Off to Rome!

Before you get all excited, this blog post is not about me announcing my membership of the Ordinariate. No, that’s never going to happen as long as Rome believes silly things about Mary and Papal infallibility. However, that doesn’t seem to be stopping some people and so the news this weekend was full of reports that St Peter’s Folkestone is the first Anglican parish to cross the Tiber (or at least to swim to an island in it).

This report from the BBC shows though that it isn’t that black and white. It appears that although the PCC voted in favour, the congregation were not consulted. One would think (in a manner similar to churches in the USA that have left TEC) that a move of such importance should be a decision the whole church membership makes rather than just the PCC, especially if the PCC was constituted at a time when the Ordinariate was not an option (and given the rotating membership this is certainly the case).

It all raises interesting questions about how this is going to work. The key issue is who gets the building. I can see a case to be made for when a large majority of the church membership wish to join the Ordinariate for the Diocese to be graceful, recognising that in effect the parish congregation as a whole is moving over. What happens to the parish then is debatable – a  geographic merger or a new congregation planted (HTB anybody) perhaps? However, in a case where it is only certain members moving, however senior they may be, the remaining congregation should for all intents and purposes be still seen as the Anglican congregation.

St Peter’s is important, not because it signals the vanguard of a new movement (though it may yet do), but rather because it means that all these issues of property and representation have now got to be worked out, and worked out promptly, efficiently and most importantly gracefully. If we don’t manage that then we risk going down the messy route that others in TEC have already trodden.

Oh, and kudos to the Church Mouse who seems to have spotted that Bishop John Broadhurst, chief advocate and poster boy of Forward in Faith may not actually be able to join the Ordinariate on the grounds that he was baptised a Roman Catholic and not an Anglican. Does this demonstrate lack of foresight on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church or meticulous Machiavellian planning? You decide…

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12 Comments on “Off to Rome!

  1. I think you are certainly right, Peter, in saying that there are a lot of issues to be resolved here that have simply not come up in church law before. For one thing, although a CofE parish is ipso facto a legal entity in its own right in English law, the sticking point is that ipso facto part – I doubt that this status could be retained by any (or even all) members, even if they included the parish priest and all the church officers, if they decided to leave the Church of England; they would be cutting off the legal branch they were sitting on, and would leave (I think) only as so many individuals as far as the law is concerned. As for the ownership of the parish church, I believe that is a point of common law that has never been entirely clarified; but as things stand neither the parish nor even the diocese has the right to dispose of it – as I understand it any church which the diocese has declared it no longer wants to use for worship becomes the responsibility of the Church Commissioners (who are answerable to [the crown in] parliament rather than to the CofE, and only they can decide to alienate the property from state control entirely or to lease it out (usually with conditions) to someone else, e.g. another denomination. This is definitely a case for the church lawyers to have fun with! (Also in practice in most cases there would not be a tidy case where everyone wants to leave – some would and some wouldn't, which would cause endless tangles.)

  2. I doubt you want to get into a detailed debate about the merits or otherwise of Catholicism, Peter (although I could be wrong; you do seem to like getting stuck into a good argument!), but re. infallibility: you're a well-informed, fair-minded sort of chap, so I'm going to assume you know exactly what infallibility is and what it isn't. What do you make of the following argument (from a convert priest)?

    "the reason I became a Catholic is because of the niggling question that remained…what interpretation of Scripture and which tradition?…In addition to the authority of Scripture and Tradition I realized it was necessary to have a living, agreed, dynamic, apostolic, identifiable and infallible interpreter of the Scripture and tradition, otherwise we are left with private interpretation."

    I'll leave Mariolatry for another day ;-)

    • Quite simply. it is not necessary to have a living, agreed, etc interpreter of the Scripture and tradition. Scripture itself is authoritative and infallible. The problem with large parts of the Church is that they just don't like that!

      • "Rome believes silly things about Mary and Papal infallibility" Who says? Could this be a silly remark? I think your remarks are generally ungracious, and this is something I did not expect. By the way, if you evr want to debate either of hose topics, I am up for it. I have been a "silly" RC priest for over 35 years.

        • Sorry John – I wasn't meaning to be offensive, rather I just wanted to open the blog post in a sparky way. That said, I do think that some of the Marian dogmas are silly – they can't be found in Scripture and they actually lead us to conclusions that might be contradictory to Scripture. That's not to say that I don't think that very many Catholics are creedally sound, just that on this subject they're wrong, and wrong in a way that has no support in Scripture.

  3. The Roman Church has, since deciding to claim superiority and arbitorship over the rest of the global church, existed as her own authority and has developed or evolved her own idiosyncratic interpretations, doctrines, dogmas and practices that cannot bear careful scrutiny, comparison with Scripture or the rest of Christendom, past or present. Councils err. Rome errs. The Roman Catechism (CCC#841) validation and affirmation of the Muhametan religion, naming it first among all others, is another example of error that you have not mentioned.

    As for Bishop Broadhurst, Rome will find a way to do with the Bishop, as they do with their annulments of marriages. They will find a convenient defensible loophole that will allow them to repatriate and employ him in a way that works best for their institution without either party losing face.

  4. Anna:

    You are taking CCC841 a teeny weeny bit out of context. And by a teeny weeny bit I mean massively. CCC841 does not validate and affirm Islam. What it does do, in the context of a much broader and more nuanced discussion of how Christians ought to think about other religions, is say that,*after Christianity and Judaism*, Islam is the world religion that approaches most closely to the truth about God and human nature (mainly by virtue of being monotheistic and having its roots in Judaism).

