Opinion: After appeal to dissatisfied Anglicans, who's next?
By: Liam Muller
(Mitchell (South Dakota) Republic,
In Other Words, Oct 22, 2009)
As an Episcopal priest and member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, I must say I am more than a bit curious about the Vatican’s appeal Tuesday to so-called “dissatisfied Anglicans” (as reported in an Associated Press report in Wednesday’s Daily Republic).
First, I am curious about the use of the term “convert,” as in “The Vatican announced Tuesday it was making it easier for Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.”
If the Vatican’s chief doctrinal official used the term “convert,” it is incorrect. One only “converts” from one faith tradition to another (i.e. from the Islamic faith to the Christian faith). Therefore, as we are both members of Christian denominations, and therefore part of the Christian faith, this is a scurrilous term at best.
Second, while dissatisfied people changing denominations is nothing new, openly recruiting the dissatisfied certainly is. Regardless of denominational affiliation, all Christians are called to be one in the Body of Christ; we are all called to serve God through serving each other; we are all called to reconcile the world with our loving God. If this is the litmus test we as Christians use to live our lives (and if it isn’t, it should be), certainly an appeal such as the Vatican’s falls quite short of this.
Imagine, if you will, the outcry if any other denomination were to appeal to dissatisfied Roman Catholics — perhaps mentioning their well-publicized problems of the past and present, perhaps mentioning its continuing misogynistic doctrines, perhaps mentioning any number of issues with which a reasonable person could be dissatisfied. Would it not be wrong for them to do so and, if so, doesn’t this point to the current error in the Vatican’s ways?
Third, the idea that an Anglican of any sort — let alone a so-called “traditionalist” — would leave over differences or disagreements demonstrates a severe lack of historical understanding as well as a complete misunderstanding of what it truly means to be an Anglican.
The current issues causing disagreement are not the first nor will they be the last — either in Christianity or in Anglicanism. To be sure, though not officially recognized, even the Roman Catholic Church has been known to have theological and liturgical disagreements from time to time. Further, at times of disagreement the best approach to take is to listen and try to understand those you disagree with. To leave, or to make threats of leaving, shuts off communication and squashes any and all hope of reconciliation. To encourage and abet cutting off continued communication and communion with those who disagree — as is clearly the intent of the Vatican’s appeal — is not at all a Christian response.
Finally, the article mentions that dissatisfied Anglicans who switch and become Roman Catholics would be able to keep “aspects of their Anglican liturgy and identity, including married priests.”
Really? While Anglican liturgy is somewhat similar to Roman Catholic liturgy, how will Rome react to a traditional Anglican’s insistence on using reason — along with scripture and tradition — in guiding their theological and ecclesiastical principles?
Traditional Anglicans are not now nor have they ever been subject to unchallengeable ecclesiastical doctrine or dogma. Further, allowing dissatisfied Anglican clergy to remain married — and I assume to continue to be parents to their children and perhaps to enlarge their families — belies the Vatican’s current insistence and belief in the necessity of their clergy to be and to remain celibate.
In conclusion, it should be noted that this distasteful, ill-advised and unchristian appeal to dissatisfied Anglicans should serve as a warning to all Protestant denominations that find themselves working through current issues in a prayerful, Spirit-led manner: After the appeal to dissatisfied Anglicans, who’s next?
Father Liam Muller is an Episcopal priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Mitchell.