A Return of the Reformation?   Leave a comment


How Christianity has previously branched out

Five Church of England bishops have been wooed by the Catholic Church through a new scheme being implemented by the Vatican which aims to open its arms to disaffected Anglicans. This is a highly unusual situation: those from within the same religion actively looking to convert those from another branch of the faith. Not since the periods of the English and European Reformations have Christians witnessed persuasion, and even encouragement, to re-think their relationship with their family church.

So, could we be facing another religious reformation in the UK? The religious affairs correspondent for The Times Ruth Gledhill told the BBC that this announcement could prompt “hundreds, possibly thousands” of lay ministers (and consequently other members of their congregations) to follow the bishops’ example. If this were to happen, this could well be an important turning point in British Christian history.

The reason the five bishops (who are technically speaking ‘assistant bishops’ as none is actually in charge of a diocese) decided to leave the Anglican Church is probably because they were already concerned about the direction their Church leaders were moving in before the Vatican gave them a way out. There is some tension between those in the Church of England who are tolerant of homosexuality and welcome the ordination of women and those who are uncomfortable with these recent changes in approach. In a statement, the five bishops said: “We have been dismayed, over the last 30 years, to see Anglicans and Catholics move further apart on some of the issues of the day.”

The Vatican has sensed this vulnerability within the Anglican Church, particularly over the last decade, and seized on the opportunity to boost its numbers. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales issued a decree from the Vatican which states that Anglicans are welcome to join the Catholic Church, whilst still being able to maintain a distinct religious identity.

From my own (atheist but interested in religious behaviours) perspective, I think that we might well be on the way to a world in which people don’t subscribe to an organised religion, but instead of labelling themselves in this way decide to carve their own mark on the religious landscape. People will believe what feels right for them, not what a certain religious leader tells them to believe about important ethical issues.

One last interesting point is the one made by Bishop Burnham (one of the five bishops in question) about his decision to leave Anglicanism: “It’s about whether the Church of England, as it’s always claimed to be, is faithful to the undivided Church of the first thousand years and faithful to its faith and orders – or whether it feels it can make things up and change things as it goes.” A strange comment considering that, in order to progress, religion is always changing and in fact the Anglican Church only exists because its followers moved away from the original Catholic (meaning ‘universal’) Christian faith. Perhaps Bishop Burnham is thinking back fondly to the time when he first joined the Church and is viewing those memories through rose-tinted spectacles. Unfortunately, in order to keep up with the times, all faiths are subject to adaptation: for instance, the majority of people who claim that homosexuality is a sin back up their argument by quoting from the Old Testament, a collection of books which also tells us that adulterers should be punished by stoning to death and women must sacrifice (i.e. kill) doves to make themselves ‘pure’ again following their monthly menstruation! Come on people, time to move with the times – religious reformation, if it does come, will be a good thing for all!

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Posted 10/11/2010 by thinkmindy in belief, conscience, Pope, Religion

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