There are a lot of confusing factors here.
- What is the Anglican Continuum? Are these groups of schismatics with a tendency to schism among themselves, or are the Continuing Churches better exponents of Anglicanism than has been demonstrated by the infighting of Liberal, Conservative and Anglo-Catholic over the various issues? Is it inevitable that Anglicans schism?
- Are the Ordinariates safe for Anglicans? Again, there are lots of arguments both ways here. See my earlier post.
- Is the Doctrine of Taint viable? By this I mean, the following reasoning:
(1) Women cannot be ordained.
(2) When a bishop attempts to ordain women, he claims that he "ordains" a woman into the same order as he ordains a man.
(3) If (1) and (2) are true then the orders established by that bishop must be as invalid for the male as for the female.
(4) From (3), doubt arises about the validity of any sacrament in a jurisdiction which supports W"O".
(5) From (4), to remain fully Catholic and Apostolic, one cannot be communio in sacris with any jurisdiction which admits W"O".
If this is the correct reasoning by some Anglo-Catholic bodies, then I query statement (2) and the weight of its implication into (3). If a bishop "ordains" a women and claims that the orders he bestows are the same as for a man, can he not be mistaken in his belief? A priest can claim to baptise a bell, but, if our understanding is correct that bells do not have immortal souls, the baptism is useless, ineffectual and quite null. Would that therefore mean that any baptism that the priest performs on a baby is therefore invalid?
If the Ordination of Women does introduce doubt into Anglican Orders, then is it not reasonable to seek certainty by conditional re-ordination by Rome, or the Orthodox Church?
- What about the Heretics? Shouldn't one be concerned with hate the Heresy, love the Heretic? Scripture bids us walk apart from Heretics, but how far should we walk apart? If we are ministers to the world, then we are ministers to the Heretic as well as anyone else. If we have lived in the C of E for a long time, can we just honestly turn to our long-serving and gently disposed priests and utterly reject every good they have done in our lives just because they have been beguiled by the Zeitgeist into accepting W"O"?
What of Religious orders that have accepted W"O" when their Oblates have not?
It is God alone who judges the integrity of an individual's Christianity, and nonetheless do we have the challenge of how we can minister with those who profoundly disagree with us. However, supporters of W"O" must show that they understand Anglo-Catholic difficulties if they are maximise the level of communion between us. At present many don't and are unwilling to make the conceptual leap, judging from the self-righteous and arrogant comments made on the Thinking Anglicans blog.
If we do separate, then what are the conditions that need to be met for coming back together again?
These are the questions that worry me at the moment as I suspect they worry many of us. What is the worst case scenario?
I suppose that it depends on your definition of "worst". For me its the prolonged homelessness that comes from not finding any spiritual stability in any of the above options. We're back to my desert analogies here. The worst thing may well be for good Anglo-Catholics to be forced to fulfill their Obligations by attending Mass in a Parish with a woman in a chasuble. Anglo-Catholics have that sense of obligation, but we could be faced with a choice between two apostasies (go to such a Mass or stay at home) or the loss of our Anglican identity (by becoming Roman Catholic). The latter may be a necessary sacrifice in order to meet our obligations, but then what do we make of "to thine own self be true"?
The desert, however, is not an entirely fruitless place to be. One can consider the Desert Fathers who managed to eke out lives of great solitude and asceticism. I would recommend reading the sayings of the Desert Fathers as they provide some extraordinary attitudes to living in the most inhospitable places in order to free the spirit from the shackles of this world. Consider:
Abba Mark said to Abba Arsenius, 'Why do you avoid us?' The old man said to him, 'God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with God and with men. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while men have many. So I cannot leave God to be with men.'
Perhaps this sort of existence is necessary for the Anglo-Catholics in order for them to manifest their saltiness to the World. The worst thing is that we become isolated individuals without priest or bishop living to some personal commitment to our Faith via Breviary or Common Prayer Book and Works of Mercy but hearing Mass in a Roman Catholic Church but never physically receiving the Sacrament again, staying away from the worldliness of a Communion that has become Apostate but desiring still to walk with other Christians.
That's the worst case, and I suspect (though I pray not) it may become a reality for some unfortunate souls. They still have the examples of the Desert Fathers to help them through.
In God we trust.
Of course we do, an thus we know that our future with Him may not be easy, but our striving for fidelity will lead us under His guidance to find a place in the Church where we can exist well, though relying on Him alone for contentment, nourishment and stability. I doubt that we will be comfortable for the next thirty years, but let us carry God with us into our future and let Him have the control over it. We cannot control our future, but God is faithful.