Morning Vicar!

Our local vicar in the combox says, “When Pope Benedict talks to Anglicans about church unity what he really means is ‘Come and join us.’”

Of course this is true in a sense, but when he says “Come and join us.” Benedict is not expecting total conformity and uniformity in all things. That’s what the Ordinariate is all about. What he has in mind is a growing family of different small groups like Anglicans and the Eastern churches, coming into full communion while retaining their own patrimony of liturgy and customs and also being granted a measure of autonomy both materially and in matters of governance.

I hear Anglicans whine about this expectation that unity means coming into full communion with the See of Rome, but what on earth else could it possibly mean? They whine about this expectation we have, but they have never come up with any other model for unity, and re-buff any attempts Catholics make to call for unity.

What other model would there be? Shall we have a World Council of Churches? That’s a flop and was never more than a talking shop for liberal Protestant theologians. Shall we simply have intercommunion with all Christians? We would then fall into the latitudinarian error in which we sacrifice doctrinal unity for unity of form. Even if we were to have complete intercommunion where would it stop? Who would define the boundaries of communion?

Would we have communion and inter-change of orders? Does that mean that an Anglican minister and a Catholic priest would suddenly have the same sort of validity of orders? If Anglican and Catholic, then Anglican and Lutheran for Anglican and Lutheran have already agreed to intercommunion and shared orders. If Anglican and Lutheran and Catholic then why not Methodists too, because they are close enough to Anglican aren’t they? And if the Methodist minister is in, surely the Presbyterian for he is close enough to Methodist to get in under the line, and if Presbyterian, then Baptist, and if Baptist, the Assemblies of God, and if Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal, and if Pentecostal, then Seventh Day Adventist, and if Seventh Day Adventist, then the Worldwide Church of God, and if the Worldwide Church of God then the Jehovah’s Witness, and if Jehovah’s Witness, then Mormon, and if Mormon, then Moonies, and if Moonies, then Scientologists, and if the Scientologists…

I think the burden must be on the Anglicans now. Benedict XVI has offered a viable, logical, generous and creative way for Anglicans to retain their patrimony and be one in faith and worship with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Anglicans who say they are interested in Church unity must either take the ordinariate seriously or come up with some other way forward. Let them come up with something as creative and positive and generous. Otherwise, let them be content with the polite detente that now exists where Pope and Archbishop meet from time to time and give one another a present and speak about ‘the call for church unity’ and then go home to their own palaces for tea and cake.

The problem in talking with Anglicans about church unity is that they are guilty of rather fuzzy thinking. Surprise surprise! They don’t really have a clue what church unity consists of, what it should be built on, or what it would look like if it actually existed. What they conceive is always the Anglican model which is really latitudinarianism–that is a total tolerance of all views and opinions gathered together under an agreed administrative institution. This is not unity. It’s a council of churches. It’s simply a confederation of contradictions.

True unity exists where there is unity of form and unity of doctrine. In other words, we believe the same thing, and that is what unites us and provides the unity of form. This is only possible if you have an agreed infallible teaching authority with one man as its spokesman and final arbiter. Without that authority you will either fall into the latitudinarian error in which you sacrifice unity of doctrine for unity of form or you will fall into the sectarian error in which you sacrifice unity of form for unity of doctrine.

In other words, you have a group like the Anglican mainstream where you can believe whatever you like as long as you stay on board. Or otherwise you end up with all the different breakaway groups and sects where you have unity of doctrine and believe the same as everyone else in your little group, but you’re only one among the other 50,000 Protestant groups.

The Catholic Church aspires to unity of form and unity of doctrine, and can only do so because of the Pope. That’s why the Pope says to our separated brethren (and btw, not only separated from us but separated from each other) “Come on home to Rome.”

  • Bender

    I hear Anglicans whine about this expectation that unity means coming into full communion with the See of Rome, but what on earth else could it possibly mean?Where Peter is, there is the Church. Unless we are to detach our foundations from the rock, unity can mean only one thing.

  • Robert

    Very well stated. Anglicans need our prayers as well!.

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    Saturday morning here in blighted Blighty.The Padre does work gets fast results:This morning's London Times will un-fuzzy the fuzziness.Gay bishops rule Ok by Rowen but certainly not the local Vicars.That does make sense!The parish Vicars of whatever sex or latitude (read wide) will continue as the second class social workers they are in their most unhappy 'confederation of contradictions', and the Bishops will rule over it all with plainly Platonic benign despotism.Read; some guys have all the fun.With all due respect to RC teaching on euthanasia:Time to pull the plug on the tax-payer aided and abedded plaIN AS FUDGE CofE.ho hum

  • .

    "total tolerance of all views and opinions"This is the way of the world: nothing is bad, everything is good.If they go this way, they can't fail to go wrong.

  • Lyn

    I agree with your content but your tone is snotty and, well, Un-Christian. It's a cliche of the political class to use the word "whine" instead of "complain". You can do better.

  • Giovanni A. Cattaneo

    The CoE being a political body (created so I might add) I believe "whine" to be more than appropriate of a word.

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    to be fair…probly is a bit hard to be humble…when you are Bruce's doppleganger…would have it's advantages'''

  • Little Black Sambo

    Time to pull the plug on the tax-payer aided and abedded plaIN AS FUDGE CofE.Would you care to elaborate on the phrase "tax-payer aided"?

