Thousands have swum the river in both directions

By Daniel J. Webster

In a recent move to Baltimore I unearthed the October 5, 1973 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. I was a stringer for the paper then when TV news in Phoenix didn’t pay much. I even had a part time job teaching religion at a local Catholic high school. My ministry included playing guitar at Sunday night masses at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale.

Finding this particular issue of NCR not only flooded me with memories (my byline was on page two) but propelled me into the present. On page one was the notice that John Cogley had become an Episcopalian. Cogley was a former executive editor of Commonweal, an NCR columnist and well known Catholic author and journalist.

His migration, I later discovered, is fondly referred to by those who keep score as “swimming the Thames”—the description for Catholics who become Episcopalians. Those going the other way “swim the Tiber.” These expressions acknowledge the two rivers next to seats of ecclesiastical authority of both branches of Christ’s “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”

My move to Baltimore came at the calling of the Episcopal bishop to join his staff as canon for evangelism and ministry development. I swam the Thames nearly 20 years ago, went to the Seminary of the Southwest, and was ordained nearly six years later. And so recent events have caused friends, old and new, to ask for my reactions.

The Vatican’s recent establishment of an ordinariate to make it easier on disaffected Anglicans/Episcopalians to return to Rome hit home in my diocese when Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church and its 24 voting members announced they were swimming the Tiber. (Negotiations on separation continue). Around the same time a handful of Church of England bishops announced they were leaving for Rome. The British media seem to be keeping the scorecard on this latest swimming meet.

The list of those who’ve made the swim in the past 450 years is exhaustive. Last September on his visit to England, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, described by some as the most important Anglican convert to Rome. (Cardinal Newman was added to The Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints in 2009. Feb. 21 is his feast day). One of my heroes, Bede Griffiths, a Church of England priest who became a Roman Catholic Benedictine, lived out his life in a Christian ashram in India. He has inspired many who see Christian meditation as a way to change the world.

This swim meet can get crowded at times. Fr. Alberto Cutie made headlines in 2009 when the Spanish language TV talk-show star became an Episcopalian. So did Matthew Fox in 1994 when his creation spirituality teachings got him in hot water with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. When I asked the bishop who received Fox into the Episcopal Church about how many inquiries he had gotten from Roman priests during his 20-plus year episcopate, he said it was about one a month. To him it was understandable, since he thought the Episcopal Church had become the church Vatican II had envisioned. That ecumenical council profoundly changed the Episcopal Church and shaped the liturgy we use in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer. In the past 40 years Sunday worship has migrated from a predominant Morning Prayer service to the celebration of Holy Eucharist.

Baltimore is arguably the seat of Roman Catholicism in this country. I am one of millions formed by the Baltimore Catechism during childhood. I’ve been taught by Jesuits, Dominicans, Carmelites and Holy Ghost fathers. I embrace Pope Leo XIII’s stand for workers’ rights in Rerum Novarum and regret his invalidation of Anglican/Episcopal holy orders. I champion (and preach) Paul VI’s proclamation of Jesus’s “preferential option for the poor” and regret his undermining of Vatican II and promulgation of Humanae Vitae.

There are hundreds more, lay and ordained, who make the journey from one communion to the other without fanfare. I am still Catholic and will always be. I’m no longer Roman Catholic. I think Jesus wants me to be where I can most effectively at live out his Gospel.

The late John Cogley’s words in that 1973 NCR could speak for many who’ve swum either river either way: “I do not look upon this move as a ‘conversion’ since I have not changed any of the beliefs I formerly held. Rather, it is a matter of finding my proper spiritual home.”

The Rev. Canon Daniel J. Webster is canon for evangelism and ministry development in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. This article first appeared in the June issue of Episcopal Journal.

Denominations in decline in the UK

By Adrian Worsfold

I found the recent address to the Church of England General Synod by "David and Richard", clerical President and lay Vice President of the Methodist Conference, bizarrely childish. It was a presentation, one to the other and back again, much about basics of Methodism that many a Synod member should be aware, that is reminiscent of one of the awful methods of delivery given to trainee teachers in the manner that this is how it should be done to children in the classroom.

