When I read stories about the Anglican world, the image that pops into mind is a scene we’ve all seen in movies—-the main characters are fleeing from danger across a wooden or a rope bridge across an abyss while enemy attacks have the part of the bridge they just crossed catching on fire. I’m so glad to be across the abyss and on solid rock.
The official Anglican position seems now to be one of strong opposition to the mere suggestion that we are created as male and female. To hold to the facts of human biology will be declared morally culpable, by the Synod of the Church of England. The Synod affirms that it is possible, and worthy of celebration, to announce a transition from one sex to another, and that opposition to this opinion is not acceptable. One exultant Synod member exclaimed: “Synod has changed—we have turned a corner.”
When these issues come up in conversation with Anglican friends I find that they have three ways of responding:
- Deep gloom. “It’s terrible. But what can one do?” This is often accompanied by a quiet drifting away from regular church attendance.
- A feeling that the Synod votes do not bind anyone; what matters is the local parish. “Our church here is great and it’s a community where I feel I belong.” This sometimes morphs into a general acceptance of what the Synod has decided anyway: “I used to be against gay marriage but I’m not really sure now…”
- A more rare response: some talk of a clear split within the C of E, of seeking oversight from some alternative missionary bishop from a network of Evangelical Anglicans, or some other similar arrangement.
What about the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, through which Anglicans can come into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining their liturgical, musical, and spiritual traditions and heritage? Reactions to this idea again are again threefold.
A vaguely despairing sigh, and, “Oh…yes…I daresay I might end up doing that.” But they mostly don’t.
“But I’m Anglican. Our family has never been Roman Catholic.” (Not strictly true, if you think about it, but understandable—1535 is a longish way back.)
A more rare response: a disagreement with some specific teachings of the Catholic Church such as Our Lady, confession, etc.
A few thoughts regarding the response of Anglicans towards joining the Ordinariate. I remember when the Ordinariates were coming into being thinking the option would be a lot more attractive than it ended up being, not only for Anglicans in general, but for people in our Traditional Anglican Communion parish who had agreed in principle to unity with the Catholic Church (I guess on their terms, not the Church’s) since the TAC was formed in the 1990s.
The TAC body in Canada, the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada first experienced a number of parishes leaving for other Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, then a series of church splits, including one in Ottawa and two in Victoria, British Columbia.
We also had thought we would gain membership of former Anglicans we knew who had already become Catholic. While supportive in principle of the Ordinariates, their families were already comfortably ensconced in Roman Catholic Parishes.
The Anglican identity issue is huge—the latent prejudice against becoming “Roman Catholic” and before we had proof in our Divine Worship liturgy of respect for our Anglican patrimony, it was even a harder sell. There was so much fear of being homogenized, of losing what was so precious to us in our way of worship. Thankfully, we now have more markers of Anglican patrimony inside the Ordinariates than remain in most Anglican parishes. Many of them have abandoned the Book of Common Prayer for contemporary worship services.
While it wasn’t an issue for us since we owned our humble building, for others, leaving a beautiful building with a professional music ministry has also been a factor. Or, for families with children, the desire of looking for a parish that has programs from children of all ages.
Not everyone wants to be a pioneer, experience poverty or do church-in-a box as so many of our people have had to do over the years.
However, beauty in worship, even in humble circumstances with few people who love each other, with a true faith, in communion with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, is deeply attractive, but it may not attract who you think is your target audience.
I know when I first came to our parish in the late 1990s, it was precisely that beauty in worship, that reverence for Jesus Christ that was reflected in every genuflection, every collect, every proclamation of the Gospel that attracted me to traditional Anglicanism and thus began my serious preparation for entering the Catholic Church.
God the Father draws us. And He is faithful. How we are drawn, how our deeper conversions happen is a mystery. There are no formulas as much as we’d like to have them; no simple answers that say if you do x you’ll get y.
Frankly, I do not know why people are not lined up around the corner to get into our little church in Ottawa. Beautiful liturgy, amazing priests, wonderful teaching, great community. But over the years, I have noticed in many ventures where I clearly see the Holy Spirit at work, outward success is not often evident—that these ventures often go from worldly uncertainty to uncertainty, but in the end God provides always enough, but faith and vision is required because there’s no big bank account or list of wealthy donors.