Friday, December 19, 2014

England's first woman bishop, and Anglo-Catholic exile and homecoming



I get Anglo-Catholic déjà vu every Sunday.

From Facebook on the occasion of the Rev. Libby Lane being about to make English history: the Church of England's first woman bishop. News that does not affect me in any way.

No hard feelings so minimal snark here, but: and so the English people, having had their funny bones tickled as well as their hearts touched by watching "The Vicar of Dibley," are so thankful the C of E has adopted self-evident truth about women's rights that since women priests, they have come back to church in droves, sending Sunday attendance skyrocketing and spurring church planting, building churches, and converting the unchurched. Oh, wait.
The Church of England, the Episcopal Church and numerous other Anglican Churches can no longer be considered Catholic. It is really really sad; I hate what has happened to the Episcopal and the C of E Churches.

I left the Episcopal Church in 1967 to be married in the Catholic Church. It gives me sadness though because of my spiritual foundation was that of High Church Episcopalian and I still feel drawn to that. The Episcopal Church is no longer the Church that I once knew. I feel sad in that I can never return or that it will never reunite with the Roman Catholic Church.
My father left the church for the marriage reason before I was born, and came back in the end; unlike me he liked Vatican II. When I was a kid, I mistook fashionable then-ecumenical high-churchification for would-be Catholic Anglo-Catholicism. I really thought we were about to come back to the mother church (by the way, not all A-Cs are would-be Catholics), so women's ordination felt like a sucker punch. The second sucker punch was the aftermath of Vatican II: "the Romans" (as the Anglicans call Catholics) didn't want us conservative A-Cs either.
There's no desire to "exclude folks." There's simply no authority to change the ministry we have received from Jesus through the apostles.

My foundation is that of an Anglican. Prayers in the Mass are unique to Anglican Liturgy (e.g. Prayer of Humble Access). Fortunately the Anglican Ordinariate is thriving and so there is access to our Anglican roots. I just miss my old parish; I am not even sure if they still use the Anglican Missal at Mass.
The parish church where I first experienced "full faith" Anglo-Catholicism (little wooden Episcopal church jampacked with old Catholic equipment and décor) turned liberal by the end of the decade when its priest from the 1950s retired and is long closed. Episcopalians' semi-congregationalism made such parishes a hedge against Vatican II, ironically in the middle of a liberal Protestant denomination (but at first I didn't know we were in one).
When I went thru instruction, many many years ago, my vicar taught the branch theory. He explained that there was the Eastern Church, The Roman Church, and the Anglican Church. All three were completely Catholic. This was because of Apostolic Succession. He said the minute the Anglican Church ordains women they will never be Catholic again. Our Saviour choose 12 men to follow him. The Early Church established orders, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, all of which were men. To be Catholic means to honor Tradition. The Episcopal and C of E Churches are now Protestant Churches. This is the path they chose.
As Fr. Jonathan Mitchican explains at "The Conciliar Anglican," the ORIGINAL Anglican branch theory wasn't three co-equal branches. The classic Anglicans thought they were the best for being "reformed" as well as "Catholic"; they saw Rome and the East as real churches but in grave error. They never envisioned women clergy but it follows naturally from their principles (the Articles of Religion: councils err so the church is changeable). Anglican liberals are being good Anglicans. And Rome and the East don't accept the branch theory; Rome has a very modified version of it in our recognition of valid orders and the Eucharist in some other churches, such as the East. But what's interesting about the "consensus" view you were taught is you DO end up more or less with Catholicism.

For would-be Catholics, women's ordination is a point of no return. For many years I felt the same dislocation (cultural amputation?) you do. Benedict XVI changed all that. To this day I say the Nicene Creed in English (at the new Mass the few times a year I'm at it) according to the old Prayer Book and Anglican missals; my way of remembering and saying thanks.

Why I don't miss the Episcopal Church: thanks to "reform of the reform" starting under John Paul II and thanks to Summorum Pontificum, I have the best of it at my parish, and we're not even in the ordinariate, just high-church!

Symbolically interesting: from my bedroom window I can see the towers of both the Episcopal (closed) and the Catholic churches in my town.

Happy Ember Friday in Advent, with the O antiphons: O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

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