Beyond that was a basic message that Methodism in Britain would self destruct for higher ecumenical purposes, and not simply because of thoroughgoing decline.

I know about thoroughgoing decline in British religion, if only because I have returned to a denomination that started small and now has undergone structural faults at its central serving institutions. It has had to become more sparing and flexible, whilst interesting aspects are noted about how congregations hitting the floor do actually recover, over short periods, some even going on to prosper in comparative terms. When congregations decline that have continued on as doggedly sub-cultural, as sort-of-Protestants full of rules of process and cliques, they suddenly at a point of desperation learn to value the visitor, find flexibility, distribute roles and contributions, cut the little hierarchies, and use the unpredicted Internet to advertise an unconditional liberal unique selling point that relates to today's issues of new denominational identity. A congregation that sets its mind to the task can, with some luck and geographical fortune, turn itself around even in the tough environment of British non-involvement in churches. Well, if it doesn't it closes, and that's that.

Other denominations are much larger, and have always been so. The Methodists are one of the largest after the Church of England. The problem is that its attending population is top-heavy, and populations collapse in percentage terms. It has had an active policy of closing and disposing of unwanted chapels, but proportionately it can end up with one chapel per town (or less) as easily as the smallest denomination. Once the percentage decline hits the bottom, it hits the bottom. People die pretty much at once, no matter what the number.

Religious Trends used a survey in 2005 that demonstrated that a 4 million at least monthly attendance then would drop to under a million by 2050, a figure just about reached by Hindus (doubling in number) with nearly three times as many Muslim attenders as Christians. The reality of such a decline (should it come about) is that denominations will simply structurally collapse.

It is interesting how in Scotland there are continuous mergers taking place among so called mainline or reasonably moderate Protestant groups ('mainline' is a nonsense term these days - they are all tiny minorities) so that there will be the United Reformed Church (URC) and Church of Scotland there, but the URC is imploding already and establishment doesn't do a great deal for the Church of Scotland. The Scottish Episcopal Church is already quite tiny.

The decline is not helped by a few successful and somewhat deluded media churches, dotted here and there, nor even by the odd successful suburban church. Go to Bradford where evangelical churches struggle, because there is one media church that acts as a kind of vacuum cleaner over what's left.

One has to ask what is the unique selling point of Methodism, or the URC for that matter. Well, British Methodism has the uniqueness that its missing bishops are in its Conference. Whoopee, that'll attract them in. It does have an increased lay involvement, and rotates ministers on short contracts for little pay and increasing stress. Or take the URC, which preserves the notion that there are two rather than three orders of ministry. I bet that makes a difference. The URC is the merging of Scottish Presbyterians sent into England (most once Calvinist English Presbyterians became Unitarian) and Congregationalists (many of whom credally had resisted the liberal drift) that has since carried out more mergers, including into Scotland. The fact is that all these denominations were set up according to old arguments at the time, many of which have ceased to be relevant, many of which are now mergers waiting to merge again. The collapse of the Sunday school movement, or connections between church choirs and schools, has meant that there is no basic Christian memory across the population, never mind debate on the finer points of dividing up denominations.

Suggested figures by 2050 are just 3,600 churchgoing Methodists left, Anglicans at 87,800, Catholics at 101,700, Presbyterians (URC etc.)diminshed to 4,400, Baptists to 123,000 and independents to 168,000. Whilst big pinches of salt are needed for all such predictions (the Catholic figures included many Polish immigrants who have already gone home!), nevertheless the question has to be asked about what these denominations are for.

The Catholic Church knows what to do regarding Europe and the West. It is going on a mop-up operation to find and bring across remnants and others in different denominations sympathetic to itself, that can also bolster its conservative identity. It wants to be purer, if smaller, but it will take the Anglicans available and whatever other small groups exist. It makes sense - it also tackles its chronic clergy training shortage. It is amazing how rapidly Catholicism collapses after liberations as in Poland and, before it, Spain. Protestantism in East Germany, that allowed at least some popular democratic training under communism, is rapidly vanishing too.

