By Hilary White
ROME, October 22, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the largest of the “traditionalist” Anglican breakaway groups, is dedicated to the Catholic teachings on moral doctrine, including the life and family issues, according to its leadership in Canada. Over the last few days the TAC has been at the centre of the growing tumult over the surprise move by the Vatican to offer a means for groups of Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church en masse while retaining their unique liturgical and pastoral traditions.
Bishop Carl Reid of the Traditional Anglican Communion in Canada, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN), “When it comes to issues of morality, especially family and pro-life, our membership is very strongly on the same page as are Roman Catholics.”
He added, however, that there are still weighty doctrinal matters to consider before deciding whether to take up the Vatican's offer. Cardinal Levada, the head of the Vatican's doctrinal office that wrote the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution offering groups of Anglicans a home in the Catholic Church, said that those wishing to make the transition would be required to make a “profession of faith.” While many Anglicans hold identical beliefs to Catholics over moral issues, there are still serious divergences on critical issues of ecclesiology, and the nature and meaning of the Church and sacraments.
Lay and clerical members of the TAC, Reid said, are “very orthodox in terms of central beliefs,” but the “breadth” of Anglican understanding of doctrine may cause problems. “I can't really predict how everyone is going to respond.”
“It seems that, in spite of our ongoing efforts at encouraging our membership to be thoroughly informed, some will indeed balk at making a commitment in terms of a profession of faith,” he added.
Bishop Reid, who was consecrated for the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC), a branch of Anglicanism founded in the 1970s, told LSN that the members of his church are aware that the Catholic Church is also in the midst of internal struggles over moral and ecclesiological doctrine. “Is there a perfect Church? Ours certainly isn't; and we are aware – eyes wide open – of the various culture war issues that characterize the Roman Catholic landscape.
“After all, it may be fairly observed that our very existence [as traditional Anglicans separated from Canterbury] was precipitated by the acceptance of sociologically contrived innovations imposed upon the faith of the ages that resulted in such profound and apparently irreversible changes to traditional beliefs and practices that we found it necessary to depart.”
Asked if he thought that an influx of doctrinally orthodox Anglicans might cause tension in the Catholic Church, Reid responded, “I suppose, but I cannot be certain, that 'progressivist' liberals might see us as a threat – we shall have to see.”
Some media commentators are warning that the Pope's offer will be the death knell of the Anglican Communion. But Reid said the Anglican problems could not be made any worse by his group becoming Catholics or by the potential departure of more from mainstream Anglicanism. “Any possible ultimate destruction of the Canterbury Communion” he said, is more likely to come from “further departures from faith and morals.”
Two years ago, the TAC formally petitioned the Pope to create a canonical structure that would allow the reunification of Anglicans in groups while retaining those liturgical and pastoral traditions that do not conflict with Catholic teaching, a request that had been refused by Church leaders in the past. Australian archbishop John Hepworth, the Primate of the TAC, wrote that the members are “profoundly moved by the generosity” of the pope in this week's offer.
“I have made a commitment to the Traditional Anglican Communion that the response of the Holy See will be taken to each of our National Synods. They have already endorsed our pathway,” he wrote.
Hepworth noted that other Anglican groups have also indicated similar hopes to the Holy See. “It will now be for these groups to forge a close cooperation, even where they transcend the existing boundaries of the Anglican Communion.”
But some groups are already indicating that the offer from Rome will be difficult to accept. Bishop Donald Harvey, spokesman for the Anglican Network in Canada, said today, “It will have no major effect on us at all because the reasons why we found it necessary to separate ourselves from the Anglican Church of Canada would not be fulfilled by going in this direction.”
Additionally, it is believed that the strongly anti-papal, protestant or “evangelical” wing of the Anglican Communion – the sections that are strongest in Africa where the Anglican churches are thriving – will not be interested in the Vatican's offer. Evidence of this came Wednesday with the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukhala, telling the press his branch of the Anglican Communion is not interested.
Responses are coming from around the world with more enthusiasm, however.
The two “flying bishops,” appointed to oversee the conservative elements in the Church of England, Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet and Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough, issued a statement saying they “warmly welcome” the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution. While some Anglicans, they said, will wish to remain in the Anglican Communion, others “will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land.”
The two bishops visited the Vatican in 2008, following the decision of General Synod of the Church of England to ordain female bishops, saying they were concerned that “the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart.”
“We appealed to the Holy Father for help and have patiently awaited a reply.” This Apostolic Constitution, they said, is what they have waited for.
The UK's Forward in Faith (FIF) said the numbers of Anglicans swimming the Tiber could be significant in Britain. “It could well be a flood, provided the terms and conditions are favorable,” said director Stephen Parkinson yesterday. He said that as many as 1,000 Anglican ministers in Britain could convert under the Vatican's provisions that would allow them to be ordained as Catholic priests even if they are married.
The Anglican bishop of Fulham and chairman of FIF, John Broadhurst, hailed the move, saying his group has “frequently expressed hope and fervent desire” for “Anglican Catholics to be enabled by some means to enter into full communion with the See of Peter.”
“We rejoice that the Holy Father intends now to set up structures within the Church which respond to this heartfelt longing. Forward in Faith has always been committed to seeking unity in truth and so warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England.”
It was announced today that 500 clerics of Forward in Faith will be in London this weekend to discuss the Pope's offer.
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage: