Sunday, March 07, 2010

Vatican Scores Its First 100 "Anglican" Parishes

One hundred "Anglican" parishes in the United States have moved decisively to enter the Roman Catholic Church.  In formal language, they have requested "the implementation of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States of America by the (Vatican's) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith".

But please do take note of those inverted commas.  These parishes are the Anglican Church in America, a small splinter group.  Technically, in fact, it is a double-splinter:  in 1991, two splinter groups, the Anglican Catholic Church and the American Episcopal Church, held some union discussions, which were only partially successful -- there is still an ACC, it is just now much smaller.  Whatever.

The point here is that the 100 parishes to form the first "personal ordinariate" are not in communion with the Anglican Communion or the See of Canterbury.  Their claim to "Anglicanism" is based upon institutional history (including, we imagine, the historic episcopate) and upon their use of the Prayer Book, in some form.  But it does not include actual participation in the life of that communion of national churches which the world means when it says "Anglican."

(As for whether they teach an identifiably Anglican doctrine, which would be the defining question for Lutherans or the Reformed, well -- first pin down "Anglican doctrine" and then let's talk.)

So when you read in the papers that "Anglicans" are signing up with the Pope, you might take a grain or two of salt.  A modest number of people who call themselves Anglican are signing up.  It's still a net gain for Christian unity, we suppose, but a fairly small one.

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