It is because Methodists came from the Church of England and have 'missing bishops' that they can contemplate coming back into the Church from which they were ejected. On the other hand, as High Methodism (as in the Wesleyan denomination) is now pretty much defunct, some of the Anglican hierarchical and (even) liberal-Catholic tendencies might be too much of a cuture shock. A local group to which I present papers diverted its discussion to this issue recently, and no matter which way around the ecumenism would go, it all came down to adding a Methodist style extra service in the local Anglican church until it died out. Indeed, up and down the land, ecumenism would add up to one denomination's building hosting the other's service until one or the other approach died out with a bigger council and clergy numbers for the time being. And despite the five minutes extra walk, we said that the beginning of the ecumenical arrangement would involve a proprtion of the people using the transition as the moment to stop their attendance altogether.

But there is another point. Which Methodists would join with which Anglicans? The Anglicans are undergoing a kind of internal war, with the inheritors of the Oxford Movement leaving and the evangelicals taking on the liberal-Catholics for legitimacy. Liberal Methodists already get on with liberal Anglicans, and the same happens with evangelicals. Where there is a division in a town, as between, say, an evangelical Methodist church and a liberal-Catholic Anglican church, the ecumenism tends to be rather light and occasional at best - a sort of good wishes and a once a year dutiful mixing. The same divisions are within the URC and Baptists.

No matter which way one looks at it, the denominations will find their bureaucracies starting to cave in - too expensive and bloated for what is below. Perhaps with the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic wing bust and exported, the Anglicans will be able to absorb the Methodists. Perhaps, instead of a takeover, Methodists might merge with the URC and continue to sell-off plant and machinery more rigorously. Whatever may be the theological justification for structural ecumenism, or may be the resistances from old purist points of view, the fact is that the elephant in the room is the chronic decline going on now - and obvious just by looking around - and therefore effectively the ending of many once important but now unimportant traditions in the religious life of the United Kingdom.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

The failed ecclesiology of Rowan Williams

By Adrian Worsfold

Let's do a round up of recent worldwide Anglican history to the present.

We have an Archbishop of Canterbury who brought his High Church identity into his job, along with his form of narrative theology, and was thought to have skills relating himself to contemporary society and social movements.

He headed a Church of England in the middle of an identity crisis, as one school, the Evangelicals, thought they were on a takeover trip, where the Liberals' ability to handle the middle and keep relatively quiet was coming undone, much because the Catholic traditionalists were defeated on female ordination and looked to be finished regarding female bishops. No longer a triangle, it was Evangelicals versus the Liberals.

The Archbishop then started on his quest to answer a question from Rome always put, that is, 'What is Anglicanism?' Williams's answer was to use the crisis now around the Evangelical's issue of homosexuality, which gave them some third world ballast and international power-leverage, to build a worldwide Anglican identity more like a Church than a Communion. Whilst he and successors could not be a pope, he could have Instruments of Communion.

He decided that actual Anglican Churches were "local" Churches. A "local" Anglican Church would recognise another "local" Church by its slavishness to a more or less fundamentalist use of the Bible, especially when it came to ecclesiastical ethics, like homosexuality. This Reformed or Protestant recognition would then have, in its difficulties and disputes, a Catholic solution, in terms of bishops in dioceses running up to him, bypassing the "local" Churches except as it related to the Instruments: him, bishops all gathered together, prelates gathered together, and the only representative body in any sense, the Anglican Consultative Council. Presently, let's be clear, there is no international seat of authority, other than friendliness and getting togetherness, but under a Covenant there would be a description of a process of dispute resolution that involved describing these instruments of international authority. Thus Anglicanism would be a Reformed or Protestant believer's fellowship in that strained biblical way, but then its authority would be vertical going up the Catholic pole.

Forcing the Covenant through, and that almost has meant through hell and high water, he could then take his Covenant result to his mate Benedict, and answer the Roman question 'What is Anglicanism?'

However, while the Archbishop used homosexuality this way, and did so to the shocking extent of being able to mouth that no one who is homosexual could represent Anglicanism in any ministry, the Pope, his friend, was looking at women and bishops and saying that no one who is female can be a bishop and taking a view that the Church of England is the central Anglican Church.

