NEWS: July 28, 2008
Bird’s Eye View of the News
Atila Sinke Guimarães
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WHAT’S LEFT OF THE ENGLISH CLUB? – For two reasons I consider the so-called Anglican Church to be an English club. First, its orders are non-existent, as Pope Leo XIII clearly demonstrated in his Bull Apostolicae curae, promulgated on September 18, 1896. From the Pontiff’s arguments, one can surely conclude that its bishops did not maintain the Apostolic Succession and, therefore, do not have power either to make other bishops and priests or minister true sacraments. Hence, their supposed hierarchy and priesthood are just appearances.
I don’t dismiss the need for appearances. Ceremonies, liturgy, music and chants have their place in society, even when they are not linked to the Sacrament of Orders. So, for his social convenience, the Englishman holds on to an institution that maintains churches where he can go once in a while for a change of scenery and to provide for this cultural need. In my view, this is not so different from a club where he goes to listen to an educational lecture, hear some well-executed music and enjoy some solemn ceremonies.
Second, I have seen photos of persons leaving Anglican services where the pastor goes out to greet each one and say a nice word at the exit. The atmosphere, though dry, is cordial; the people respect him as they would respect a learned old uncle, but there is no sacrality whatsoever in the pastor. Regardless how pompous the building and the vestments may be, he completely lacks that kind of supernatural presence the simplest Catholic priest had in the pre-Conciliar Church. This impression of emptiness is particularly intense when one watches the Royal family attending a Christmas or Easter service, with the bishop outdoors waiting to greet its members. He looks much more like a servant than a spiritual prince. Subservient, he is there to receive some compliments - “Very fine service, indeed, Dr. X” - rather than to give any serious spiritual orientation. Again, a club director turned toward pleasing its members.
The subservient bishop is hardly noticed by the Queen after Christmas services at Sandringham in Norfolk
The subservience of its prelates was the reason for Anglicanism to exist, and it is the only doctrine to which they have always remained faithful. They were subservient to Henry VIII when he revolted against Rome; they have continued to be subservient to all the monarchs through English history. And for some time now, they have added to this first commandment a second: subservience to public opinion, the modern day monarch.
Thus, when it comes to morality, no one expects to hear the expression “as rigorous as an Anglican prelate.” They think: "No, never apply such a horrible and distasteful adjective as rigorous to us. Such a term only fits those hot-headed Latins or metaphysical Germans on the Continent, not well-balanced, civilized Britons." Anglican prelates understand that they can be conservative or liberal, according to their preferences, but they must never leave the mainstream current or transgress social conveniences. Has homosexuality been accepted in today’s decadent society? Yes. So, the Anglican prelates adjusted their doctrine to accommodate it. Is feminism on the rise in the English mainstream? Yes. So, the doors were opened to women to become priests and bishops.
As the British Empire grew larger, just as some English fashions and sports expanded, so also this club - Anglicanism - expanded. Americans, Australians and New Zealanders became Anglican; then Africans and Latin-Americans became members of the English religious club.
Bishop Katherine Schori, elected to preside over the US Episcopal church
These last additions, however, would be the cause of the present day crisis. Both Africans and Latin-Americans did not share that English superficiality which considers religion to be just a social convenience - nothing to be taken too seriously. Africans started to believe that the precepts of the Gospel theoretically adopted by the Anglicans should actually govern morality. Thus, a potential calamity became a reality: these two different perspectives clashed, with shock on both sides.
The American Anglicans - subserviently calling themselves Episcopalians in order not to injure American pride after the political separation from England - made a good axis with the Britons. The Americans played the extreme liberal, while the Britons played the moderate liberal and conservative. The Americans initiated the women priests; after a convenient interval the English followed. The Americans made homosexual bishops, the Britons approved. The Americans went on to women bishops, the Britons rubber-stamped the initiative.
But something went wrong. The Africans opposed the axis and are causing the break-up of the whole club. This is, in fact, what is happening right now.
Let me try to explain to my reader what I could understand of this puzzling Protestant squabble.
The Anglican split in numbers
According to World Christian Encyclopedia, Anglicanism counts 77 million followers. I will break down the numbers to fit its present day wings.
The liberal wing is composed principally of English, American and Canadian Anglicans:
Rowan Williams failed to manage the confused Anglican game - The Tablet, February 19, 2005
The total of the liberal wing comes to 29.5 million.
- English Anglicans - 26.3 million.
- American Episcopalians - 2.4 million.
- Canadian Episcopalians - 0.8 million.
The conservative wing is composed of the African Anglicans:
The total of the conservative wing comes to 39.3 million.
- Nigerian Anglicans: 20.1 million.
- Uganda Anglicans: 8.6 million.
- Kenya Anglicans: 3 million.
- South African Anglicans: 2.7 million.
- Tanzania Anglicans: 2.6 million.
- Sudan Anglicans: 2.3 million.
The remaining 9 million members of the club are in Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America or spread out elsewhere around the world.
The news reports say that Australia and Latin America are supporting Africa, but I don’t know their actual numbers. So, let me just break these 9 million leftovers into two equal parts, one for the liberals and one for the conservatives. The gross balance of the present day crisis would project that Anglicanism under the leadership of Rowan Williams would be left with around 30 to 34 million followers, instead of the previous 77 million. The larger part of the pie - 40 to 44 million – is following the African leadership and thus constitutes a new bloc.
