“Who cares?” if Anglicans become Catholic says the Archbishop of Canterbury

How things have changed since 2009, when news stories about Pope Benedict’s plan to erect personal ordinariates for Anglicans wishing to become Catholic described the move as the Pope “parking tanks on the lawn of Lambeth Palace,” the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

That was then. Archbishop Rowan Williams, an Anglo-Catholic, was the ABC then. In March 2013, the same month Pope Francis was elected to the papacy, Justin Welby was enthroned at Canterbury as the new spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

In a recent interview, Archbishop Welby tells the Spectator he doesn’t really mind if an Anglican becomes Catholic.

Not so long ago, it would be unthinkable for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be quoting agents of Rome, but times change. The two churches have been holding talks about possible reunion since 1970, but since the C of E admitted female vicars their paths have tended to diverge. Ten years ago, the Vatican made it easier for vicars to defect to Rome. Hundreds did so and now, by some estimates, one in ten Catholic priests is a former Anglican vicar.

I ask what he thinks about all this.  ‘Who cares?’ he says. ‘I don’t mind about all that. Particularly if people go to Rome, which is such a source of inspiration. I had an email from a very old friend, an Anglican priest who has decided to go to Rome. I wrote back saying: how wonderful! As long as you are following your vocation, you are following Christ. It’s just wonderful. What we need is for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ.’

If you think this is an unusual thing for the Archbishop of Canterbury to say, then you don’t know Justin Welby. He is a bridge-builder, so keen on fostering greater unity amongst Christians that he has assembled in Lambeth Palace a group of young Christians of various denominations called the Community of St Anselm. ‘One of the prayers we say every morning is for the unity of the church. That seems to me to be much more important. God called the church into being. We, as human beings, have managed to mess that up and split it up.’

Interesting.

14 thoughts on ““Who cares?” if Anglicans become Catholic says the Archbishop of Canterbury

    • Welby must have been referring to the diocese of Canterbury. He could not have been so stupid as to be referring to the Roman Church in Great Britain, let alone the Roman Church at large. And no one could be so stupid as to accept his statistics without a reference to his source(s) and verification

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  2. Although what the Archbishop says seems very broad-minded, the underlying error is that the truth is not important. The men who left for Rome believed that the Anglican Church is in error.

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    • I agree with you, Jacob. For the most part, C.S. Lewis’ *Mere Christianity* (1952) is great and was a big part of my own spiritual “awakening” as a teenager, but the ecclesiology chapter, similar to what Welby’s comment reflects, is really poison.

      Denominations are not rooms in a house. Catholic Rites and particular churches are more like the rooms in a house Lewis talks about.

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  3. In choosing to belong to a particular congregation, Evangelical Christians typically seem to attribute far more importance to the message coming from the pulpit being authentically scriptural than to the denominational label on the front of the building.

    My understanding is that Archbishop Welby is from the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. The attitude manifest in the comments attributed to him — “What we need is for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ.” — is fully in keeping with that branch of the Christian tradition.

    Norm.

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  4. Possibly, but I live in England and think Welby knows there will be no Anglicans left. You I think call them Episcopalians. Perhaps they are more fervent in the US but he is going to look pretty silly when our (although I am Catholic I have said ‘Our’because it is the state church) Archbishop doesn’t have any communicants in the country of its origins. As you know they were not very good origins with a King wanting a divorce. His son a Protestan, then his daughter reverted the country back to Catholic and then her sister to Protestant again. Bloody Mary and Bloody Bess are their nicknames here as many from both sides were martyred because of them..
    Justin Welby said he was definitely called by God and think I now know why. With women priests so called same sex married priests and no teaching against abortion and divorced can now remarry in the Church of England God may have wanted him to steer this country back to Catholicism. The Queen has met Pope Francis twice and Welby many times which is unprecedented. So who knows and this country certainly would do well if it became Catholic again. Our media doesn’t report on the right to life marches because so many women are in Parliament and the media now and being a small country the men are at a great disadvantage against the feminist lobby. You have similar problems as I know from EWTN but you are less afraid to speak out which I admire. The English are almost too diffident and always saying sorry and they shut up if someone opposes them. I find a nice American extremely polite but you have got a way of saying what you believe in and to that I say keep it up. Good on you.

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    • To clarify, the province of the Anglican Communion here in the States adopted the title “Episcopal Church” to honor the Scottish Episcopal Church, from which her first bishops in the wake of our independence received their orders. In the late eighteenth century, English law required candidates for episcopal ordination in the Church of England to vow their allegiance to the Crown, which no American was about to do, but the Scottish Episcopal Church was NOT the state church of Scotland and thus was not bound by the same requirement. To this day, the upper right quadrant of the shield and the flag of the Episcopal Church here in the states, now officially named “Episcopal Church — U. S. A.” or “ECUSA” for short, bears nine small white crosses representing the nine original dioceses arranged to form the Cross of St. Andrew on a blue background.

      That said, what I’m hearing from my contacts in ECUSA is that most of their parishes have very low attendance but that many have substantial endowments which yield plenty of income to cover their expenses. They can survive in this state forever, but it can’t be much fun for a pastor to be preaching to a nearly empty church.

      Norm.

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  5. It’s funny, but I think the Catholic Church needs High Church Anglican’s to ‘come back home to Rome’, almost as much as Anglicans need it for connection to THE historic ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’. High Church Anglicans have been great at retaining the beauty and majesty of the liturgy, but lack the link to stability and continuity given on Faith and Morals from the Successor of Peter. So many Latin Rite Catholics have lost their liturgical connection to the beauty and reverence of the liturgy, and could really benefit from Anglican’s coming home to Rome, and showing how Liturgy is done beautifully.

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  6. Good article and comments. To keep in mind is the fact that for over three and a half centuries, it was high Church and low Church Anglicans. Today, they are split in a number of mostly informal, groups. It is probably correct to say that those turning to Rome will be of some number and the remainder will be various sects of what was. I view this as a sort of natural evolution of belief seeking its own level.

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  7. There have been divisions in Christianity as far back as the New Testament Church. Back then, they were not called denominations. We may be getting back to the old paradigm.
    Divisions are a fact of life.

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