The fact that the new acting head of the Anglican Centre in Rome does not believe in the bodily resurrection has caused quite a stir.
One wonders why.
Part of the problem arises, no doubt, from a simple misunderstanding of the origins and role of the Anglican centre. Its director is not ‘the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican’ as some have claimed.
But even if that were the case, would the opinions of the Very Rev’d Dr John Shepherd be far wide of the mark?
Back in 2003 some of us commissioned a survey (‘The Mind of Anglicans’, Christian Research) on this very topic. Then (and orthodoxy is unlikely to have been on the increase since) 68% of male clergy and 53% of female clergy felt able to affirm their belief in the bodily resurrection. Which leaves a sizeable – indeed a significant – group of dissenters. Dr Shepherd, then, is in good and numerous company.
All this raises the question of the viability (and rationality) of theological discussions between Catholics and Anglicans.
Quite simply there is no firm or fixed ground on which such discussions can be based. What price agreement on the real presence in the Eucharist, for example, when the bodily resurrection itself is in question? Agreement on the former whilst the latter remained an open question would quite simply be absurd. Of course, one cannot know for certain how many Anglican clergy, like the Very Rev’d John Shepherd, deny the resurrection. But one can be assured that unbelief is no impediment to preferment. And be pretty well certain that its incidence increases up the hierarchy