    "idiosyncratic interpretations, doctrines, dogmas and practices that cannot bear careful scrutiny, comparison with Scripture or the rest of Christendom, past or present."

    Such as?

    On the topic of "idiosyncratic doctrines", where in the Bible do we find the doctrine of sola scriptura? 2 Tim 3:16 does not do so. It tells us that Scripture is God-breathed. It does not tell us that ONLY Scripture is God-breathed. "All As are Bs" does not imply that "only As are Bs".

    There are 20,000 Protestant denominations and just One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Which is more likely to lead to idiosyncracy?

    • Dear Peter, of course I disagree with you about the Marian Dogmas, but part of the problem is the different approaches to Scripture. I don’t want to get into a long drawn-out discussion about all this, but if you want to mention something as an example, I will show you what I mean. Having said that, as you know, I have great respect for you and the work you continue to do in the area of sexual morality.

  5. The claim that the god I—- worships is the same true and Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the same LORD who saved us by His Cross, Blood and Resurrection, Who is Truth, Love and Live is not borne up by any evidence in Scripture, or by the evidence of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit or by the evidence of behaviors, or by evidence of their opposition to Jesus Christ.

    I—- is a false religion concocted by a madman under the influence of a demon spirit. Mohammed wanted to conquer and subsume both Judaism and Christianity and the world with his own military and religious system. This is the spirit of Babylon and Assyria that always rises when God's people fall away and dies back when they repent. We have engaged in evil, lies (syncretism, paganism, heresy) lust (promiscuity, pansexuality) and death(abortion, euthanasia) and have not cherished and guarded what was entrusted to her….to reflect and glorify God who is Holy, Who is Truth, Love and Life defined in the Commandments and throughout Scripture and by Christ's proclamation, "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life."

    The spiritual and historical center of the Church of Jesus Christ now and forever is Jerusalem, not Rome. Jerusalem is our mother. Galatians 4:25-26, Isaiah 66.

  6. To claim that scripture is infallible seems to me to be claiming rather more than scripture anywhere claims for itself. Paul says “all scripture is inspired by God (or God-breathed) and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3.16). This does not have to imply that it is infallible in the ways often claimed. God can inspire or breath (NOT dictate, as is claimed for the Qur’an), yet still use fallible humans and processes.

    Then we must ask, what is the scripture to which Paul refers? Is it the Hebrew scriptures? Including or excluding the “apocryphal” writings? Where does this leave the NT writings, which were then as yet incomplete? Even the translation of the word “scripture” in this verse is loaded, as it may equally well be translated “writing”.

    Furthermore, scripture (however we define it) requires us to interpret it. It is not self-interpreting. How could it be when it consists of so many different writings composed over such a lengthy period of time, of widely differing genres and embracing so many different cultural context, all of which are different from our own? To say that “Scripture interprets scripture” begs the question as to which of the texts and which principles we take to control our interpretation of the others. How then do we maintain, in any meaningful sense, both scriptural infallibility AND private interpretation?

    Finally, if we were to take the view of scriptural infallibility, at what point did the words of the pagan poet-philosophers quoted by Paul in Acts 17.28 become inspired, infallible scripture? When they were first penned? When Paul quoted them in Athens? When Luke recorded them in Acts? Or when the canon of the NT was finalised?

    • Finally, if we were to take the view of scriptural infallibility, at what point did the words of the pagan poet-philosophers quoted by Paul in Acts 17.28 become inspired, infallible scripture? When they were first penned? When Paul quoted them in Athens? When Luke recorded them in Acts? Or when the canon of the NT was finalised?

      Are you suggesting that you believe that the doctrine of infallibility means that when Paul quotes a pagan philosopher that pagan philosopher’s words are infallible?

      I think you can do better than that Simon.

  7. As a good Rangers-supporting nominal evangelical (we arra people!), I’ve often heard and agree in part with those who say the historical record hardly supports much of Rome’s claims. But does applying the same standard to Sola Scriptura really give a much better verdict? Does a dispassionate look at the history of scriptural interpretation really suggest that scripture has one clear self-evidently moral meaning available easily to all? There’s something a bit oddly egotistical about those who claim that Luther and Calvin’s powers suddenly failed them when it came to passages about women, and that their misogyny can be written off as arising from cultural rather than scriptural values. Today, the evangelical line seems to be: if you read a passage that seems anti-women, then use reason, and have a word with the minister, who’ll tell you about a book by a bible-college academic, that referenced some archaeologist, who established that Paul was just referring to some minor local problem when he said (for example) women shouldn’t speak in church. That’s not strictly Sola Scriptura. Chesterton’s line about people believing in anything when they give up believing in God comes comes to mind when you see the popularity of Wesley Own esque “experts”; when people give up believing in the Magisterium they start believing in Mark Driscoll (!) and the infallibility of C.S.Lewis which is, to riot in understatement, not much of an improvement.

    IIRC Mariology is ‘justified’ from a ‘trajectory of images’ from Scripture, which is not the same thing as implying that Rome is claiming that the doctrine is defensible on Sola Scriptura grounds (why would they?).

    And Christians can point out Islam’s errors without lapsing into sub-Chick Tract Mohammad-was-a-crazy-paedo/Allah is a moon god nonsense.

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