  • Suburbanbanshee

    Re: taxpayerThe poster means the Church of England, which is indeed aided by the UK taxpayer and is part of their governmental system. Re: whine/complainComplain, from Latin "complangere", to beat the breast and lament. Whine or whinge, both from Old English "hwinsian" or "hwinan", to make a high pitched noise.Sounds pretty dramatic, either way. :)

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    Todaythe good Padre's words of some years ago caused an Ephiphany for me:I once asked him what was at the root of the malaise of English youth?His response:'Their idea of fun is smoking fags in bus shelters'Today, since the great fire hydrant in the sky is open once more upon our belightedness in Blighty, I took refuge under a bus shelter to smoke a fag.I was much heartened to read that Pope Leo XIII lifted the smoking ban in the Vatican.Can't have women you should be allowed sumptin… sholy.Come on Vicar pack up the Earl Grey and put down the Thurible…we need inspiiiraaation over here…

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    all quiet on Padre's Newspeak Frontone can just imagine the papal plottery going on…….

  • flyingvic

    suburbanbanshee – you never did actually elaborate on your suggestion that the CofE is aided by the UK taxpayer. Please do enlighten me and all the other readers of this blog what on earth it is you are talking about.

  • flyingvic

    Father, this 'local vicar' is in fact the local Rector. That sounds so much better, don't you think?And if this local Anglo-Catholic Rector had actually wanted all these years to be a Roman Catholic then he would have tip-toed through the Tiber long ago. He didn't, partly because he has never tried to pretend that he was anything other than an Anglican (of the high church tradition) and because he holds the belief that the Anglican Church is quite legitimately the Christian church in England, faithful to the Scriptures and faithful to the apostolic creeds and four great Councils of the Church. If there are indeed Anglo-Catholics who are pretending to be Romans within the CofE, then by all means let them abandon pretence and put their allegiance where their faith is.Your own blog then offers further reasons why I could not in conscience even cross the Channel, never mind the Tiber. You ask, "Who would define the boundaries of communion?" May I offer Luke 14.21-24 as part of the answer?You say that Anglicans have never come up with any other model for unity. Actually, we've been living a model for unity for nearly five hundred years. What does Scripture tell us? That the disciples were a disparate group, united only in following Jesus and misunderstanding his message and purpose (a confederation of contradictions, as you might say!); that the early church in Jerusalem looked to James, rather than Peter, as their first leader after Pentecost; that the churches to whom Paul wrote his epistles were under no central authority; that the ones who laid down the law as a focus for unity in Judaism were called Pharisees; that if Jesus gave us any instruction in that direction then it was in the nature of parables, questions and general principles, leaving his followers to work out their own salvation in the details, and in the differing contexts of their own lives."The Catholic Church aspires to unity of form and unity of doctrine, and can only do so because of the Pope." And as your blog so amply demonstrates, you are then left, logically, with the supposition that everyone else who seeks to follow Christ is mistaken in the path they are walking. Do we better demonstrate Christian unity by seeking to bring Christ himself, visible in his followers, into the lives of those who do not know him, or by squabbling over who is a 'real' Christian and who isn't?

  • Little Black Sambo

    Suburbanbanshee: You say that "the Church of England … is indeed aided by the UK taxpayer and is part of their governmental system". I asked you to say more about how the taxpayer funds the C of E, and all you do is repeat your assertion. How does the taxpayer fund the C of E? As a whining Anglican, I only ask because I want to know.

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    flyingvic:tho you play a good game of 'leg before wicket' (cricket geddit?)with your somewhat profound potted 'history' of the CofEPerhaps I may be forgiven if I find your remarks somewhat dubious in light of the fact you seem 'in the dark' about the tax-payer funding of old Rowen's ruminatory.Do ye also not know of the 'evaporation' of Queen Anee's Bounty- i.e. the entirity of old Vicar's retirement funds left by yes, Queen Anee (a Jacobite who ruled OK man)to the Restored CofE as of yore.yup, went right up London City banker's noses and well, other places…fact mateemail Fr. Thomas Hardy at ROCOR in London CathedralHe is formerly Vicar of Fulham for many years in 'the Smoke' and now an Holy Russian Orthodox Priest.Thanks be to God.(I have always told old Padre he never got over the sound of his own voice as young preacher boys are meant to do… gotta give you credit where do 'old boy')

  • flyingvic

    ABD, by 'Queen Anne's Bounty' I take it that you are referring to the fund drawn from pre-Reformation Papal taxes used to pay impoverished Anglican clergy.How good was that! (Thinks: is that what the Ordinariate is trying to bring back? Maybe I should reconsider!)However, much as I like the idea, it's a bit far-fetched to use QAB as a reason for describing the CofE as 'tax-payer funded'.

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    gift aidin UK taxation systemover to yougood Padre

  • flyingvic

    ABD – do me a favour!'Gift Aid' in the UK tax system benefits every single body in the country that has 'charitable status' – including, of course, the Roman Catholic Church.You'll have to do a LOT better than that in order to claim that the CofE is tax-payer funded!

  • Fr Longenecker

    You're right Flying Vic, the CofE isn't funded by tax money. It's funded by the property and land Henry VIII and his pals took from the Catholic Church.

  • flyingvic

    Now, now, Father, your prejudices are showing! On top of which, I think you are quite wrong…I rather suspect that the money and land that Henry took from the monasteries went straight into the royal treasury, and was then partly disbursed into the pockets of those he chose to enrich. It was a country-wide complaint that the revenues of the monastic houses that had always supported local economies suddenly all disappeared to the London and the south-east, to the great impoverishment of the rest of the country. (Some say the same sort of thing happens to this day…) Very little IF ANY went to support the work of the church in England.Queen Anne's Bounty, as I have noted elsewhere, was drawn from taxes the Pope had exacted from the people of this country; and the land that now belongs to the CofE is largely, I understand, the result of legacies to the church from pious Anglicans down the centuries. I seriously doubt whether the CofE has any cause to thank Henry and his pals for any financial endowment whatsoever.