Thursday, 20 December 2012

Future steps towards unity?

Fr Mark Woodruff, the Director of the Catholic League, writes the following article in the current edition of the League's newsletter, Unitas.  In it he asks some pertinent questions about the relationship between the 'internal ecumenism' within Anglicanism (or rather the growing lack of it) and the 'external ecumenism'  with Rome and Orthodoxy...
"...2012 has seen the continued search of the Church of England to resolve its internal differences and, indeed, for its own internal ecumenism. If the Church of England majority, which sees the admission of women to the presbyterate and episcopate as a legitimate development to the received tradition, cannot allow a place for fellow Anglicans who believe the Church should keep to the Tradition on which all can be reconciled as they were once united; and, given the uncompromising tone with which some of their number have called for the rejection and even exclusion of the minority, it sends a powerful message to the ecumenical partners of Anglicans working with them, beyond ecumenism, towards reconciliation and fullness of communion. If most Anglicans do not want spiritual ecumenism to work within their own ranks, and fullness of communion cannot be achieved within the juridical bounds of the Established Church, how can it seriously engage with the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church on unity, let alone the other Churches stemmed from the Reformation?
The answer is the same basic “fact of life” that has animated the League for 100 years. There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name that does not take into account communion with the bishop of the See of Peter in Rome, not as the last piece in the jigsaw, but as the destination from the outset of our Christian ecumenical journey. Piecemeal ecumenism – such as the Porvoo agreement between the Anglican Churches of Britain and Ireland with most of the Lutheran Episcopal Churches, or the Union of Bonn with the Old Catholics, or the Leuenberg Agreement with non-episcopal Reformed Churches – is hopeful and should be encouraged. But where it constitutes to all intents and purposes the exclusion of the Apostolic Churches of East and West - most especially communion with the successor of Peter at Rome - there is a risk of “settling for less”, or even an ecumenism that is anti-Catholic. A substantial bloc of Anglicans and Protestants in a staged process of reconciliation that is not taking the Petrine ministry into account as a first principle (and as it is, not as some may wish it to be) is not necessarily a building block to Church union. All too easily it risks standing as a rival to Catholic faith and life; the instinct is for schism.
This is not even true to what the Reformers thought they were achieving by their reform of the Church, and its tradition as they had received it. To employ the terms of Pope Benedict for a different controversy, their thinking was that of a “hermeneutic of continuity and of reform”, and not of “discontinuity and rupture”. Continuity with the rest of the Latin Church has long been part of the Anglican apologetic, even though, along with the other churches of the Reformation, the new direction for the English Church led to rupture, because of the imposition upon it of the boundaries of a nation state. So it is surely a sore in the spirits of all belonging to the League that our Anglican members are seemingly forced by events further from their lifelong hopes for the reconciliation of their Church with the Church of the Apostolic See of Rome, the more faithfully they seek to live by the Common Tradition which has formed us all. As Pope Benedict put it, when he spoke to representatives of all the Christian traditions at Westminster Abbey on his Apostolic Visit, the account of the hope that lies within us that will be convincing to the world does not lie in a facile accommodation to the spirit of the age or theological relativism, but an ever deeper unity in the apostolic faith..."
Read it all here

1 comment:

  1. A very insightful piece - if Anglicanism can not manage ecumenical relations internally, what hope can there be that that they can engage in meaningful ecumenical relationships externally?


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