Friday, May 4, 2018

St Barnabas Omaha Elevated To Full Parish: Some Observations

My regular correspondent reports,
St Barnabas Omaha is being raised to full parish status next month. The fact that this is only happening now, despite the fact that St Barnabas has its own church and rectory, a significant endowment, and a full-time stipendiary priest suggests that head office is reasonably rigorous about requiring a verified membership of at least 30 families/100 individuals before declaring a new parish. That there will only be ten of these, six and a half years on, despite a membership bar absurdly low by Catholic standards, tells us that however wide the Anglican net may stretch, and however the Ordinariate may attempt to imitate its reach, there is not much overlap. (And while ten groups have achieved parish status, six others have folded and two allegedly merged with other groups.) Not many Anglicans want to be Catholics; not many Catholics want to pretend to be Anglicans. Anglicans who do want to become Catholics do not usually want to join the group of Catholics pretending to be Anglicans, and doing a very bad job of it, for the most part.
Let's keep in mind that Anglicanorum coetibus begins, "In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately." However numerous, repeated, or insistent the petitions may have been, we aren't seeing fruits growing on the tree -- and remember once again, Cardinal Ratzinger was told in 1993 that as many as 250,000 Episcopalians were ready to come over in the US alone.

The Allen Guelzo history of the Reformed Episcopal Church offers a worthwhile counter-example. Some years ago, I read an anodyne history of TEC that listed, among the causes of the American Revolution, that the Church of England would not consecrate bishops for the American colonies. Guelzo offers a corrective: while it's true that bishops weren't consecrated, the colonies had traditionally been refuges for Catholics, dissenters, and crazies, and there weren't that many Anglicans for whom to consecrate bishops. In fact, the fledgling Episcopal Church was quite small and nearly moribund:

By the time the Revolution ended, 131 of the 286 Anglican clergymen resident in America in 1774 had disappeared into exile, and most were from the most critical areas in the Northern states. (p 25)
TEC had a remarkable period of growth by the early 19th century, fed by the Evangelical movement within Anglicanism led by Wilberforce, but more importantly by the Second Great Awakening in the US. The Evangelical bishop William Channing Moore was an example of what happened:
Moore entered the ministry and in 1814 carried Evangelical fire to Virginia as bishop of that diocese. . . . Over the course of twenty-seven years as Bishop of Virginia, Moore watched his diocese grow from 7 clergymen to 100, and from 14 churches to 170. (pp 37-38)
It's plain that movements within Christianity can grow explosively -- but given the example of TEC in the early 19th century as a model, the movement for groups of Anglicans to become Catholic on a corporate basis has not been one of them, despite assertions that there's something millennial about Anglicanorum coetibus.