Saturday, 9 May 2009

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Anglicans must 'look to Pope for unity.'

Thanks to Ruth Gledhill of 'The Times' for the following:
Bishop Michael spoke about the equal and opposite pulls in Anglicanism, towards the 'logic of Catholicism' or the 'logic of fragmentation'.
'The question now arises, which logic will prevail. It is quite possible that the logic of fragmentation will prevail and people will go their own way. Or it may be that the Anglicans will see their way to the Catholic Church, to God's will as expressed in Christ's highly prescient prayer for the unity of Christians across the ages and throughout the world.
'Anglicans to their credit have never claimed to be the one, true Church.' He noted that successive Lambeth Conferences had accepted that Anglicanism stands ready to disappear in the cause of Catholic unity, 'that is, it [Anglicanism] is not an end to itself but a means towards the greater Catholicism which is God's will.'
Nazir-Ali, a member of Arcic, which is to reconvene soon, said he believed Anglicans still had gifts to bring to the ecumenical table, 'aspects which would be an enrichment to the worldwide Church.'
And there was also, of course, the question of how these gifts would be received by the Church.
He said the Roman Catholic Church was not monolithic. There was plenty of room for diversity within it. But he described an 'ecclesial deficit' in Anglicanism which it had not yet addressed properly. It has to do with confessing the faith together, decision-making, common discipline, a universal ministry for maintaining unity. The temptation for Anglicans, he said, was to invent such a universal ministry.
But he warned against this.
'Robert Runcie used to say he did not want the Archbishop of Canterbury to be turned into a Pope because one Pope was sufficient.
'What we need is first of all to recognise that there is a proper universal ministry for unity, that it is the Bishop of Rome that exercises that historic ministry for today, and to find a way for all Christians to accept that ministry.'

This is a significant comment from one of the leading British backers of GAFCON; as Anglicans we have a stark choice: heterodoxy and fragmentation on the one hand, the universal ministry of Peter on the other.
Those of us from the Anglo-Catholic tradition for the most part need little convincing that this is, and has been all along, the true vocation of Anglicanism, to bring its own peculiar gifts and charisms back into the mainstream of the Church Universal.
My own “conversion” to this point of view came about as an ordinand on reading John de Satge’s (then) fairly recently published “Peter & the Single Church.” Everything that has happened since has confirmed the rightness of his argument.
This is how he ends the book, both with a vision of unity and a warning:
“If Anglicans now find the ground of their historic protest cut from under them, it is not a sign of their failure. If indeed Anglicanism is, as I hope, to lose its independence within the Catholic unity, it will be because its vocation is fulfilled. Rome has at last listened and learned. That which was held in trust for the whole Church within the Anglican boundaries has had its effect. Anglican return to Rome would signify not failure but success. In this connection, the influence of John Henry Newman may be especially important.
Should the Anglican Church continue an independent force, sustained by the momentum of its own past but with nothing distinctive still to stand for, that will be the failure. It will have missed the glad moment of its own Nunc dimittis.”

What we have had since the promoters of the liberal / radical agenda have gained the upper hand, first in ECUSA and then within the other western Anglican hierarchies, is a increasingly desperate attempt to maintain Anglicanism’s distinctiveness by means of the adoption of an essentially secular justice and rights agenda. Undoubtedly the western, liberal Provinces of the Communion have rediscovered Anglicanism’s distinctiveness in these terms but only at the cost of cutting themselves off from their own theological roots.
But does that necessarily apply to the rest of the Anglican world?
Is there still real hope of significant, though partial, Anglican / Catholic reunion? Bishop Nazir–Ali appears to believe there is.
I, for one, pray that it may be so.

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