Sunday, January 8, 2012

On the Ordinariate

Episcopalians can now convert to the Roman Catholic Church while keeping some Anglican practices in a special new U.S. diocese that was established last week by the Pope.

The Houston-based diocese, called the "Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter," will allow a special Anglican celebration of the Mass that can include selections from the Book of Common Prayer. So, if you love Anglican liturgy (but dislike contemporary Roman Catholic practice), but dislike the stance the Episcopal Church has taken on female clergy (or the role of women in society in general) or homosexual clergy (or the role of homosexual persons in society in general) or any other of a host of possibilities (e.g., contraception, abortion), then you can now "have your cake and eat it to." No longer do you have to choose between bad music or bad theology. Now, you can have both liturgy and doctrine that is to your liking.

I do not believe every Lutheran (or Baptist, or Roman Catholic, or Pentecostal, et. al.) should become an Episcopalian. I do not even believe that every Episcopalian should be an Episcopalian. I know God call us to new places on our pilgrimage of faith. On a personal level, I was born and raised a Baptist. Now, I serve the Episcopal Church as a priest. I do not, however, believe that all Baptists should become Episcopal priests. I believe it was God's call to me. I have no doubt that God's call to you might well be (probably is) a different path.

Therefore, to those who feel God's call to this new Ordinariate, and leave the Episcopal Church, I say "The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you now and always."

I, do not, however, feel God's call to this new Ordinariate. And, I am sad to see it established. It is yet another sign that my delight in the Roman Catholic Church post-Vatican II, will not last. I experience this as a loss. And, therefore, it makes me sad.

I am sad because my pews are filled with former faithful Roman Catholics, who have found that for those who believed in Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church can be an inhospitable place. It saddens me, because it didn't have to be that way. But since Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church has chosen to retreat from Vatican II, rather than advance into Vatican II.

From where I sit, it looks like the best place for Vatican II Catholics is, sadly, the Episcopal Church. Our liturgy can be a little stuffy for your liking, but we are now the closest thing to an emobodiment of Vatican II in America. For those who take birth control, or believe women can be priests, or that married persons can be priests, or are divorced and do not believe it would be wrong to remarry, and so on and so forth, perhaps your ordinary (i.e. bishop) really is already the local Episcopal bishop.