For several weeks now there have been stories and opinion in the media about the resignation of five Anglican bishops who intend to join the proposed Ordinariates in the Roman Catholic Church along with fifty Anglican priests who intend the same. Many on the right say the Anglican Communion will only see more of these defections, particularly if the Church of England continues to move forward with the consecration of women to the episcopate and the Episcopal Church continues to move forward with affirming the gifts of its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) members. Many on the left rush to make clear that this is no large-scale defection, but that these bishops and priests existed on the edge of the Anglican Communion and their departure carries little significance.
What is lost in the midst of all the opinion and statements offered by various groups in the church is the ecumenical and ecclesiological implications of this movement. In particular, it may be helpful for a moment to consider this development in light of the approach to Anglicanism articulated by Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1973. Ramsey is not only well-respected by both liberals and conservatives within contemporary Anglicanism, he likely has had more significance than any other person on modern ecumenical relations between Anglicanism and other Christian traditions. It was Ramsey who oversaw the creation of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). It was Ramsey who had fought so mightily for the union of English Methodism with the Church of England. And it was to Ramsey that Pope Paul VI gave his own episcopal ring, back in days when relations between the two traditions were somewhat warmer.
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