Another old newsletter piece…..

The newspaper a few weeks ago showed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, meeting the Pope.  Dr. Williams genuflected, kissed John Paul’s ring, and was subjected to what no doubt was some unwelcome advice from Cardinal Ratzinger on the need to support traditional Christian teaching on sexual morality.  In the light of unresolved disagreement between Roman Catholics and Anglicans of all stripes about papal authority, the genuflection and ring kissing seem extravagant.  More importantly, in the light of Williams’s own erroneous moral views, his acceptance of legitimate papal teaching authority is insufficient.  In fact Williams got things completely wrong.  He showed for the Pope submission in externals but practical contempt.  He did that which he ought not to have done, while leaving undone that which he ought to have done.  In Williams is the triumph of form over substance.  There is no health in him, as members of his Church used to say of themselves. 

The Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger are inserting themselves into Anglican affairs these days because the Roman Catholic Church has a concern for what used to be called Christendom.  These men no doubt hope that their weight might help move Anglicans towards the traditional side of the current debate over homosexuality.  Similar involvement occurred in the intra-Anglican debates over the ‘ordination’ of women, especially in the early 1990s when the Church of England contemplated that issue.  The Roman Catholic involvement, while well-meant and on the side of the angels, was ineffective in the ordination debate.  It will prove equally ineffective now.  The radicals in the Anglican world intend to have their way, and they do not care a bit who disagrees or what losses or divisions occur in their own communion in the course of their slow motion triumph. 

All of which demonstrates again our wisdom in leaving the Anglican Communion when we did.  The central problem was and is not an error about a particular issue – which prayer book to use, the ordination of women, the consecration of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, or whatever.  The central problem rather was and is a claim to unilateral authority over important matters of faith, order, and morals.  Our Church asserts that we do not have authority to alter the faith or practice of the Christian Church in important matters.  When such authority is claimed and conceded, whether or not it is used in a given case, then the battle is lost.  If a Church can change teaching on the nature of the priesthood, sexual morality, or the indissolubility of marriage, then it can change teaching on baptism, the Incarnation, the Trinity, or anything else.  The faith is either given to and obediently received by the Church or it is something the Church makes up as it goes.  The Anglican Communion has now decisively asserted that the creed and morals are at her own disposal to alter.  The battle has been lost in that Communion, and the only thing for orthodox Christians to do is to leave.  It is impossible to be an ‘orthodox’ or ‘traditional’ cup of water in a puddle that has been so dirtied and compromised.

So, while I appreciate what the Pope is trying to do, and while I agree with the ‘conservative Anglicans’ who met recently in Texas about many things, they are fighting a battle already lost.  The strategy of the radicals now is to string the ‘conservatives’ along as long as possible.  Every year there are fewer and fewer ‘conservative’ parishes and clergy in the Episcopal Church and the Church of England.  The traditionalists are dying out and not being replaced.  Time is on the side of the radicals, and they know it.

Of course our own Church and those who like us who have left the Episcopal Church and the old Anglican Communion have made many, many mistakes.  Those who leave after us will replicate those mistakes, as they discover that a common commitment to traditional sexual morality leaves unresolved many dozens of issues over which to disagree.  Still, the first and indispensable step is to turn one’s back decisively on the confusions of Rowan Williams and his impaired Anglican Communion.  Until that is done, no return to orthodoxy is possible for those who believe in Scripture and the Nicene Creed more than they long to be on Rowan Williams’s Christmas card list.  The Anglican Communion meets every ten years for a Lambeth Conference and a tea party with the Queen.  Our Archbishop might well say, ‘Been there, done that.’  Our Archbishop HAS said, ‘Ichabod!  Ichabod!  Ichabod!  The Glory is departed.’  (I Samuel 4:19-22.) 

4 thoughts on “John Paul II and Rowan Williams

  1. Dear Archbishop, with the passage of time, I appreciate your observations more and more. I also appreciate your book on Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice. It is a great successor to Staley. I wonder if you have ever considered publishing some contemporary handbook that specifically deals with Anglican Catholic theology. Such a book could fill a gap that seems to exist since the days of writers such as Stone, Hall, Moss and Mascall.

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    1. Thank you, Father. This blog has been my main writing outlet recently. The format is very flexible and lets me publish things that are somewhat substantial but do not require the major time commitment of a book. You might want to look at Father Jonathan Munn’s book ‘Anglican Catholicism: Unchanging Faith in a Changing World’ (2019), which is distributed by our diocese in the United Kingdom. It’s pretty good. It’s also a general introduction, but with much more direct quotation from Scripture and the Fathers than my book. My own specializations (moral theology and Stuart history) for the book you are describing ideally would be supplemented by a deeper expertise in dogmatic theology and philosophy.

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      1. Thank you for your response. I understand and appreciate your remarks about time and specialization. I do have Fr. Munn’s book and find it useful, but I was thinking more of an introductory dogmatic theology. Personally, I and many of the other continuing clergy that I have encountered may be strong in various disciplines, but we could use a good brief systematic approach from a continuing Anglican perspective. Maybe there is someone out there who has the background and the time.

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      2. That is what I thought you were looking for. When in seminary I did much work in what then was fairly contemporary dogmatics – Rahner particularly. Of course back then Mascall was still writing. Maybe someone will show up, as you say, or maybe someday I will have more time….

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