Saturday, 13 February 2010

Realignment - all round

For observers of the contemporary religious scene there are some fascinating possibilities being floated. The issue of Anglican - Methodist unity has resurfaced at the very time when the Church of England is moving inexorably towards the ordination of women to the episcopate and the expulsion of its Anglo-Catholic remnant.
Putting the Apostolic Constitution on one side for a moment, this time around, unlike the previous attempt at Anglican / Methodist unity in the early 1970s, the "blocking power" of a large Catholic group in General Synod no longer exists and, given the probability of the Methodists' acceptance of a form of episcopal government (episcopal authority in modern Anglicanism is in any case severely constrained by the synodical system: Anglican bishops are to a large extent, in terms of their powers if not the deference accorded them, already superintendent ministers in fancy dress) the way would seem to be clear for a successful reunion of the two "denominations."
The beneficaries of this would not be, as in the past, Anglican evangelicals, but the liberal / broad church establishment: Methodism has moved a long way from the theology of John Wesley and his successors with its stress on sola fideism, the primacy of scripture and a passionate belief in the power of preaching. The coming together of two now largely theologically liberal ecclesial bodies, freed from the constraints of traditional protestantism on the one hand and the Anglo-Catholic adherence to apostolic succession on the other, would seem in ecumenical terms to be  a welcome and logical development.
And for those who will over the next few years form the Anglican ordinariates in the Catholic Church, this new Methodist Anglican development will have the added advantage of them being able to say to their fellow Anglican Catholics who are at present reluctant to join them that the Church of their baptism will, as a matter of fact as well as theological direction, no longer exist; it will be a case of two novel developments (experiments?) in ecclesial organisation, and a question of choice as to where they think the Anglican patrimony really belongs. Staying where one is can no longer be an option.

Snow in Rome!
Is there no end to the effort to make Anglicans feel welcome?

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