Monday, 22 October 2007

Is Rowan a Roman (again)?

Jon's comment for the previous blog entry here states rightly that Rowan Williams's ecclesiology is Roman Catholic, and in thinking through his email letter to Bishop John Howe (made public for all to see), one has to ask again whether or not Rowan Williams is increasingly Roman Catholic.

As a reminder: he has stated in effect that a Bishop is the key person of the diocese, and a Windsor compliant bishop is part of the Anglican Communion whatever the national Church does, and the national Church is not so important. My point is that every bishop must be part of a Church, and therefore the Anglican Communion has been elevated to the status of the Church.

Something I have not mentioned previously is what then happens regarding these Primates - of national Churches? Why are they important? Well then become, in effect, cardinals over bishops, leaving the bishops as key in dioceses. Top cardinal is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who thus is the Pope.

Except of course he is not a Pope. He writes that he is waiting for their view (though so far he won't hold a meeting of them to give a view - perhaps due to its potential for manipulation). Then he will give his view. The question that follows is on the lines of, "Then what?"

"Then what" is that the National Churches will reassert themselves. What makes Anglicanism different from Catholicism is that it is also Reformed. It is not Reformed alone, nor particularly Protestant (though obviously it is partly Protestant). When Alister McGrath wrote for the Church of Ireland about Anglicanism as a denominational family that is Protestant, he pushed his argument too far, as well as unnecessarily reacting against Gregory Cameron's piece on ecumenism. (I disliked this article for its extremism in feeding the Protestant psyche in Northern Ireland: we forget too easily that the Church of Ireland was a direct instrument of oppression by the State through its planted Protestant population and its descendents over a native population of the land.) Nevertheless Rowan Williams pushes his viewpoint too far.

Those who think this is a wonderful new solution to Anglicanism splitting will find Anglicanism ending up falling into factions and fractions, and won't care for it when the boot is on the other foot.

Look, I live in the Diocese of Lincoln. For what it matters (and it doesn't that much), I feel fortunate that the diocesan bishop is well connected with the Modern Churchpeople's Union. Good job I don't live in parts of Kent then (especially Rochester). However, from an Anglican perspective, what would make Kent bearable for me is that it is part of the Church of England, just as this might make Lincolnshire bearable for an evangelical. There is a shared cultural history and a belief inheritance. There are other groups and movements attached. However, if it jumps straight from this diocese up to a college of cardinals, in effect, then this is very high level remote rule. Ah there are many Anglican traditions, but nothing synodical or identifiable, close enough as well as wide.

Well it is not like this, is it? There are conventions and synods and Archbishops and Presiding Bishops - of national Churches. The Anglican Communion is a discussion shop.

Otherwise, the Bishop of Lincoln could make intermediate connections with The Episcopal Church, with the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales... Why not? It would be up to him. Not that these would be anything other than intermediate associations of the big Communion that was the overall Church. Rochester could join Nigeria tomorrow.

I would not be at all surprised if, when Rowan Williams retires, he overcomes his objection to having a Pope, and College of Cardinals, because these are logical, and gets himself reordained in the Roman Catholic Church (unless Rome regards him as valid and illicit). After all, these bishops in dioceses relate to this thing called Anglican - the Communion now made a Church, by Rowan Williams - and why should such an illogical framework for Catholicism stand?

Unless one pauses and thinks of Orthodox theology! Here the actual named Church does matter, and not something called Orthodoxy. In Anglicanism, then, it is similar: it is also the national named Church that is the key. Rowan Williams is essentially Roman Catholic, and perhaps he ought to see this and come to terms with it (unless his narrative theology would be deemed unacceptable to Rome), and stop imposing such definitions of centralism on the rest of the Anglican Communion.

1 comment:

Erika Baker said...

What matters most to ordinary people is their own small parish. When I lived in the diocese of Rochester my own liberal village church mattered more than anything our Bishop could have said.

And although I'm intently following international church politics, there are few in my Somerset parish who have even heard of half of the recent developments, who have no idea what TEC is, the WRT, Tanzania, Dromantine, 30 September and all these tantalising words we throw around on discussion fora, and who would probably find it all much beside the point.

Which leaves me with the question: to what extent to +Rowan's views actually matter? Will they really change your local church, and mine? Will they change how your priest preaches? Will they change his pastoral approach? Will they make any difference to our church life and how we interact with the churches around us?