There is a telling comment by Anglican theologian Ephraim Radner. He finally admits that those who wish to follow the historic Christian faith are not welcome in ECUSA. So that’s news?
Anyway, Fr.Al Kimmel has a good post in reply with a good stream of comments about the future for orthodox Anglicans.
I know many individual Anglicans, both clergy and laity, are looking at their options. There are really only four: A. Stay within the Anglican Church and try to be faithful B. create or join some other Anglican ecclesial structure C. Come over to the Catholic Chuch D. become Eastern Orthodox.
As someone who was an Anglican for fifteen years, I think I understand the objections Anglicans have to coming over the the Catholic Church. I would like to outline them, and then answer them. I hope this may spark discussion. Tell me if I left something out.
1.The Catholic Church is authoritarian and monolithic and demands ‘blind obedience.’
ECUSA is not authoritarian? The more I hear of the Schori regime or Bishop Lee’s behavior it seems that Catholics do not have the monopoly on authoritarianism. The present authority of the Catholic Church is benign in comparison. You either have the dictatorship of relativism or the historic authority of the Catholic Church. Some Catholics may follow blindly, but this is not what the Church expects. Instead the Church calls for voluntary, informed and inspired obedience to the proper authority God has established.
2. Catholics are liberal too.
Its true we have radicals in the Catholic Church, but the difference is that they do not have the ultimate control, and cannot because the Church is hierarchical and not democratic. Furthermore, if the radicals are in teaching positions, or in leadership positions, if they go too far they will be disciplined as much as is possible. Liberals you will have with you always, and they have their contribution to make (even if we passionately disagree with them) in the Catholic Church both extremes are included, but both extremes are restrained from predominance.
3. Catholic worship is awful
That’s true. We don’t have the same wonderful buildings, music and liturgy as the Anglicans. If you have eyes to see it, this is actually part of our strength. The Catholic Church is not a sect of educated, tasteful, middle class white people. We have peasants. We have folk religion. We have charismatics. We have radicals. We have conservatives. It’s a universal church remember? And yes, we all quarrel like a big family. But we stay together. Learning to like (or at least endure) a liturgy or a priest you don’t like might just be good for you–like learning to get on with a brother or sister you don’t like.
If you’re an Anglican priest, musician, artist or architect, think of the contribution you could make by becoming a Catholic. We need you to help in the reform of the reform, and the sooner you come across and help us the better. Staying on one side tut-tutting about how awful we are won’t help. Starting your own church isn’t going to help us. Are you going to stay in the Anglican Church just for stained glass windows and fine music, incense and the best parties? Come come, it won’t do. You’re better than that, and you know the church is bigger than that.
4. Catholics don’t evangelize
We do, but we evangelize in different ways than Evangelicals do. Evangelicals rightly proclaim the gospel, but are often weak on what they perceive as ‘social gospel’. Catholicism is more incarnational. We not only want to share the doctrines of the faith, and call people to an encounter with Christ, but we also want to show the compassion of Christ by building schools, hospitals, ministering to the dying etc. Catholic evangelization is holistic in this way.
But again, we need you. We admit that we could do evanglization better. If more Evangelicals took the step into the Catholic faith, think how much more effective our evangelization would be.
5. There are Catholic doctrines I don’t agree with.
First of all, have you studied what Catholics really believe, rather than relying on what you think we believe? If so, great, if not, get on with it. Decide if you disagree with what we really believe before you dismiss us.
Second, what is it that you don’t believe. If you honestly don’t believe it, fine. But perhaps what you perceive as ‘not believing’ is not doubt or lack of faith, but simply and inablility (or unwillingness) to submit your own beliefs to the faith of the Church. If you disagree with Catholic teaching could it be that you are wrong? If you can entertain that idea, could you take the step of re-considering Catholic teaching?
Third, perhaps you are imposing Evangelical or Protestant types of ‘believing’ onto Catholicism. Evangelicals demand real understanding and real ‘heart belief’ for total assent to be there. Catholics are not quite so demanding. We simply expect assent. If there is a sticking point and a person is ready to accept every other part of Catholic teaching–especially the Church’s authority, then it is okay to say, “Well, if the Church teaches it, I accept it.” We believe that a simple act of the will in this respect is sufficient, and that the true seeker, the truly spiritual person will grow into a deeper love and appreciation of the particular doctrine that they have had trouble with. Have you not experienced this in your marriage? You said, ‘I do’ unreservedly, and then over the years you learned the depth and power and beauty and difficulty of that act of the will.
6. I will have to give up my ministry.
Perhaps so. You may go through a time in the wilderness. You may have to give up your home, your position, our income and your friends. Did you think obedience was going to be easy? Where’s your faith? God will provide. Do you want to minister for all the right reasons? If so, God will give you a new ministry in the Catholic faith that is far richer and fuller than you can now imagine. Go for it!
7. I will lose my family and friends
That’s part of the deal isn’t it? ‘Unless a man hate his father and mother’ and all that…
The other half of that promise is that you will make new friends and familly at a depth that you do not now know is possible.
Furthermore, you don’t know what your example of obedience and faith will do for other people. In my experience one person’s honest conversion brings many of their friends and family into the church as well. Do what is right and the rest will follow.
8. In the end it doesn’t really matter does it?
If you don’t think it matters why did you ask that question? Of course it matters. It matters very much because God wants you to come further up and further in. Perhaps the crisis in the Anglican Church is just what you needed to open your eyes and enable you to take the next step.
9. Surely all that matters is how much we love Jesus?
Of course but how do you know that it is actually Jesus that you are loving? Where does one find Jesus and how do you know? Where does one find the fullness of the Body of Christ? Once you are a Catholic you will see that the other Christian groups may follow Jesus, but they may be following the pipe dreams of their particular prophet, or they may be following the invention of a group of political activists or they may be following a figment of the imagination of some theologian with way out ideas about the end times, or they may simply be following a tasteful religion or an emotional religion or an intellectual religioin that makes them feel fine, feel happy or feel smart. All of these are pale imitations of the real, resurrected Body of Christ, and the fullness of that Body–in all its reality is found in the Catholic Church.
10. I really think Anglicanism is the answer. It’s the best we can do for now.