Many of you have by now read or heard accounts of the offer last week from Pope Benedict to receive members of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church into the Roman Catholic Church. The reports were a bit confusing and misleading. Here are some Q & A’s on this.
What was offered?
The Pope offered to receive members of the Anglican Church (and the Episcopal Church) into the Roman Church. Clergy could remain married and churches could use the Episcopal or Anglican Prayer Book services.
Was this new?
Yes and No: Anglican clergy have been allowed to join the Roman Church. For example, there is a former Episcopalian serving one of our nearby Roman Parishes. Such clergy are “re-ordained” and allowed to be married. There are also at least seven “Anglican Rite” Roman Churches in the U.S. These parishes have been given approval to use extensive parts of the Prayer Book in Liturgy and many elements of Anglo-catholic worship. However, there were two additions in this announcement. First, it was made public by the Pope in a high profile news release. These issues have been handled more quietly in the past to respect on-going ecumenical talks. It is clear that no one, including the Archbishop of Canterbury knew this was to be announced.
Second, the offer was to parishes and even dioceses and not just individuals. However, the clergy will still need to be ordained in the Roman Church and no married clergy would be allowed to serve as a Bishop. So, of the U.S. dioceses that have left TEC like Ft. Worth, only one of the Bishops would even qualify for consideration.
Will this affect many Episcopalians?
Probably not. It might affect some of the already spin off groups of churches. For example, the Anglican Church in North America has churches that are very Anglo-catholic and apposed to women’s ordination and at the same time has evangelical parishes. This could draw off churches from that group, but still, we are probably talking about less than 100 clergy. This could have some effect in the English Church where there is some current tension and division over the question of women bishops, however, this is very hard to determine. Only time can tell.
Will lay people be involved?
They might if they are in congregations that have left the Episcopal Church, however, lay people have always been free to move membership to Rome if they wished. Consequently, we are not talking about very many people.
If this affects few people, why did it make such news?
There are three reasons for this. First, the Pope, by making the announcement, stepped over previous protocols on how such matters are handled. Second, the on-going conflict in the Episcopal Church, The Canadian Church and even the Church of England made this seem newsworthy. Lastly, most reporters had little understanding of the current church issues and thought this was new, innovative and an open raid on the Anglican Church by the Roman Church. They were misinformed.
Does this affect either the Cathedral or the Diocese of Dallas?
No, not at all. We continue to carry out our mission and ministry as we believe God is leading us.