Anglicans Cannot Accept Universal Primacy of the Pope

By Stackhouse, Reginald | Anglican Journal, February 2000 | Go to article overview

Anglicans Cannot Accept Universal Primacy of the Pope


Stackhouse, Reginald, Anglican Journal


WHEN ANGLICANS and Roman Catholics have so much in common, why can't we come together -- not just to be friends, not just to go steady, but to be one again?

Our liturgies are now almost the same. Our bishops and clergy now dress up the same. Our sanctuaries now look the same. Our theological wordsmiths can now make our doctrines sound the same. Why can't we be the same?

Because of one of the most important four letter words in the language: pope.

Not John Paul II himself. Nor his inevitable successor. But the institution of the papacy, that unique spiritual establishment with its claim to a supreme authority articulated in such titles as Vicar of Jesus Christ, successor to Peter, prince of the apostles, supreme pontiff, patriarch of the West, primate of Italy, metropolitan of the province of Rome, bishop of Rome, and sovereign of the Vatican.

Some of this authority can be shared with each bishop -- but not transferred. Some of it can be devolved collegially to national conferences of bishops -- but not handed over. No bishop can function without papal appointment, and any bishop can be removed by papal fiat. He may consult a multitude of bishops before making a statement, but it is his statement.

No matter how high the other peaks in the episcopal range, the pope rises above them like a pontifical Mount Everest. He has no counterpart, especially among Anglicans.

Yes, our worldwide communion of national churches is held together by the way each bishop and diocese is in communion with the See of Canterbury, but that does not mean its archbishop is an Anglican pope. He has no authority outside the Church of England, nor does the Lambeth Conference of bishops over which he presides every 10 years assert authority over anyone.

Anglicans function multi-nationally partly by communicating with each other, partly by accepting that we can be different without being separate. One national church may ordain women, remarry divorcees, and accept abortion but another national church may endorse none of these options. …

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