The Church of England General Synod made it clear that women will become bishops. It is when, not if. It decided that diocesan bishops, men and women, could decide provision for those who were awkward about accepting women sacramentally. A committee then decided that this would be done by statute instead, bypassing the diocesan, but certainly not by having new non-geographical dioceses. But everyone knows that the Synod, barring amazing elections of the reactionaries, would overturn the committee and reinstall the diocesan principle. We know by the previous General Synod, which decided on, at best, a diocesan code of practice, that the Archbishop of Canterbury bellyached about the traditionalists, despite the fact that they were digging their own grave, or building their own ark to go across the Tiber or perhaps the Bosphorous or some other world cruise.

But now Benny has pulled the rug from under him and stuck the knife in. Before Rowan Williams can go to Rome with a Covenant on a silver tray, before some 'solution' can be made regarding women bishops, Benny has done what he wants. He could have waited three or five years, which is nothing in Roman Catholic timing, though plenty for his stage in life.

What a humiliation for Rowan Williams to have to sit next to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and make sweet ecumenical noises. What a climb down that Williams has (again in Curia style, as it must 'fall to him') to write to "the Bishops of the Church of England, and the members of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion" that this is:

...in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression'.

The humiliation is evident in the statement also there to say:

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage.

That's because, while he regards the Pope as the boss, and has welcomed the Pope's visit to these shores next year in the usual grovelling terms (the "joy" of "all" Anglicans), the Pope obviously regards him as insignificant - not worthy of advance notice of an action that basically and potentially takes traditionalist Catholic priests en masse out of his Church and short circuits the female bishops decision making and the whole matter of the Covenant and Anglican identity.

Williams has shown himself to be run around by every group except the one with whom he was mistakenly identified; by his actions he has separated out ecclesiastical rights from human rights, and has become complicit in the actions of African prelates and civil authorities against gay people; he has turned Church life into a form of isolated ecclesiastical bureaucracy; he has made a joke of critical theology and Biblical study when it comes to Church authority, and now for all this overturning of Anglican sensibilities for the greater goal he has been humiliated by Rome.

Everything he has stood for and acted upon, everything he has done, has now been overturned. The Roman Church simply no longer recognises any Anglican authority now: For Rome, the identity of Anglicanism has been reduced: now just a 'tradition' and hardly even, any more, an 'ecclesiastical community'. Williams's Catholic fantasy has been underlined by the sheer power brokering of Rome.

Well, for the Church of England, the way is clear for women as bishops as well as men. The only thing that will continue resistance by traditionalist Catholic clergy is the loss of their monthly payment in the bank. They'll have to have the courage of their convictions regarding empty pockets, when they swim off or take the boat trip, but they have the systematic getaway option now. Any 'getting paid' reasoning for resistance won't go very far. Secondly, the whole wider purpose of the Covenant is dead: already wilting, the Pope has given it a good kicking as, essentially, a waste of time (which it is).

Incidentally, the Anglican Church of North America won't stay in one piece: the two extremes of Protestant and Catholic had no middle ground to smooth the way, and now the Catholic end has its true goal in sight of running off to Rome. Wrecking the 'orthodox' Anglican breakaway suits Rome: it suits Rome to have, in its eyes, all of Anglicanism either Protestant and/or unacceptable - not even an ecclesiastical community.

There are some extreme evangelicals for whom the Covenant has been just a tactic to get one over The Episcopal Church. They've never been committed to it. The only ones that have been positive have been a small bunch of verbose essayists with their foghorn 'leader' in the present Bishop of Durham. They are all undermined as well. They saw the Covenant as a way of maintaining a worldwide fellowship and an additional structural unity, but the structural unity is bust and the rest is dispersed without it.

There is one good thing about what the Pope has done, in short-circuiting all the agony of Anglicanism. He will bring this Covenant nonsense to a quicker conclusion regarding its failure; he will get females as bishops in the Church of England cleaner and should be quicker; he will make it more obvious that Anglican ecumenism lies with the Old Catholics and the Lutherans and with Protestant denominations; and he might just persuade Rowan Williams to end his disastrous period in Anglican office by resignation sooner than would have been the case when his imposition of his pet project fell to pieces.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

Invitation and exclusion

By Kathleen Staudt

Several weekends ago, I spent a refreshing and prayerful time on retreat at Holy Cross Abbey, a Cistercian monastery near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. As one might expect in an atmosphere infused with the monastic tradition, I felt thoroughly welcomed and quieted, and was nourished by the opportunity offered to enter what T.S. Eliot called “time not our time. In the one conversation I had with a monk, I was reminded of the Cistercian devotion both to prayer and to the intellectual life, two parts of myself that I’ve been a long time in bringing together. (A favorite book title of mine, about the monastic tradition, is called The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. I think that does describe something important about my vocation).

