Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Called to Holy Orders

Bishop Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet on what a Catholic priest is in the Church of England. Found in New Directions, March 06.

From the theological foothills I would make this observation. There is no simple answer to what the priesthood is about, just as there is no one simple version of the doctrine of the Atonement, and the reasons for the complexity are not unrelated. What Catholics believe – and it is the Catholic priesthood to which our ordinands are called – is that the ministerial priesthood is intimately bound up with the offering of the Holy Eucharist, the offering made by Christ the Great High Priest, who enfolds us in his priesthood just as the Eucharist we celebrate is enfolded in the Paschal mystery.

One is that if we are called to be deacons, priests and bishops in the Church of God, that is not to say that we are necessarily called permanently to work in the Church of England (nor indeed that any other communion may discern and accept the calling we think we have received). The Way of the Cross is not a broad road but a steep and rugged path.

The second is that the Church of England is not going imminently to disintegrate like some bouncy castle where the plug has been pulled. We shall not be seeing the floor, walls and ceiling collapse as we vainly try to keep jumping up and down. There are congregations – there will long be congregations – which are trying to live the Catholic life, and they will continue to need pastoring, and such pastoring remains an honourable calling for us even at a time of disintegration.

In short, those who want ‘a job for life,’ and all the comfort that that suggests, are looking in the wrong place if they look at the priesthood. The call to follow a young man who apparently came to a sticky end after a promising start is not a call to a job for life or to a high level of security. What God is calling us to – every baptized person – is the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Within that calling he is also calling young men to the Catholic priesthood and, I believe, still calling young men to the Catholic priesthood as practised in the Church of England, for the care and salvation of souls.


Blogger Becca said...

I appreciate what you have written ... and think you have raised excellent points. I find it comforting to remember that no one is going to pull the plug on the Anglican Communion ... you are right about that.

1:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Becca, this was actually written by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet and not me. I will make that more clear. Our Archbishop has made it clear that a real rift is about to take place. The bishops and clergy here have come to realise that it is inevitable now. What the result will be, only God knows. I for one know that He has His children for whom His Son died here and they need faithful priests to see them on their journey. It's rocky and I believe we may all come to learn more about what it means to walk the narrow way with a cross. May God bless you and your family as you are also on that walk.

7:31 am  
Anonymous I'd rather not say said...

Becca, I think you misunderstand the Bishop. He is not saying that no one is going to pull the plug on the Anglican Communion; rather, he is saying that, even after the plug is pulled, the draining is not going to be so fast that there will not still be faithful parishes that require faithful, sacramental ministry.

But the plug may well be pulled (if it hasn't already), and the draining will follow, slowly or swiftly, like it or not.

3:26 pm  
Anonymous The Common Anglican said...

Amen! Amen! Amen!

Thanks for posting this Jeff! This is exactly what I try to communicate to others literally every day.

I am finding more and more people, even priests and postulants, who do not come close to grasping this notion of the Catholic priesthood. Thank you!!

- Andy

5:51 am  

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