21 November 2010

Leaving the CofE for Rome in Droves: Is it real or is it hype?


No Anglo-Catholic around the world can help but feel for the situation of Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England. It is at least as bad as the situation in the Episcopal Church of the US in the 1970s, and that led to the growth of the continuing Anglican movement, independent communions, etc. Now Anglicans, specifically Anglicans in the CofE, have another choice given to them by the Pope under Anglicanorum coetibus.

Media reports, especially those put out by Catholic news groups, paint a picture that the CofE is dissolving from within. A few pathfinding Bishops are leading the way, priests and laity are following, and soon all but the lefties will have left the CofE for Rome. Is this actually accurate when one looks at the numbers? What is the real impact? 

There are approximately 7 million Anglicans world-wide. There are approximately 800 bishops attending the Lambeth Conference. Five bishops leaving, then, amount to less than 1% of the world's Anglican Bishops based on those attending Lambeth, and an even smaller percentage, counting all the Anglican Bishops. And what of the laity? If 1000 members of the CofE leave, for example, that's only 1/100th of a percent of the world's Anglicans. Even if 1000 parishioners leave per bishop, or even per priest who is leaving, it isn't a very big dent.

Now, the argument has been made that this is just the beginning and many more will follow. That may very well happen, but from my own experience and observation, there is rarely a true and sustain mass exodus. The numerical proportion to which this is impacting things is very likely typical media hype.

Numerical impact isn't the only type of influence, though. What is the real message and the real impact of this new offer made by the Pope and the response to it? The real influence has been to make known on a massive scale the plight of the Anglican Church, especially within the Church of England itself, and to make available another alternative to those in the Anglican Church who no longer wish to stand idly by as our sacred faith is trampled upon. Even if the numbers are not all that high, and even if they never are, this still sends a message.

This is the situation that Anglo-Catholics find themselves in. We all have sought solutions, and there are many out there. Many of us have found a solution, and many are still seeking. It is never easy. Whichever route an Anglo-Catholic takes, it is important above all to maintain the faith.