I guess I should apologize for my post on TAC, FCA, GAFCON and whatever other Anglican Acronyms are out there.
It seems that TAC is not totally AngloCatholic in structure, but has a rump of more low church conservative members. Similarly, FCA (the global fellowship that has come from GAFCON) is not uniformly Evangelical and anti-Anglo Catholic. Indeed there are some AngloCatholic members of FCA. In addition to this, while some of the Anglican breakaway churches are uniformly Protestant or AngloCatholic, many try to replicate the ‘big tent’ approach of a range of ecclesial, theological and liturgical customs.
Goodness! this only makes it more complicated. If TAC really were uniformly Catholic in its understanding of church and theology, then an en masse conversion might be contemplated, but this simply isn’t the case. While the leadership of TAC are taking themselves toward Rome, it is likely that many member churches and member denominations are not happy about this and will jump off the train before it gets to the station.
Even if the whole thing does come to some sort of group conversion, what shall we do with all the many folks who are good solid members of their church, but do not have a clue about Catholic theology or customs. As it happens, the little Anglican Church here in Greenville where I was baptized is a member of the TAC, and I was speaking to a sweet old lady who has been a member there for years. She is a solid, old fashioned Episcopalian Southern lady. A real steel magnolia. However, she doesn’t understand or even like the Catholic Church, and she is rather dismayed and alarmed that she might wake up tomorrow and find herself Catholic.
Shall we simply accept all these people into the Catholic Church? Surely they must be catechized. Do they all understand Catholicism? Do they want to be Catholic? What do we do about all their irregular marriages? What shall we do with their married bishops? I know wonderful things can happen, but the practical difficulties really are pretty immense.
Because of these difficulties each bishop, priest and layperson will have to be dealt with individually. Where groups have already come over with their priest (as with the Anglican Use group in Scranton) each person has to be catechized and received into the church. Likewise each TAC bishop and priest will have to have their application for ordination processed individually. Their clergy will be a very mixed bag. Some are v. well trained and formed in the Catholic tradition. Many others are not. Some are married, some not. Some clergy will have been in former marriages. Some may be former Catholic priests who left to get married. The point is: each person will have to be processed (at least up to a point) individually, so why not simply say: “Let each person sign up for their local RCIA and join their local Catholic Church?”
As Catholics we must be very realistic about the Anglicans. Already Rome has bent over backwards to give Anglicans who are interested in the Catholic Church everything they have asked for. You want married priests? You got it. You want your own liturgy? You got it. You want your own Anglican Use parishes? You got it. This has been an enormously generous move on the part of Rome. It has been creative, flexible and proactive to an amazing degree.
What has been the response? Next to no enthusiasm for the Anglican Use liturgy. Significant, but not major uptake on married men converting to Rome. Numbers of Anglican laypeople who want the Anglican Use to prosper and grow? Minimal. There are a hundred breakaway Anglican churches out there. Many of them could come into the Catholic Church lock stock and barrel very quickly by going to a Catholic bishop and saying, “We want to be an Anglican Use parish here in your diocese.” We have three Anglican breakaway parishes here in Greenville. They have their own church buildings, their own pastors and their own congregations and budgets. With a sympathetic bishop they could feasibly become Catholic parishes tomorrow. The Catholic population here is growing. We need them. But this possibility is not even on their radar. They know about the option, but they don’t want to pursue it.
Let’s be frank: Anglicans who want to be Catholic should convert just like everybody else. This in itself exhibits the humility, simplicity and good will that is required for conversion. While I think a corporate reunion of some sort is exciting and I would work for it and with it, on the other hand I, for one, am tired of Anglicans who flirt with the Catholic Church.
They say in lofty tones, “We think, if we wait a bit longer we might be able to come over in a large group. We would like to discuss with you ways in which we might retain our ministries and our special gifts. We have a responsibility to our flock.” All well and good, but maybe the best thing you can do for your flock is act according to your beliefs and leave the Anglican Church and become Catholic. You think you can bring them all with you? You won’t. However, the ones who are already with you will follow you to Rome. You can still bring all your gifts and abilities and love for Christ’s true church into the Catholic Church in a much quicker and efficient way:
I faced this truth in my own life. I was praying for Church unity. Then I realized that the one, simple and most effective contribution I could make to church unity was for me to be unified with the Church. So I became Catholic.
If you’re an Anglican who is interested in the Catholic Church and you are reading this, I apologize for the blunt tone, but my advice is this:
Quit your church tomorrow, start going to Mass and sign up for RCIA.