communion and made it clear that their bishops will not join in any meetings where the Americans take part. Ditto Nigeria, Southeast Asia, and the huge Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia. Indeed, the tumult is so serious that there is actually talk of the formation of a new Communion, with the Nigerian primate at its head instead of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop of Sydney said he'd certainly join that if that's the way things went.

The leadership of the Episcopal Church has been living in a liberal cocoon for years and years. It seems never to have occurred to them that Christians would take the Faith THIS seriously. They had precisely what you'd think, if you were a secularist, was the ticket in this age: a Church with a refined, stately history, endowments, lovely churches and a glorious liturgical tradition, no matrimonial discipline and practically speaking, no moral theology at all (I recall once having supper with a 'very conservative' Episcopal seminarian and his fiancee, and realizing with a start that they were living together, a fact which he had mentally bracketed from his ruminations on the 'decine of the Church.'). You'd think this kind of deal would be popular...

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold currently looks like he's feeling like the kid who tossed the match on the bed, appalled at the conflagration. He had just resigned as co-chair of ARCIC, the Anglican/RC dialogue. Bitter blow for him. He really, really has loved hanging around Roman Catholics ever since he was first ordained. And even that resignation didn't do it: ARCIC is now dead. That purple soutane may once have covered a multitude of theological fuzzinesses... but not this particular sin.

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