I’m glad. Everyone needs a home.
We, the Episcopal Church, were not a good home for everyone. We’ve decided that gender and sexuality are no bars to liturgical authority. So although we gave lip service to being inclusive, we’re not nimble enough to share our institution with those who think differently.
But God need not be a zero-sum game. If anything, let us praise them for not to join the various splinter Anglican groups, with their army of mitre-hungry, purple loving priests, sects who have nearly as many bishops as congregations.
Instead, they’ve shown humility. For a bishop, the formerly Rt. Reverend Steenson, to give up the benefits of purple for the sake of their view of truth, shows some spiritual depth. Although I’m sure the former Bishop (now just an ordinary priest) didn’t give up the generous pension, we should not begrudge him many years of service for the Episcopal Church. Instead, praise him for offering solace for disaffected Anglicans. Their views may not be correct, but there’s no need for a war or judgement. Our faith allows some grace that we may not know what the ultimate truth holds.
Anglicanism has always held its Catholic traditions close. But for them gender and sexuality are crucial parts of it. Let them now say their rosaries, pray to the saints and the pope. We can, in different spaces, pray alongside them. But perhaps now we can each do so with less acrimony between us. We’re not fighting for the same crumbs anymore, and they will be in a church that loves them.
Let’s be honest – we’re secretly glad they’ve left.
It won’t be easy for them. Many of them were politically conservative, and see religious traditionalism and contemporary conservatism as coterminus. But they may be surprised by the Roman Church’s liberal views on immigration, health care and poverty. They may find the Catholic Church too culturally strident on contraception. They may be blindsided by the private accommodations of the Roman church to its closeted gay clergy.
And will they find their voices heard within the vast hierarchy of the church? Or will they also eventually find themselves as sidelined as so many Catholics, who go to church but find their voices mute? Perhaps this small ordinariate may provide even more grace, more room for the Roman church to consider matrimonial options for their vocations, as it struggles with the implications of mandatory celibacy.
So we need not gleefully either despair or cheer when people decide they need a different sort of authority. When a Roman Catholic enters our doors, often they do so with guilt, ambivalence and fear. It is our duty to handle their journey with charity and magnanimity. It’s never easy to leave a family, no matter how challenging that family is. We must respect that journey, even when it is not in our favor.
Gloating over the failures, the mistakes, or the challenges of our mother church is not our mission. It speaks ill of us when we do so. We want people to find a home that is best for them.
If it is within the Holy Roman Church, then let it be. Our building of disciples need not include any anger or hostility toward the church that has held, however imperfectly, the gospel. If anything, being good Episcopalians means, I suggest, helping the Roman Church become more responsive church. We can do this by always welcoming their disaffected with joy and hope, and becoming diligent disciples of the same Christ in the way that we know how – by showing no bigotry toward them, or their church – the one that nurtured them.
I hope that is the Episcopal way.