Is a Vatican decision on a full-communion request from the Traditional Anglican Communion coming after the upcoming Lambeth Conference?
WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - In October of 2007 the College of Bishops for the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) unanimously decided to seek communion with the Roman Catholic Church and dispatched a letter to the Vatican verbalizing their request.
According to Bishop John Hepworth, Primate of the TAC, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith received the official letter cordially when it was presented.
On Friday, David Virtue reported on Virtueonline.com that the Church of England Newspaper learned from Rome that decision concerning the TAC might come sometime after the Lambeth Conference, which will be held July 16 - August 3, 2008.
Speculation has been that the decision to wait until after the conference came from the recent talks held between the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. The Archbishop, however, has stated clearly that the issue of the TAC did not even come up in their conversation.
While the letter has been delivered from the Traditional Anglican Communion, no formal dialog currently exists between the TAC and the Congregation for Promoting Christian Unity - one of the main ecumenical arms of the Church. Further, no actual response from the Vatican to the TAC has been confirmed, leaving many to suspect that the TAC may be getting ahead of itself on how quickly such a request will be acted upon.
The imminence of a decision by Rome has been heralded on more than one occasion since last October underscoring the success with which the TAC is moving forward. These previous rumors and news articles circulating the web and diocesan newspapers did not prove accurate.
Various interpretations exist as to how this union would work out, but the basic request from the TAC involves full communion while maintaining their structure and liturgies as Anglo-Catholics.
One major sticking point for many who have reviewed the initiative is the request for "sui juris" (lit: "of one's own right") classification, which means that the bishops would maintain their authority and rights of their churches.
Those who have been watching this process unfold from the Catholic side indicate that the idea of maintaining the current polity and leaders of the Traditional Anglican Communion would be an unusual concession for many reasons, not the least of which is the issue of married bishops. "While a married priesthood is not unknown in the Church," one priest commented, "a married Episcopate is not found in either Orthodoxy or the Catholic Church."
In surveying of a number of blogs, even those within the Traditional Anglican Communion are not exactly clear on the process or end result. Some indicated that they would not be "absorbed but united" with the Church, so they really wouldn't be converting to the Roman Catholic Faith.
Still others see a fully formed Anglican Rite quite similar to the Eastern Rite Byzantines or Melkites. While yet another set of voices still take issue with some essential Catholic doctrines and dogmas, indicating that they are not yet sure about the whole idea of full communion.
The Traditional Anglican Communion was formed in 1990 by twelve groups from the "Continuing Church Movement" of separated Anglicans, with Archbishop Louis Falk, of the Anglican Church in America, elected as the first primate. Archbishop John Hepworth, of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia, succeeded him as Primate in 2002. Currently, the Communion has over 400,000 members.
Those churches, which currently constitute the TAC, include:
• The Anglican Church in Southern Africa - Traditional Rite
• The Church of Umzi Wase Tiyopia (Africa)
• The Continuing Anglican Church in Zambia
• The Anglican Church in America
• The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada
• The Missionary Diocese of Central America
• The Missionary Diocese of Puerto Rico
• The Anglican Church of India
• The Orthodox Church of Pakistan
• The Nippon Kirisuto Sei Ko Kai (Japan)
• The Anglican Catholic Church of Australia
• The Church of Torres Strait (Australia)
• The Traditional Anglican Church (England)
• The Church of Ireland - Traditional Rite
This is only a small number of those denominations that currently exist and claim an Anglican heritage yet no official connection to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion.
The Messenger Journal of the Traditional Anglican Communion published a letter sent to TAC people and Roman Catholics in several countries, which also contained excerpts from their letter from Rome:
Seventeen years ago, just after a group of Anglican refugees had banded together as the "Traditional Anglican Communion", its leaders met in Rome to talk unity with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
On 9th October last I returned to Rome with Bishops Mercer and Wilkinson... This time we met with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body appointed by the Holy See to receive applications for "Corporate Reunion" from churches that are not in Communion with the Holy See.
This time, we carried to the Holy See a letter signed by the Bishops and Vicars General of the Traditional Anglican Communion in the venerable church of Saint Agatha in Portsmouth, England, where we had just completed a powerful Plenary Meeting.
The letter rehearses the long and frustrating history of attempts to unite (in the words of Paul VI) the "church of Rome and the church of Canterbury". It dwells on the reaction of those who dreamed that at last Anglicans were to become "Anglican Catholics" as the Anglican Communion took step after step to distance itself from the unity that had been promised.
(From the letter to Rome)
"a worldwide community of Anglican Christians has united under the name "The Traditional Anglican Communion" for three main purposes:
To identify, reaffirm and consolidate in its community the elements... conduct that mark the Church of Christ...
To seek as a body full and visible communion, particularly eucharistic communion, in Christ, with the Roman Catholic Church..
To achieve such communion while maintaining those revered traditions... that constitute the cherished and centuries-old heritage of Anglican communities throughout the world
On acceptance of the ministry of the bishop of Rome:
We accept the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, which is a ministry of teaching and discerning the faith and a "perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity" and understand this ministry is essential to the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
On acceptance of the catholic faith
"We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church..."
And their appeal to the Church
"Driven by these realizations, which we must now in good conscience bring to the attention of the Holy See, we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment. We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve."
Anglican-Roman unity is not a new idea. In 1966 Archbishop Michael Ramsey met with Pope Paul VI to begin dialog at the Basilica of St. Paul Beyond the Walls. As a sign of the desire for unity the Pope took his papal ring and put it on the finger of Michael Ramsey. He also called the Anglican Communion "our dear sister church" and talked of Anglicanism being "united not absorbed."
The 1968 Lambeth Conference affirmed the Archbishop's actions and the work of the new Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission. In the years since, however, the Anglican Communion has moved too far afield in women's ordination and other issues for the work of unity to continue.
The TAC may be picking up where earlier Anglicans have left off.
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