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National Religious Leadership Roundtable responds to Roman Catholic Church’s plan to court Anglicans

Date: 
October 21, 2009

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, responded today to the announcement by Vatican officials that the Roman Catholic Church would set up a special canonical structure that will ease the conversion of members of the Anglican Communion without them having to give up what the Vatican called “the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.” It will allow the conversion of Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church while still maintaining some of their own customs. The plan is widely seen as a move to capitalize on the recurrent controversy of the Anglican Communion.

Statement by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
?Co-Director of Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
?National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“Surprise at the Vatican’s trolling for Anglican converts is like being shocked that Goldman Sachs is paying big bonuses. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, seemingly blindsided by the whole thing, called it ‘business as usual.’ I would put the emphasis on ‘business’ as this is a classic case of the Vatican operating as one more transnational corporation in hard economic and spiritual times.

“While the details of the Apostolic Constitution remain to be worked out, in summary the move allows the wholesale conversion of Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church while still maintaining some of their own customs. Apparently they can come with their Book of Common Prayer but not their women priests; they can bring their incense and high church vestments but not their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members, just the way they want it. Anglican Catholics will have their own ‘Personal Ordinariates,’ something like a diocese, which will be presided over by their own clergy who can be married and their own bishops who cannot be married. They will be paying customers whose product is tailored to their narrow, exclusive beliefs. This is the quintessential ‘leaner meaner’ church that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has been encouraging. It is a kind of boutique Catholicism aimed at niche markets that I find appalling.

“Rejecting women and LGBT people called to ministry is good for Rome’s business plan and they are shameless about executing it. While the numbers of Catholics are waning in Europe, this is a golden opportunity to plump them up by inviting the dissident Anglicans to make a seamless transition back to the church that their ancestors left over annulment several centuries ago. The potential to create these little enclaves within Catholicism for other fundamentalist groups is endless. One wonders if they would even have to be Christian as long as they oppose women and LGBT people.

“This is ecumenism run amok. It bears no resemblance to the Christian Gospel. But businesses are often in for surprises and the best that could happen in this case is that no one converts.”

Statement by the Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D.
?Programming and Development Director,
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in
Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion
?National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“Is the recent announcement from the Vatican welcoming disaffected Anglicans a victory for ecumenism? Sadly, no, I don’t believe so.

“As someone who entered the Episcopal Church through its Anglo-Catholic wing, I have keenly followed the progress of ecumenical dialogue between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. I used to believe that much more united our two communions than divided us. I have tried to believe the same thing about many other Christian traditions as well, especially in such a fragmented and violent world.“My hopefulness stumbled more than 20 years ago when opponents to the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church cited the damage such a move would inflict on our ecumenical conversations, especially with Roman Catholics. The same argument has been made, of course, about ordaining openly lesbian and gay people.

“Church unity — even the hope of such unity — cannot be bought at the expense of denying the full human dignity of some of the church’s members. Worse in some respects is covering over such denials with the rhetoric of theologically informed ‘ecumenical dialogue.’

“The joint statement released by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury touted the Vatican’s decision as the fruits of 40 years of ecumenical conversation. Frankly, that’s outrageous. That decision instead reflects the fruits of 40 years of misogyny and homophobia.

“If Anglicans want to leave, of course they may. And if the Vatican wants to welcome them into the Roman Communion, the pope has every right to do so. But let us not mistake this move as a ‘victory for ecumenism,’ which has been bought at the expense of women and LGBT people. When religious institutions become a haven for male, heterosexist privilege, they no longer serve as beacons of a hopeful Gospel in a world in such desperate need of one.”

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The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of leaders from pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith, spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.