Anglicans Seek New Balance: Group Reacts to 'Traditionalist' Images
Hebblethwaite, Peter, National Catholic Reporter
Group reacts to |traditionalist' images
OXFORD, England -- "It needs shouting from the housetops," said Fr. Jeffrey John in a rousing peroration "that the ordination of women is not a disaster for Catholics, it is God-given chance to break out of the morass we were already in, and to give up false securities and fears and open up to new life and new growth."
"Who is Father John?" I hear you cry. He is a British Anglican, sometime chaplain at an Oxford college, and now the leading thinker in a movement among Anglo-Catholics called Affirming Catholicism.
It was born three years ago in reaction to the more "traditionalist" Anglo-Catholic wing who threatened to "swim the Tiber" (that is, depart to Rome) if women were ordained priests in the Church of England.
Affirming Catholicism wants to "redress the balance that has painted the Anglican Church as in terminal decline with thousands of clergy and laity leaving to join the Roman Catholic Church." What it affirms is that, on the contrary, Anglo-Catholics "are alive and well and committed to staying in the Church of England." They are not looking over their shoulder toward Rome. The logic of the original break from Rome in the 16th century, they claim, gives the Church of England today the right to go it alone when it comes to women's ordination. As David Jenskins, the feisty bishop of Durham put it, "We Anglicans don't have to take our faith from a Roman autocrat or old men with long beards from Constantinople."
Jenkins was debating these issues with Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sr. Lavinia Byrne at a conference at York University last week. Byrne, who has become something of a media star, was skillfully diplomatic and quoted Rosemary Radford Ruether's dictum that "the fullness of Christian truth lies in the future."
Were the Affirming Catholics granted a glimpse of that future? It seems that they are striving for the right balance between tradition and innovation, respecting tradition without being fixated on it. Byrne admitted she would much rather see this group "come over to Rome" than those who are threatening to convert because they cannot stomach the prospect of women priests. …