April 8, 2005 [LINK]

Anglican contrition

Prince Charles and Camilla will "acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed" at tomorrow's nuptials. Episcopalians (the "Church Lady," perhaps?) will recognize those lines from the General Confesson (traditional version) in Holy Communion services. It's an appropriate solemn gesture of repentance for this tragic couple, who will be married in a small, private civil ceremony, and then be blessed by the Church of England in a star-studded gala service at Windsor Castle. Then it's off to an idyllic honeymoon on the barren, windswept hills of Scotland. See foxnews.com.

This otherwise-marginal historical landmark happens to have great relevance for the Anglican Communion, in light of recent events. Ever since Henry VIII and the break with Rome, the English monarchy has had a special role as "defender of the faith." Would the Church of England's moral authority erode under a king with a sullied past? The Anglican Communion has teetered on the edge of outright schism ever since Gene Robinson was consecrated as bishop of Vermont in November 2003. Robinson left his wife and children back in the 1970s to live with another man, raising grave questions about the church's position on morality and the sanctity of marriage. Most Anglican churches in Africa and Asia, which account for a rapidly growing fraction of the global population of Anglican communicants, insist on traditional morality and reject the ordination of homosexual priests and bishops. Many Episcopalians (i.e., American Anglicans) seem to give little regard to such protests by traditionalists, but last month the Episcopal Church U.S.A. agreed to a moratorium on the ordination of new bishops, to give the church time to heal. Fine.

Then this week Bishop Robinson reopened old wounds when he suggested that Jesus Christ might have been gay; see The Telegraph. That article mentions a Web site, Virtue Online, "the voice for global orthodox Anglicanism." Robinson later said he that had been misinterpreted, but the general thrust of his comments does little to raise confidence that he puts a high priority on healing the church. Robinson's ordination has opened a can of worms, and as long as he assumes a high public profile as bishop, reconciliation among the Anglican faithful will be be very difficult.