The Very Revd Jared Cramer is the rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan. He is the author of the book Safeguarded by Glory: Michael Ramsey’s Ecclesiology and the Struggles of Contemporary Anglicanism, published by Lexington Books. He blogs at http://www.stjohnsepiscopal.com/blog/.
For several weeks now there have been stories and opinion in the media about the resignation of five Anglican bishops who intend to join the proposed Ordinariates in the Roman Catholic Church along with fifty Anglican priests who intend the same. Many on the right say the Anglican Communion will only see more of these defections, particularly if the Church of England continues to move forward with the consecration of women to the episcopate and the Episcopal Church continues to move forward with affirming the gifts of its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) members. Many on the left rush to make clear that this is no large-scale defection, but that these bishops and priests existed on the edge of the Anglican Communion and their departure carries little significance.
What is lost in the midst of all the opinion and statements offered by various groups in the church is the ecumenical and ecclesiological implications of this movement. In particular, it may be helpful for a moment to consider this development in light of the approach to Anglicanism articulated by Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1973. Ramsey is not only well-respected by both liberals and conservatives within contemporary Anglicanism, he likely has had more significance than any other person on modern ecumenical relations between Anglicanism and other Christian traditions. It was Ramsey who oversaw the creation of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). It was Ramsey who had fought so mightily for the union of English Methodism with the Church of England. And it was to Ramsey that Pope Paul VI gave his own episcopal ring, back in days when relations between the two traditions were somewhat warmer.
The immediate ecumenical and ecclesiological disappointment with the Ordinariate is the way in which it was crafted. It could have been put together in conversation between the two traditions, acknowledging that Anglicanism has its own fair share of former Roman Catholic priests as well. The movement of the dissatisfied from one tradition to another rarely bears much ecumenical fruit. Ramsey himself, though cautious about matters like women’s ordination, strongly opposed the idea of leaving Anglicanism over it. He saw such a movement for what it is: a continuing fruit of the schism which wounds the body of Christ. Had the Ordinariate been crafted in conversation with authorities in the Anglican Communion, it could have been a mutual statement that recognized the gifts of the two traditions and was also honest about the disagreements. It could have clarified the path which exists both between Canterbury and Rome and vice versa while setting those paths in the context of growing unity between the two traditions.
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