US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Another step toward a split

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The Anglican Communion is inching further toward dissolution, with Archbishop Rowan Williams' suspension of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. because it violated a moratorium on ordaining bishops with same-sex partners with Mary Glasspool in L.A. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responded with a strongly worded rejection of the action, all but accusing Williams and conservatives in the Anglican Communion of ecclesiastical imperialism.

Also last weekend: The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement ordained Mary Kay Kusner of Iowa City as a priest in their movement, an act denounced by the Roman Catholic bishop of Davenport, Iowa, Martin Amos. Of the work of the now 100 Roman Catholic Womenpriests, RCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan said, "We’re growing very quickly, and the people are accepting us."

The connection--and the point of this blog post? Only to echo what historian Diana Butler Bass pointed out on Beliefnet about the Anglican situation. That is, this isn't really about the acceptance of people of different sexual orientations in the church or about the ordination of women. It's about where authority rests in the church. Presiding Bishop Schori and the Womenpriests movement clearly lean toward the local, while Archbishop Rowan Williams and Bishop Amos lean toward the central.

It's a tension that has always existed in Christianity, and one that isn't going away, especially as large numbers of Christians seem to be heading in one direction and their leadership in another. Butler Bass claims history is on the side of the grassroots, but I'm not so sure. Catholics tend to favor the "both-and" of tradition, but what happens when the distance between two positions is so far apart?