As a Roman Catholic, I usually stick to counter-reforming anti-papists in The Corner, but I can’t help but be fascinated by the super nova-sized dissension roiling the Church of England. Today, for starters – and the least interesting of any news (it’s not unimportant, it’s just not as interesting as other stuff) – is the report that Anglican bishops from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Nigeria are boycotting next week’s Lambeth Conference “due to differences over same-sex relationships.” Story here.
This comes on the heels of Brit bishops’ General Synod, held last week. It ended in tears in tears and acrimony after a charged six-hour debate over women bishops – the “dissidents” (i.e., traditionalists) lost. “Many bishops have announced they will boycott the [Lambeth] conference, a serious blow to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s hopes of healing the rift over sexuality.”
Indeed, what a blow to the infamous Dr. Rowan Williams, criticisms of whom have appeared many times on NRO. The Telegraph’s Damian Thompson puts it in perspective: as the fracas ensued, and its consequences became obvious, the Archbishop
was so alarmed by the lack of provision for traditionalists in the code of practice that he appealed to Synod members to reject it. They ignored him.
It was as if a Prime Minister, having quietly supported a piece of legislation in the Commons, suddenly lost his nerve, appealed to the House to change its mind, and was then rebuffed. Even Gordon Brown has yet to chalk up that sort of disaster.
The fallout spread quickly to Rome, as the Vatican commented on the huge roadblock now put in reunification efforts between the C of E and Roman Catholicism:
The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity said it had learnt of the Church of England’s decision “with regret”, and warned that it would have “consequences for future dialogue, which until now has been very fruitful”.
“This decision is a breach with the apostolic tradition maintained by all Churches from the first millennium, and for that reason it is a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.”
Rome, where all roads lead. Even for C of E dissidents? Time reports
Would they actually leave? This is where the Pope comes in. For an ordained clergyman to depart his cradle faith is a lonely endeavor, done individually. But that is probably not how things will roll out in this case. A Catholic Church official explained to TIME that the last time a situation like this arose (when the Church of England voted to allow women to become priests), “some 400 [dissidents] became Catholic priests or bishops.” The issue, he says, is “whether there is some way for [the current crop] to come into the Catholic Church in a corporate way, [with] their [congregations].” Along those lines, he notes, there are so-called “Anglican Rite” groups in the U.S. that maintain Anglican ritual, but recognize the Pope’s authority and count as Catholics.
One Anglican bishop, Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, has already announced his intention to “pope,” and to bring his flock with him:
A traditionalist Anglican bishop has called on the Catholic Church to accommodate a potential new wave of converts following the decision by the Church of England to allow the ordination of women bishops.
“What we must humbly ask for now is for magnanimous gestures from our Catholic friends, especially from the Holy Father, who well understands our longing for unity, and from the hierarchy of England and Wales,” wrote Anglican Bishop Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet.
“Most of all we ask for ways that allow us to bring our folk with us,” said the bishop, who is a provincial episcopal visitor of the Canterbury Archdiocese, or “flying bishop,” who ministers to Anglicans who will not accept women priests.
Bishop Burnham predicted there would be defections among Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity because of the ruling by the General Synod of the Church of England on July 7 to move ahead with plans to allow the ordination of women bishops.
Meanwhile, America’s top Episcopal Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, sees all the discord as a function of machismo. The Telegraph reports: Her Excellency “has stepped into the controversy over female bishops, claiming those who oppose them simply don’t like women.”
Christ the Misogynist, hear us.