If we are to be an international church, then why not go Roman?

Lucas Mix, a college chaplain at the University of Arizona, raises a very good question on his blog. It seems that the Anglican Communion is in the midst of deciding for itself if it is to be an international body or a family of national autocephalous churches. The arc of the actions that were initiated with the Virginia Report back in 1997 and leading through to Windsor compliance commission of today would seem to indicate that we are moving in the international direction.

Yet, as Lucas points out, there’s an implication to the international track that not many have mentioned:

“And herein lies the rub for Rowan Williams. He can either choose for national autonomy or for an international church, and I would respect either choice. If he chooses national autonomy he has no right to tell the Episcopal Church (USA) or any other Anglican province how, who, or in what manner they can choose bishops. As a man appointed by Parliament, he looks mighty silly claiming authority over an elected American Primate. Archbishop Williams may or may not choose to allow Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori to preach in his jurisdiction, but he cannot stand in judgment of her consecration.

If, alternatively, he chooses an international church, he has no right to call himself an Archbishop. John Henry Newman became famous for leaving the Church of England for Rome. The belief in an international church leads one, in the end, to recognize the largest and oldest church (in the West) as the central authority. Rowan Williams only has authority as the Archbishop of Canterbury because he thinks the British Parliament gives him that right. Thus Mr. Williams is free to believe in the international church, but it makes of him a Roman Catholic layman, and not an Archbishop.

Mr. Williams seems to have forgotten that his power as head of the Anglican communion rests squarely on national autonomy. Apparently he has also forgotten that he has a freedom of conscience, for his decisions as head of the communion are utterly at odds with what he published as a theologian (when he was actively and famously pro-gay). I hope he comes to his senses soon. I hope he realizes what it means to be an Anglican. The alternative, for him and for many others, can only be a hierarchical international church that lacks the wealth, history, prestige, complexity, and numbers of the Roman Catholic Church. Our true heritage and our Divine gift has always been national autonomy, theological diversity, and the ability to disagree with one another. Otherwise, we’re just disobedient Romans.”

Read the full post here.

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