Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Seeking Unity with Rome: Traditional Anglican Communion’s Bishops hope for acceptance

In his famous Tractate entitled A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and how the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown, the most distinguished Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, deals with both the nature and status of the Church of Rome and its doctrine of Justification. He provides solid reasons for the secession from the Papacy and papal rule by the English Church and he demonstrates that the doctrine of Justification, set forth by the Council of Trent, is erroneous and not according with the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.

The reasons he gives why the Christian, seeking to be biblically based and obedient to Christ the Lord and Savior, must leave the Church of Rome are as applicable today as they were in 1586—especially since the present Papacy has during 2007 clearly affirmed that the doctrine and dogma of the Church of Rome remain what they were at and after the Council of Trent.

I commend the reading of this Tractate to all serious minded Anglicans. (See below for details of its availability.)

In the light of what Hooker and many after him wrote concerning the nature of the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way, and its rejection of the particular errors of Rome (connected with the Mass, Salvation by works, the Veneration of Images, the Cult of the BVM etc.) and in the light of the very clear teaching of the fundamental Formularies of the Anglican Way, with their rejection of the excesses of Romanist teaching, it is most strange that a whole group of Bishops from the Continuing Anglican Movement (having seceded from the Global Anglican Communion) should feel so confident about the orthodoxy and biblical basis of Roman Catholicism that they seek full communion with Rome—on Rome’s terms and according to Rome’s doctrine and dogma. See below for their official statement.

“The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.

+ John Hepworth, Archbishop.”

In reading this one wonders why, if these men are so sure that the Roman Way is totally superior to the Anglican Way, they are not already in the Roman Way—imitating the great John Henry Newman and many others, including some bishops (e.g., Bishop Pope) in the very recent past.

By hanging around on the periphery of the Anglican Way constantly talking of heading off, they make it difficult for those—and they are the majority—in the Continuing Churches who still desire to be faithful Anglicans in 2007.

If these Bishops believe that there is no integrity to the Anglican Way and that its only future is in the Roman Way then by all spiritual, rational and decent principles they ought surely to cross the Tiber now and find on the other side rest for their souls—and we wish them well in their voyage. But let them leave Anglicans to be Anglicans according to the principles of Biblical, Reformed Catholicism!

(For the Tractate, rendered into a simpler English than the original and under the title, Salvation and the Church of Rome, go to or send $7.50 to The Prayer Book Society, 100 E Avon Rd, Parkside, PA 19015 for a copy. There is a two for one offer to those who order through the mail.)

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007


Musicpaper said...

I can't respond to all of your points, but I have a couple of thoughts.

The first is that what the TAC is doing is not, by any means, something new. Especially during the period around Vatican II, but also before, there was a great deal of movement towards unity between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly the Archbishop of Canterbury would have never allowed anyone to tell him that he was giving up his Anglican identity! The idea was unity between churches, not being absorbed into the Roman Church. The same idea applied to discussions with Eastern Orthodox, which also bore much fruit, especially early in the 20th century. Unity among Christian churches does not necessarily mean giving up one's own identity. It certainly does not mean that to the TAC. That's why they have not become Roman Catholics.

Far more serious is the charge of Trent disagreeing with the Anglican Reformers. Well, perhaps it did. It certainly wasn't condemned by the Articles (written before Trent); in fact, there is some evidence that the Articles condemned (in some cases) theological beliefs that were also rejected at Trent.

You say that Trent is still the official faith of the Catholic Church. Yes, of course. But the doctrine of Trent is open to additional development at refinement by successive Popes and Councils. The Catholic Church is certainly not the same as it was in the Middle Ages. If it has come to a place where it can produce a common declaration on justification with Lutherans, that's something anyway.

Jesus himself prayed for the unity of the Church. This unity is not at the expense of truth, but can only be found in truth. But what does unity look like? The Anglican Communion no longer has unity. The continuing churches don't seem to have unity - despite having the truth.

What if unity is part of the truth we must defend, along with everything else?

1662 BCP said...

As an evangelical, who came to Anglicanism from the Eastern Orthodox and Roman traditions, I never did quite get why anglo-catholics never quite mustered the gumption to cross the Tiber, but constantly hoped for some back-door entrance while clinging to their offices and titles. From Rome's perspective, if they had to do it all over again, they wouldn't bother with uniates of any sort, they are too divisive. I doubt that they are interested in creating some new branch of uniatism anyway.

Michael said...

The reason who Rome has changed something of its views on uniate churches is partly because it hopes for a full scale reconciliation with Eastern Orthodox - there is a change in strategy perhaps, but the end goal would still be Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, not all Orthodox becoming Latin-rite Catholic, and not Orthodox remaining divided from Rome.

The other problem with uniatism, as it started out, was that the uniate churches were seen as having a rite and theology that was lower in value than that of Rome. Eastern Catholics were forced to Latinize their liturgy, and to base their theological education on western theology.

The climate today is quite a bit different, and Eastern Catholic believers now often describe themselves as "Orthodox in Communion with Rome". Thus, they are both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic, in communion with the Pope of Rome, but not Roman Catholic.

These Eastern Catholic churches often have many theological (not dogmatic) differences from Rome. They have a very different liturgy, a different culture and ethos. But they believe very strongly in the unity of the Catholic Church, and for that reason, they must be in communion together.

That, I think, best describes the view held by the TAC.

We have many differences from Roman Catholics (we have much in common with them as well!), but more important than any of that is our desire for unity between churches (not just for everybody to go off and swim the Tiber). We want to be Anglicans in communion with other Orthodox and Catholic Christians. We want genuine unity with legitimate diversity. Both of these are important.

As far as the offices and titles are concerned, I believe that the primate of the TAC has actually offered to resign his position, and all of the bishops are willing to be reconsecrated if necessary.