Sam Chamberlain: Anglicans 'swim the Tiber' while the Church drowns

The larger problem is that the Anglican Church, along with most mainline Protestant churches, has lost its identity. In a well-intentioned but misguided effort to soften its image, the Anglican Church has embraced a big-tent strategy that has driven away its traditional members and made itself even more irrelevant to potential worshippers. The crowning example of this confused strategy came in February 2008 when Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, told a British radio program that the adoption of some parts of Islamic Sharia law in Britain “seems inevitable.” Though this can be considered as much an indictment of the present depressed state of British politics and society as much as of the Anglican Church, nothing in Williams’ tenure suggests he has committed himself to lifting the Anglican Church out of its decline.

So what must the Anglican Church do to avoid its demise?

First, it must be Christian and unapologetically so.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Identity, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

20 comments on “Sam Chamberlain: Anglicans 'swim the Tiber' while the Church drowns

  1. Marie Blocher says:

    Quote of the day
    “nothing in Williams’ tenure suggests he has committed himself to lifting the Anglican Church out of its decline.”

  2. C. Wingate says:

    I’m at a loss to determine where NYU fits in the constellation of Anglican institutions, but I’m also wondering why our correspondent is wont to solve the problem of a “big-tent strategy” with, well, a big-tent strategy.

  3. Observer from RCC says:

    He doesn’t actively participate in any church. Why is this writer considered an “expert” on anything religious? This is truly scraping the bottom of the barrell and says a lot about the news industry. Just pathetic.

  4. advocate says:

    I go back to – this was not a sheep steal. It was a response to the Traditional Anglicans who wanted to join the RCC en masse. This group (if their numbers are remotely accurate) is larger than many of the smaller Eastern Churches in union with Rome. It was a RESPONSE, not an initiative!

  5. C. Wingate says:

    Maggie, Benedict wants to reap where he did not sow. He may not view this as poaching, but it’s not unreasonable for Anglicans to take a different perspective.

  6. advocate says:

    Forgive me, but how is it “reaping” when you have 400,000 folks knocking at the door saying “let us in?” How is it reaping when all Benedict is doing is allowing these folks to bring their liturgical tradition with them? Is it more “right” for him to impose the standard Western liturgy on them and NOT let them bring their traditions with them? Or is he simply supposed to hang out the “Not Welcome” sign simply because they used to belong to a different tradition? What would you have him do?

  7. Words Matter says:

    It is quite unreasonable, but totally predictable, for Anglicans to regard this as poaching.

    In the first place, TAC is not obligated to the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are not part of the Anglican Communion. Even those in the Church of England taken with this possibility approached the Vatican, not the other way around.

  8. Ross says:

    I don’t see it as “poaching” either. The offer is made to those Anglicans who accept what the Catholic Church teaches to be revealed by God; since that teaching includes the Petrine ministry (as the joint Canterbury/Westminster statement put it) then these are people who really ought to have been Roman Catholic already. The RCC is generously allowing them in en masse rather than individually, and allowing them to keep some part (but not all) of their familiar liturgy and practice.

    For the rest of us who do not accept all that the Catholic Church teaches etc… well, the Pope isn’t talking to us.

  9. C. Wingate says:

    Maggie, surely 400,000 is a number borne out of someone’s fantasies. TAC doesn’t have that sort of membership, if I recall correctly, and the number of in-communion Anglicans who might respond to a fully realized proposal is subject for speculation, and never mind whether all those who do respond were “knocking at the door” from the outset. I suspect that there are plenty who, even among those who might respond positively, who did not look at leaving for Rome as something they were itching to do.

    Words, I exclude TAC since they (or at least Hepworth) have been moving towards some sort of union with Rome for a long time. If this had specifically been directed at them, this would be generating a completely different set of headlines (of the “Small Anglican Sect Joins Catholic Church” ilk); but it isn’t.

    Ross, it is begging the question to frame it as you do. Objectively, the Anglican churches formed these people, and the appeal to them is not in spite of the faith thus instilled, but because of it.

  10. Ross says:

    #9 C. Wingate says:

    Ross, it is begging the question to frame it as you do. Objectively, the Anglican churches formed these people, and the appeal to them is not in spite of the faith thus instilled, but because of it.

