the equivalent of a nationwide diocese in the United States that former Episcopal priests and congregations can enter together as intact groups, the Vatican announced Sunday. Converts who join the new entity will be full-fledged Catholics, expected to show allegiance to the pope and oppose contraception and abortion. But they will be allowed to preserve revered verses from the Book of Common Prayer. And, in what one Catholic leader called “an act of generosity,” priests who are married will be exempted from the Catholic requirement of celibacy, though they may not become bishop.My initial reaction was one of dislike; I think that the Episcopal Church, with its welcoming Protestant and Catholic, liberal and conservative, represents a more viable, and theologically satisfying, model of mainline Christianity than what Susan Howatch called "the authoritarian monolith of Rome." (Not to bash Catholicism, which has given much to me personally; I'm speaking about ecclesiology here). Anything that detracts from model that is unwelcome to me, and ecumenicism based on submission is not, in my opinion, a healthy model.
I think it's profoundly regrettable that some conservatives are leaving the Episcopal Church, because there is a conservative wisdom which we would do well to retain to counterbalance liberalism. And yet, I do firmly believe that the recognition of women's ministry, and that of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is necessary as well as just. Ironically, in so many other areas theologically fairly conservative--I really do believe in the creeds, I do believe the historicity of the overwhelming majority of the gospel accounts. I'm no John Shelby Spong, or even JAT Robinson--though I have learned from reading both. I find this schism, which is what it is, deplorable, but perhaps it is inevitable. One can only hope that we--those who stay and those who depart--can handle it with the maximum of charity and the minimum of rancor.
God bless the church catholic, and help us to heal our divisions.