jQuery Slider

You are here

UGANDA: Is the Pope Treading On Thin Ice? - An African Perspective

UGANDA: Is the Pope Treading On Thin Ice?
An African perspective

by Robert Kalumba
The Monitor
November 29, 2009

The Pope's call to Anglicans to join the Catholic faith has been met with mixed reactions and shaken the already questionable future of the Anglican Communion.

As far as religious earthquakes go, this one has had the Christian Richter scales reaching for the heavens. Pope Benedict last month, through a pontifical decree, allowed Anglicans worldwide - both clergy and worshippers, to convert en bloc to Catholicism while still maintaining part of their spiritual tradition.

This is quite unprecedented since the Reformation and amounts to rewriting the rulebook. The fact that the Vatican sought no input from Lambeth Palace, the spiritual home of the Anglicans, before the decree was announced, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, confessed to having known about the decree two weeks before the announcement was made, not only seemed to undermine the Archbishop's position but throws some disturbing light on the future of the Anglican Communion.

But what exactly is the Pope saying? It's simple. All those Anglicans fed up with the liberal theological reforms of their church should jump ship and move over to Catholicism. What liberal progression could that be? Two things; women and gay people. The ordination of women bishops and the bickering over same-sex unions serving in church has riled many Anglican traditionalists, with African Churches threatening to break away from the Church of England. So, could this be the perfect blessing in disguise for the disenchanted Anglicans or will this ultimatum by the Pope draw battle lines jeopardising decades of dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans?

Disarray or division?

Also, is the Anglican Communion in such confusion that thousands are willing to change ranks or is the Pope trying to poach more souls to the dwindling number of Catholics worldwide via a sneak attack on the Anglicans? What next for Anglicans who support same sex unions and ordination of women bishops? Will this push them underground?

The Anglican Communion has been in a quagmire for some time now. Its leadership has given voice to notions that have seemed far ahead for its flock, causing a tinge of militancy in many of them. During last year's Lambeth Conference, over 200 Anglican Bishops snubbed the conference over the issue of gay clergy opting to attend a rival conference in Jerusalem, The Global Anglican Future Conference. This undermined the authority of Archbishop Williams, who has been struggling to keep unity in his flock.

Already, the Church of England has divisions. The Episcopal Church of the USA, part of the wider composition that makes up the Anglican Communion, has got some serious issues. Some parishes have ordained women bishops; others acknowledge the legal right of abortion access for women. Some have performed union ceremonies for loving, committed same sex couples. Others have gay married priests serving in church.

This has created divisions in the Episcopal Church, with conservatives forming their own churches and organisations and the liberals following suit. Now, if you add on the threats of the likes of Archbishop Luke Orombi and Peter Akinele of Nigeria of ceding from the Church of England over the gay issue and over 1000 bishops threatening to quit too over the ordination of women bishops, then the confusion in the Anglican Church is put in perspective. There seems to be some serious confusion in the Protestant community.

One thing is certain; many Anglican flocks are not pleased with where their church seems to be heading. Could the Pope have tapped into this frustration? Already, there is support for the Pope's move from some Anglicans. The Secretary General of the Provincial Office of the Anglican Church of Korea, Father Abraham Kim Gwang-Joon has said the Vatican's move to make it easier for conservative Anglicans to join the Catholic Church is a step towards Christian unity.

Offering or snaring?

But what is the Pope offering disenchanted Anglican flock? Is it that "enticing"? The invitation to Catholicism for the Anglicans hasn't yet been structured but there may be separate services held in Catholic churches. There may also be special prayer books and training centres but the chain of command will still lead to the Pope.

The migrant Anglicans may also have to accept all Roman Catholic doctrine and teachings and could use elements of Anglican tradition. However, this is the jewel in the Nile for most; married Anglican clergy can still be ordained as Roman Catholic Priests with a view to eventually providing pastoral care for other former Anglicans.

This is where the olive branch offered by the Pope becomes somewhat tainted. Celibacy is a requirement to join the Catholic priesthood and if so, won't the ordainment of married Anglican clergy as Roman priests smack of opportunism by the Pope? Why tear up the rulebook to accommodate married Anglicans? Does that mean celibacy will in the future be a non entity for those wishing to be Roman priests? Are all Catholics happy with this cross fertilisation?

The questioning of Christian dogma by some Anglican liberals has definitely hurt the Protestant Church and their spiritual leader Archbishop Rowan Williams has seemed hapless with what has been going on. He has appeared weak to rein in or maintain unity within his flock. Unlike the Pope, whose authority seems unquestionable by the majority, Williams has had his grip on his flock quizzed. The latest to test it is the Pope with this decree.

Will this unite or divide the Christian church further? Could the Pope honestly expect those that have been indoctrinated for years to all of a sudden change doctrines? It's yet to be seen but more interesting times lie ahead.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top