What Just Happened? Church of Rome Reaches Out to Church of England

It is very difficult to look at current events and predict with any reliability that what is happening now will certainly have long term implications and historical significance.

It is quite possible that the events of the past few days concerning the scope and plan of the Roman Catholic Church towards dissidents in the Church of England may be the most significant religious event in the past 475 years. It is almost certainly so for those two communions; it could well have significant effect for other Protestants.

There are several things that are clear.

One – Rome has never made concessions of this scale before. Embracing thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, into the Roman church, but allowing them to maintain their own (married) priests and at least some of their own rituals. The most significant thing held back was the requirement that Bishops in this communion must be celibate.

Two – the issue of allowing women to be ordained is most certainly the straw. While much of the writing on the topic focuses on the approval of an openly gay Bishop in the Episcopal Church of America and other portions of the worldwide Anglican communion making similar gestures if not laws, it is the threat of female ordained clergy that brought Rome to take action. And this says more about Rome than it does about Anglicans.

The Roman Catholic Church is under great pressure internally to allow some minimal movement towards ordaining those who serve as ‘religious’ (as they refer to women in ministry), the move to embrace Anglicans who want to leave their connections over the dual issues of homosexual and female clergy make it clear that Rome is not open to any movement in those areas.

Three – the churches and individuals who make the move to Rome must claim adherence to ALL Catholic doctrine. While there may be a relaxation on forms and practices, there is no relaxation on doctrine. And it is probably a truism that this will not detract many who want to make the move. Our generation holds the importance of certain moral behavior well above the importance of doctrinal truth.

And it is at this point that all Protestants must take note. For it is when we begin to make certain moral behaviors of higher importance that sound, Biblical doctrine that we begin the slippery slope.

Case in point – the NAE’s recent position paper on the moral behavior of dealing with illegal aliens in the U.S. While I do not for one minute deny the importance of settling this issue in a biblical and humane way, to do so at the risk of breaking apart an association of Protestant churches that have held to essential theological truths for 67 years shows that far too many church leaders are dismissing the importance of sound doctrine. We must be careful.

Let me encourage readers of The Aquila Report to remain up to date on what is happening in the Rome-Anglican world. Below I have put links to seven different commentaries that have been written in the past 24 hours – seven of the best out of hundreds that are out on the web right now.

Whatever just happened, this is big!

by Don K. Clements