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Identity Crisis on Display

October 28, 2009

The Wives of Henry VIII_titleI’ve become very suspicious in recent years of the church’s longstanding preoccupation with unity. This is not to say that a desire for true unity, whether in the church or elsewhere, is ever a bad thing. It’s just that far too often it seems as though “unity” serves as a convenient cover for the advancement of covert agendas.

So, when the Vatican announced just over a week ago that the Catholic Church will formerly open its doors in the months ahead to traditionalist Anglicans disgruntled over the ordination of women priests and openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions, framing its defense for this unprecedented invitation in terms of “unity,” I was naturally suspicious.

Spanning the past decade, internal disagreement over the issues mentioned above has led to significant disunity within the Anglican Church. But is it simply coincidence that the Catholic Church is putting forth its invitation to Anglicans—and willing to put that whole Henry VIII thing behind them!—at a time in which the Anglican Church finds itself in considerable turmoil?

I hate to impugn motives (especially when the motives in question happen to be the Pope’s!), but, to me, the Vatican’s spurious invitation to disaffected Anglicans looks an awful lot like an attempt to capitalize on another’s problems in the name of “unity” precisely at a time in which the Catholic Church is struggling to keep its own numbers up!

(I wonder, after all, what the response would have been from the Vatican if Anglicans had beaten them to the punch and put forth a public invitation to disgruntled Catholics on account of the issues in question to join the Anglican fold.)

Worse yet, I hate the precedent set by this invitation. In effect, the Catholic Church is saying “Come join us and reestablish the unity of the church on account of that which we oppose.”

As the church continues to define itself in negative terms, we continue to forget that which we are called to stand for in a positive sense. If anti-gay, anti-women, anti-socialist, anti-immigrant, etc., etc. become our only identifiers as Christians, won’t the term “Christian” itself be rendered meaningless? Apart from positive identifiers (i.e., that which we stand for), Christians will become indistinguishable in a society already defined by homophobia, misogyny, capitalism and xenophobia.

What makes us different? Inclusivity or exclusivity? Open doors or walls of division?

Make no mistake about it; the unity of the church is presupposed in each of these questions, for true unity is a byproduct of a true identity, never the other way around!

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