How can Anglicans and Catholics get together again?
by Philip Oltermann
Translation of German article
Proposals are being drawn-up in a 42 page document by an international commission for the unification of both churches. This however has little to do with the day-to-day reality of the Church of England.
Maybe the writers of the document should not have met in Tanzania but rather in the dreamy village of Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, because it is there that you can find a “local ecumenical partnership” (existing for 20 years) which is a church building which is used by both Anglicans and Catholics and this project was initiated in 1987 when the Catholic Church was closed for renovation works. The Anglican vicar Michael McAdam invited his Catholic colleague to use his church for a few months during the renovation works. From this experiment resulted a long-term co-operation. In fact, today, both present priests alternate services, the Revd Chris Boulton and Father Bob Styles, with much success.
“We are one family who are sharing a house. One only has to be careful not to get on one another’s nerves”
Is the Parish of Much Hadham a vision of the Anglican church for the future?
Archbishop Williams of Canterbury, Catholicism Light
This type of “flat sharing” is always cost-effective and for this reason it is of especial interest to the Anglicans.
Whilst the Catholic Church in England profits from the growth in immigration from Eastern Europe, the Church of England suffers from an acute fall in attendance. The Times prophesised only a week ago that soon there would be more practicising Catholics than Anglicans in the United Kingdom. The Church of England will have to make cuts. Already at this stage, there is only one vicar for several districts. Whilst Father Bob has only two parishes has only two parishes to look after, Revd Chris has to look after six simultaneously.
The Anglican parish is mostly more willing to make compromises than the Catholic in the church of Much Hadham. Bob Styles explains that shared worship is mostly “quasi-catholic”: Catholics are liturgically more disciplined and it would be rather awkward if one had to undertake each ritual observance twice. It is not difficult in these circumstances to recognise an identity crisis in the Church of England. One remembers the old proverb that Anglicanism is actually only Catholicism without a Pope.
Less than understanding from Anglican women
When Rowan Williams was chosen to be head of the Anglican church in 2003, he appeared to be completely in the tradition of Catholicism Light, in terms of being intellectual, rather liberal with English reserve. In his essay, “The Bodies’ Grace” , he argued for a more open attitude of the church, with respect to her homosexual members and he supported the application to be a bishop by the homosexual cleric, Jeffrey John. In view of the threatened division in the church, Williams withdrew his protecting hand and John lost his bishopric. Since then many think there is a more conservative direction in the leadership of the Anglicans. This suspicion would find its conformation in the rapprochement with the Catholic Church.
Liberal Anglicans consider themselves to be deserted by Williams. The statement in The Times on Monday morning has baffled especially the women’s movement within the church. This statement talked about both churches making the first steps towards unification.
“This was a hard blow for us”, says Christine Rees from the Watch Campaign (Women and the church) which had to date been looking at an alliance between the Anglicans and the evangelical/ Methodist churches.
“Today every fifth vicar in the Church of England is female. Up to a few days ago, it looked as if we would be welcoming the first female bishop in 2012. This would be impossible with the Pope as the head”