The news I am reading from England is starting to call these 44 million conservatives by the name of Evangelicals. I had never heard this designation as referring to this bloc of Anglicans. So, I am not sure whether the name is an old one and accepted by the Africans, Australians, Latin-Americans, etc, or just a trick of the Britons to save the name - Anglicans - solely for their liberal wing, insinuating the conservative wing is a new religion with a new name.
Akinola vs. Williams: Jerusalem vs. Lambeth
Every 10 years the Anglicans meet in a conference held at Lambeth, England. During these days, until August 3, one such meeting is going on.
In early July before this conference opened, the Anglicans held a Synod at York where they officially accepted the “consecration” of women as bishops of their confession. Doing so, they rubber-stamped a situation that has already existed in the U.S. for several years.
To boycott the Lambeth official meeting, the archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, convened another meeting that took place in Jerusalem in late June. It assembled about 300 Anglican bishops from around the world who declared they had ruptured with the Anglicanism led by Rowan Williams. The official reason for the rupture was the “consecration” of Gene Robinson as bishop. Robinson is an open homosexual who recently “married” his partner in a civil ceremony.
Akinola and Williams: The apparent cordiality of old masked a complete antagonism
Akinola’s rationale is political-doctrinal, not merely doctrinal. In fact, when Robinson was made bishop in 2003, Akinola threatened that he would break, but he didn’t. If the reason was only doctrinal, he would have done so then. Most probably he waited until now to break because he knew Williams would accept women bishops at the Synod (as he did some days later). So, Akinola benefited politically from the strong reactions against this latest liberal position of his opponent, and convened his meeting just several days before the official acceptance of women bishops. He added many discontented bishops to his cause, but maintained only the old argument against homosexual bishops. So far, officially, women bishops did not appear as a reason for the rupture.
Thus, the bishops who attended the Jerusalem meeting declared themselves independent from Canterbury. They didn’t go to Lambeth. This was the great break in Anglicanism.
Other sources of division
However, the splits do not end there. A potential fracture also appeared among those attending the Lambeth conference. A delegation of 28 bishops of Sudan, not present at Jerusalem, called for the resignation of Gene Robinson and asked the conference to issue an official condemnation of homosexuality. This proposal raised the indignation of American and Canadian Anglican leaders, who defended Robinson and the homosexual blessings against “homophobia, bigotry and discrimination” (The Tablet, July 26, 2008, pp. 6, 37).
Another threat also hovered over the conference: Before the synod, a group of 1,333 priests including 11 bishops from England sent a letter to Williams telling him that they would consider entering the Catholic Church should Anglicanism approve women bishops, as it did (The Tablet, July 6, 2008, pp. 1, 5, 35).
This is the picture that appears through the smokescreen deliberately created around the Lambeth conference “for fear of what will be seen” (The Tablet, July 26, 2008, p. 6).
The Vatican and the Anglican split
Present at the Lambeth conference was Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples. He was invited to deliver a speech on July 24. Generically speaking, he censured the bishops of the African wing for following their own whims “without any coordination with the head.” He also censured the bishops who admitted women bishops for “living myopically in the present,” oblivious to “past heritage and apostolic traditions” (The Tablet, July 26, 2008, pp. 7, 37). In good Vatican style, he was fishing on both sides.
Cardinal Dias mildly chastises both sides
Also present was Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster. In an intervention at one of the study groups, he assured the Anglican participants that the Catholic Church was committed to ecumenical dialogue, but that “future dialogue will not be easy.” He said that even more important than the question of women priests and bishops, was the Anglican conception of church. Indeed, at Lambeth any reference to the Archbishop of Canterbury as head of the Anglicans was avoided, and their supposed church was presented more as a loose fellowship than a hierarchy.
Taking a more realistic approach, O’Connor said: “If Anglicans themselves disagree over this development [women bishops] and find yourselves unable fully to recognize each other’s ministry, how could we?” (Anglican Journal online, July 26, 2008).
This is what has happened up to now, as I write my column.
Conversion of England
The sad thing in this picture is that the Vatican is not taking advantage of this possibility for Anglicans to convert. One can see that the entire Anglican structure is rotten, and, if a true missionary would show up with the zeal of the Apostles, England could again be Catholic, as it was before this long, unfortunate and still unclosed parenthesis was opened by Henry VIII.
Benedict's support for Williams did not prevent Anglicanism from crashing
But, it should come as no surprise that this progressivist Vatican is not turned toward conversions. The goal of Progressivism is the establishment of a Pan-religion to please the world and its Prince, not to please Our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, is it possible to convert someone to Progressivism, which in many ways is even worse than Anglicanism? O tempora! O mores! [O difficult times! O corrupted customs!]
Raising the possibility of the conversion of England, I recall that when I was young several times I heard references to a prophecy of St. Dominic Savio, where he said that England would convert when its Monarchy would collapse. These two events would mark the beginning of a great chastisement that would lead the entire world to the Reign of Mary. My life has been so busy that I have not had the time to check if this prophecy really exists, where it is, and if there is some mistake in what I remember. I call on the assistance of my readers: Please, if you know of this prophecy, send me the information.
Related Topics of Interest
Benedict on Anglican Unity & Ecology
Benedict's Prayer for Anglican Unity
A Church that Rejects its Apostolic Note
An Anti-Anglo Anglican Church
Gay Anglican Bishops
Where is the Catholic Resistance?
A Multi-faceted Ecology: The New Ideal for Religious Orders
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