Monday, September 28, 2015

An Anglican Pope?

In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent invitation for a gathering of Anglican primates, he noted, “We have no Anglican pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed . . .” (Actually, there was one “Anglican pope,” i.e., an Englishman named Pope Adrian VI from 1154 to 1159.) But a serious point is commonly made that unlike the pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no real jurisdiction in other provinces. That makes it more difficult to solve global church problems. But let us not be led to think there’s no pope for Anglicans.

The Church of England was in full communion with the pope in Rome for well over a millennium. That sadly came to an end at the time of the English Reformation, though we should note that we never repudiated communion with Rome. The “reformation parliament” ended appeals to Rome and papal jurisdiction in England, but it wasn’t until Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I that the breech became finalized. Both sides have said they are committed to healing the breech.

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) released a joint statement in 1999 called The Gift of Authority. It reiterated, “There is no turning back in our journey towards full ecclesial communion” (58). It described the papacy (which succeeds Peter’s apostolic ministry) as rooted in scripture and tradition and as a gift to be shared and received among the churches. Peter’s ministry was to articulate God’s revelation and to strengthen the brethren. ARCIC called on Anglicans and Roman Catholics to find ways in which the future restoration of our communion can start to be lived out even today.

There is no Anglican pope, but there is a pope for Anglicans. He lives in Rome and his name is Francis.


Wesley Walker said...

There seem to be quite a few assertions in this post, it's hard to really know where to respond. However, the papcy is not something attested to by Scripture or tradition. Augustine questioned the meaning of Peter being the rock in Matthew 16 because he believed the point of the passage was that Christ was actually the rock (if this was the foundation for such an important doctrine as the RCC later articulated, Augustine should have been renounced by his fellow orthodox Christians).
Even if we're skeptical of St. Augustine's work on this passage and admit that St. Peter is in fact the rock instead of Christ, you'd be hard pressed to find a Father who would connect the promise with the institution of the papcy as it was articulated later on.
The real stasis point between Anglicanism and RCC on this particular issue though, is the fact that St. Peter never had jurisdiction over the other apostles. We could say he was "first among equals" but in Acts, he's not even the one to presiding over the Jerusalem council. Elsewhere, other apostles are spoken of as foundations of the Church (namely Eph. 2:20 and Rev 21:14). The promises made to Peter are also extended to the other Apostles (Matt. 18:18) and the Lord breathed on ALL the apostles (except Thomas) the words of power (John 20:21-24).

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

I believe all the issues you raised are thoroughly addressed in the ARCIC joint statement "The Gift of Authority" which is linked in the post and well worth the read.

Wesley Walker said...

I have read it. It wasn't terribly persuasive, in my opinion.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

Re: "We could say he was 'first among equals' but in Acts, he's not even the one to presiding over the Jerusalem council."

As I understand it, it is tradition up through modern times that the pope does not preside over a council (at least an ecumenical council). Instead, his role is to confirm the council documents on behalf of the universal church. If you look though the documents of Vatican II, for example, it will note the date that Pope Paul VI confirmed each document and the subtle changes he sometimes made to a few sentences here and there for clarity.