    So, because they were formed in the Anglican church, the Anglican church… what? Owns them? Has a right to them?

    People are not property. Not even people in pews.

  11. C. Wingate says:

    Ross, if it shows up in The Screwtape Letters it must be true :), so let me say here that I do not reduce “my church” or “our members” to ownership, like “my boots”. I used “reap” quite deliberately, because that is, after all, the scriptural word. ECUSA is, for better or worse, my church, and Rome is not; I was formed here, not there, and I feel an obligation towards my church as I think that anyone who isn’t an outright congregationalist ought to feel.

  12. nwlayman says:

    It isn’t poaching if the sheep in question were going to be culled anyway.

  13. Ross says:

    Ah, so the problem is not so much with Rome for making the offer, as it is with disloyal parishioners for taking them up on it.

    In my experience, most people do feel a lot of loyalty to the church that formed them, especially when it’s a church they’ve been going to for a long time. Decisions to leave one’s “home” church are rarely made lightly or easily. I sincerely doubt that many Anglicans who go to Rome do so in the spirit of, “Hey, whatever.” So I’m certain that at least the great majority of those Anglicans who will accept Rome’s offer will have carefully considered the obligation due to the church of their formation, among many other factors, and will have decided that the reasons for going are sufficiently weighty to warrant making the move. And that decision is, of course, their prerogative.

  14. C. Wingate says:

    Well, for me it’s more of a commentary on Rome’s evangelism here being aimed at people who are already about as convicted of the Christian faith as they are going to get.

  15. advocate says:

    C. Wingate – you avoided answering my last question which is, whether the numbers of TAC be 400,000 or 40,000 or 4,000, how would you suggest that Benedict should have responded if they have petitioned to come in corporately? Should he simply close the door on these folks? Say “well, you are welcome, but we will make no accomodations for you?” Or, you are only welcome if you enter individually, not corporately so it doesn’t look so bad?

    Or does it offend you that these folks are wanting to convert in the first place? If that is the problem, then it is with the potential converts, not with the Pope. While the Anglican church, whatever stripe, may have formed them, they obviously at this point want to be elsewhere. Do you have the same opinion of the the Orthodox who are making similar gestures?

    Again I say, this offer isn’t for those who don’t have the Roman “itch,” but for those who obviously do. And it isn’t the fault of the Pope that the media can’t report accurately that TAC PETITIONED for this option.

  16. Rev. Patti Hale says:

    Wow… who knew that THE easy 3 point solution to the conflicts within Christianity was hiding in the mind of a student at NYU? And especially a student that values Christianity so much he doesn’t even participate in the church! Young man, you’d have more integrity if you were actually engaged in the Body of Christ and not lobbing grenades at it. Leave the Catholics alone… they are graciously reaching out to a group who have ASKED to join them. Get over it.

  17. rob k says:

    Wingate – I find it hard to understand your attitude. This new arrangement is a response by the Pope, regardless of the exact number of those seeking an arrangement. Never mind the cries of being “affronted” from the Anglican side and the gloating from the EWTN types on the other.

  18. C. Wingate says:

    Folks, I’ve known about the TAC union talks for years. The big question was always how much of this was Hepworth, and how much was other clergy and the laity. Some entire churches within TAC are going to sit this one out (ACA for example). I don’t feel any particular ownership/fealty issues going on there, if they want to be absorbed. It’s the “we can also skim the AC cream off the CofE milk while we’re at it” angle that’s causing the ruckus.

  19. Sarah says:

    RE: “It’s the “we can also skim the AC cream off the CofE milk while we’re at it” angle that’s causing the ruckus.”

    Only if the AC cream wants to be skimmed C. Wingate.

    Sure wish that the COE had been more loving regarding the women bishops debacle in the Synod in regards to giving the AngloCatholics provision for their conscience. But . . . they weren’t. So I’m figuring the AC cream will have a little more desire to be skimmed than they would have two years ago.

    A pity that the COE synod was so bitter and unloving to them in their decision making.

  20. Words Matter says:

    The Church of England Anglo-catholics also approached the Vatican.