I have been following with interest the development of the Anglican Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict XVI as a way for Anglo-Catholics to enter into full communion with Rome and yet retain many of their distinctive Anglican traditions. As new members continue to filter into this newly created ordinariate the big question will be: What does the future hold for this “church within the Church”? Is this a permanent structure that will grow and thrive within the Catholic Church, or a temporary bridge that will be assimilated and eventually disappear as it outlives its usefulness?
“The ordinariate could develop in a very different and exciting direction. The way to understand this more dynamic possibility is to see the ordinariate as a new bridge across the Tiber for a whole range of Protestant Christians. Already, conservative, liturgically minded Lutherans are asking why there isn’t a Lutheran ordinariate, while some of them point to the formal intercommunion that already exists between Lutherans and Anglicans and argue that the Anglican ordinariate should naturally be open to Lutherans as well.
“And if Lutherans may come across the ordinariate bridge, why not Methodists? After all, Methodism was founded as a schism from Anglicanism. Could not conservative, liturgically minded Methodists also find their way “home to Rome” through the Anglican ordinariate?
“For this to happen, the Anglican ordinariate will have to be flexible, and the members will have to see their mission not simply as one of conservation of a venerable patrimony but one of evangelization and outreach. The signs that this is the spirit of the ordinariate are already very positive. First of all, those who have joined the ordinariate have truly left everything to become Catholics. The Anglican bishops, priests, and people have turned their back on their parsonages, palaces, parish churches, and pension plans. They have set out with a true missionary spirit, and the sort of men and women who are willing to take such a step of faith will bring that same enthusiasm to the task of helping the ordinariate be the structure for ecumenical evangelization that it should be.”
There are already Anglican-convert priests within the Catholic Church who head thriving congregations of fellow converts filled with the evangelical zeal that would be necessary for the ordinariate to move in this exciting direction. If this sort of zeal does ignite within the ordinariate as it has within these pockets of converts, then the ordinariate is set to take off in a big way. This presents a completely new approach for evangelizing Protestants:
“There are many well-educated and thoughtful Christians who are very interested in the historic Faith. Many are disenchanted with mainstream Evangelicalism and are searching for a church rooted in history. They long for a church that is liturgical, that has a deep spirituality. When they leave their Evangelical churches and search for something more, their first stop is usually the Episcopal or Lutheran churches. They soon find that these churches are chest-deep in the whole liberal and radical agenda, so they sadly depart.
“If these Evangelical pilgrims summon the courage to overcome their deeply ingrained anti-Catholic prejudice and go to their local Catholic parish, they find that it is either as liberal and trendy as the Episcopalians, or that there are cultural and devotional obstacles that they find difficult to overcome. Even if they come to agree with Catholic doctrine and are received into the Church, they are still aware of the large cultural gap between the Protestantism they were brought up on and the Catholic Church they have joined.
“What they are looking for is a church that holds to the fullness of Catholic doctrine and practice but has some of the practical strengths of Evangelical congregations. If these sincerely searching Evangelical Christians could find a church that was fully Catholic and yet offered a liturgy and structure that felt traditionally Anglican, they would immediately feel at home.”
While it is interesting to watch the current excitement surrounding the Anglican Ordinariate as it emerges on the scene, the real excitement will come as we see what is in store for the future of this new endeavor. This may be the beginning of a whole new bridge to conversion for many of our separated brethren.
Read the whole article here.