Sure of the divine welcome in the place (and of creation’s welcome, among the meadow flowers, birds and mountain scenery), I became vividly aware on Sunday of the obstacles to welcome that still exist in a church that is still far from the unity for which Jesus prayed. As a Roman Catholic order, the Cistercians abide by a discipline that limits participation in Eucharist to Catholics. I knew this. I knew I could present myself for Eucharist and no one would speak or object, but I was interested in the way that the non-invitation to Eucharist was worded. “The Catholic bishops do not allow us to invite non-Catholic Christians to receive Eucharist. We ask that you respect the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church and join us in prayer for the unity of all Christians, for whom our Lord Jesus prayed on the night before he died.”

My own operative theology is scandalized at the idea of excluding anyone from Eucharist, believing that we go at Christ’s invitation, rather than at the invitation of a human community, however organized or faithful. And the careful wording of the placard I’ve just quoted suggested to me that whoever wrote it might even share the same operative theology. I’m certainly glad that the Episcopal Church has pushed back against any statement that would begin “The Anglican Communion does not allow us to invite. . . . " But there was also in this sad non-invitation a solid piece of truth-telling that I appreciated. I was grateful to the community for honestly naming the brokenness. It caused me to experience, as I have not before, what it is to be excluded from a rite that is our central expression of belonging. It was wrong. But it was true to how things are in the Church for whom Jesus prayed, and died.

So, I accepted, and learned from, the invitation to “join us in prayer for the unity of all Christians, for whom our Lord Jesus prayed on the night before he died.” As people lined up to receive the Body and Blood, I remained kneeling, praying fervently and deeply for the unity of a broken church, the whole church catholic, Anglican, orthodox, whatever our sad divisions may be. I heard in my heart snatches of hymns: “Bid thou our sad divisions cease/ And be thyself our king of peace. . . . . “ “By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.” It was a rich, full and genuine participation, in its way – a sharing in the broken heart of Christ, in the midst of the assembly. I wouldn’t want to make a habit of this way of prayer. But at least on this day, it was an unexpected gift.

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

Renouncing the quest for the Holy Grail

(Through Labor Day, the Daily Episcopalian will be the every-other-daily Episcopalian.)

By George Clifford

Now is the time to bury the ancient shibboleth of Anglican – Roman Catholic unity permanently.

Reunification with the Church of Rome offers much to the Anglican Communion that is admittedly very attractive:
• Anglicanism traces its historical roots back to Jesus through the Roman Church;
• Unmatched global reach and influence;
• Liturgical forms and ecclesiastical traditions similar to Anglicanism.

Most importantly, scripture and theology exhort us to unity within the body of Christ. The Anglican Communion could take no greater step towards achieving that unity than reunification with Rome, whether reunification took the form of reincorporating Anglican Churches into the Roman Catholic Church or a form similar to the Episcopal-Evangelical Lutheran concordat on intercommunion and sharing of ministries.

However, the Church of Rome, confident that its leader, the successor to Peter, holds the keys to the kingdom, steadfastly insists that unity is possible only on its terms. That insistence has stalled reunification with the Orthodox Churches for centuries. I find many of Rome’s terms unacceptable and strongly suspect that a majority of Anglicans do as well. Six of the most objectionable aspects of any possible reunification include:

