Fraser Nelson has published a frank interview with Justin Welby in The Spectator, in which he alludes to the large numbers of Anglicans becoming Catholics:
‘I ask what he thinks about all this. ‘Who cares?’ he says. ‘I don’t mind about all that. Particularly if people go to Rome, which is such a source of inspiration. I had an email from a very old friend, an Anglican priest who has decided to go to Rome. I wrote back saying: how wonderful! As long as you are following your vocation, you are following Christ. It’s just wonderful. What we need is for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ.’
Since the Catholic Church in England has increasing numbers of ex-Anglicans in the priesthood, you will probably conclude that this is all to the good. But is it? Is the Archbishop’s position either reasonable or tenable? Is it, whatever else on might say about it, even Anglican?
‘The Anglican Communion, with its fellowship of Churches, has a special responsibility at this time in the world. We have no doctrine of our own—we only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic creeds, and those creeds we hold without addition or diminution. We stand firm on that rock.’
So said Archbishop Fisher, in the Church Times of February 5, 1951. But it is surely one thing to proclaim that Anglicanism has no distinctive doctrines, and quite another to claim (as Welby seems to be doing) that it has no doctrine at all. To be indifferent as to ecclesial allegiance is to assume an indifference about many other matters: about the nature and number of the sacraments; about the inerrancy of scripture; about the role of the Papacy; about everlasting life and eternal damnation; even about the divinity of Jesus Christ himself. It is simply not enough to make common cause about global warming.
‘It’s just wonderful!’
Joy that many are striving to be faithful disciples does not and cannot change the fact that throughout Christian history, discipleship has entailed dogmatic assertions and doctrinal propositions. The very cause of many Anglican defections to Rome – the introduction of a new dogma about women’s ordination – only goes to illustrate the point. People change allegiances because they believe different things. The unity of the Church depends on a commonality of faith. We are one because we believe the same things.
If he is so determinedly indifferent about doctrinal distinctions, why does Archbishop Welby not become a Catholic tomorrow?
If, of course, the Catholic Church would have him.