Today saw quite a surprising announcement come out of the Holy See in Rome. The Catholic Church has announced that they are opening the door for disillusioned Anglicans who wish to convert whilst still allowing them to maintain many of the traditions and liturgical differences that they have developed.
The news came as a shock to many within the Anglican community, and whilst news that Rowan Williams had only been given a few days notice are overstated (I’ve heard from sources that it was actually about two weeks) it has still in many respects blindsided most within the Church of England. Just how much of an impact it will have are yet to be seen, but from those I’ve spoken to the reaction is mixed.
There are some within the Anglican community that are hopeful that this move will end much of the political infighting that has surrounded the ordination of women and openly gay men. Others feel that it is a cunning move by the Catholic Church to convert some much needed communities into the fold. Personally, I think the move has more than a hint of desperation to it.
One thing is clear however, that in a world that is rapidly moving on from old-world, ‘traditional’ values, the more liberal Anglican viewpoint is likely to win it more respect and mainstream acceptance over the long run. It is difficult, if not impossible in many developed countries, to continue to state that women and gay men cannot make good spiritual leaders. Time and time again this prejudice has been shown to be unfounded, and I would argue that such segregation goes against the teachings of acceptance and love that lie at the heart of Christian theology.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few years. There will clearly be many individuals and parishes that will embrace being able to return to more traditional environments, but in the end I do believe that these will be the same communities that miss out on much of the depth that Christian teachings have to offer. Not to mention the impact that it will likely have on ecumenical dialogue.
What do you think? Will this latest move from the Roman Catholic Church prove to be a wise one that will bring in a large new congregation? Or will it just lead to them being seen as further out of touch with modern values and moral standing? How will this impact the Church of England?