• Acknowledging papal primacy and authority, sharply departing from the historic Anglican policy of collective authority, e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury is first among equals in gatherings of Anglican bishops or primates;
• Honoring papal infallibility, extending even to doctrines not explicitly rooted in Scripture, e.g., the Immaculate Conception and bodily assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
• Excluding Christians not in communion with Rome from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion, implicitly conferring upon those Christians a second-class status within the body of Christ;
• Complying with the extensive corpus of Roman canon law, often substituting law for grace, e.g., in requiring annulment of a marriage before remarriage instead of emphasizing concern for healing and readiness for remarriage;
• Insisting on doctrinal and theological conformity instead of Anglican ambiguity, e.g., solving what Anglicans have left as the sure but mysterious working of grace in the Eucharist by mandating belief in transubstantiation;
• Substituting definitive ethical positions on a wide variety of issues, ranging from abortion to suicide, for the Anglican practice of an individual to follow his or her own conscience.
What would happen on other, important issues is unclear. For example, some rites within the Church of Rome, in contrast to the Roman rite, permit married priests (ecclesiastical discipline rather than theology gives the Roman Catholic Church its clerical celibacy). Would Anglicans have their own rite? Would a similar permission to marry extend to Anglican priests? Would Rome allow married Anglican bishops?

Recent, heavy-handed efforts by the Roman Catholic Church to influence the Church of England and the Anglican Communion emphasize the problems that reunification poses. In response to the Church of England’s 2008 General Synod voting to move forward with the ordination of women bishops, Rome communicated that this step would interpose an obstacle to reunification. Gender does not determine one’s identity as a child of God. Women deacons, priests, and bishops have given wonderful gifts and ministries to those Anglican provinces that ordain women. Rome’s informal communiqué suggests that Rome envisions the possibility of reunification with Anglicans by excluding provinces that ordain women or insisting that those women renounce the practice.

I, and probably most in the Episcopal Church, cannot imagine renouncing women clergy. Sentiment in the House of Bishops at the 2006 General Convention was that the Holy Spirit had clearly acted in the election of Bishop Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop. Have we in the Episcopal Church lived in apostasy since her installation? Do women bishops ordain inauthentic clergy? Do women priests administer invalid sacraments? We can only answer those questions with a resounding NO.

Before and during the 2008 Lambeth Conference, Roman Catholic leaders pointedly noted that any steps towards further acceptance of homosexual relationships or sex within the Anglican Communion would severely jeopardize ecumenical talks with Rome. That public message represents uninvited interference in the Anglican Communion’s internal affairs and an attempt to stifle healthy debate about the morality of human sexuality. The Episcopal Church required eighteen hundred years to affirm that slavery and Christianity are inherently incompatible. Similarly, the Episcopal Church required almost two thousands years to recognize the incompatibility of misogyny with Christianity. Part of the difficulty in our reaching both conclusions is the Bible’s conflicted witness, e.g., a prima facie reading of Scripture grants parents permission to sell a daughter into slavery and instructs us that only men should speak in church. Sadly, correctly discerning the mind of Christ often entails much controversy, conflict, and time. Stifling that discernment process – regardless of one’s views about the morality of homosexual sex and relationships – does nothing to clarify the mind of Christ.

When convenient, the Church of Rome ignores the reality that the papacy has repeatedly asserted that Anglican holy orders are invalid. No greater obstacle to reunification can exist. The rest of us need to recognize that Roman talk of Anglican actions creating additional barriers to reunification means nothing as long as Rome denies the validity of Anglican orders. I, for one, am neither willing to deny my priesthood nor to exchange my freedom of thought, the ministry of ordained women, and Anglican distinctives in order to become a Roman Catholic. Carefully considered, the “holy grail” of reunification with Rome, something that will happen only on Rome’s terms, is a cup of hemlock. Any Anglican who wishes to become part of the Roman Catholic Church can do so today by averring belief in Roman Catholic doctrine and receiving the sacrament of confirmation from a Roman bishop. To those who feel God calling them to make their faith journey in the Church of Rome, I offer my heartfelt best wishes and blessing. Anglicanism is not, and does not claim to be, the only or even the right Church for everyone; the Roman Catholic Church is a valued and historic member of the Church universal.

However, burying the shibboleth of reunification of Rome will give remaining Anglicans the unfettered freedom to live out our identity as Anglican Christians. The Anglican Communion has much to offer the Church of Rome, including our emphases on inclusivity, pastoral care, and praying together without having to believe together. Compromising our distinctive identity as part of the body of Christ to achieve reunification or recognition by the Church of Rome as an authentic branch of the Body of Christ is too high a price to pay.

The Rev. George Clifford, a retired priest in the Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years.

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