It says "The recruitment drive is a potential embarrassment for Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is travelling to Italy for his meeting with the Pope." But then it goes on to say:
"While the Pope is keen to welcome any conservative Anglicans, he is also keen to forge good relations with Williams. 'The Vatican will do nothing to undermine Williams at such a precarious moment in Anglican history,' one source said."
How does one reconcile these sentiments?
In the end, I suppose, it doesn't really matter whether they can be reconciled. Either the pope is planning a "recruitment drive" or he isn't.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, and to be personal about it: I am a young priest. No doubt I'm one of the youngest priests in the Episcopal Church. I've been priested for just over a year. My experience of being a priest so far? With few exceptions, it has been a thankless, joyless, unrewarding, heartbreaking, exhausting, and profoundly lonely enterprise. Among my fellow clergy, I have been surrounded in turns by heresy, backbiting, scandal, cynical political maneuvering, and downright atheism. I've known a woman-minister to deny the sacraments to a layman on his deathbead because he could not accept the ministrations of another priest who was a transexual. That's ECUSA. Among the laity, I've encountered combinations of casual indifference, high-minded-secularist condescension, and loads of uncertainty, confusion and precipitous action in the face of the Anglican ecclesial incoherence. In short, I feel ready to retire. Or at least this explains why the prospect of "going over to Rome" is so alluring. Not because the grass is greener in Rome: I know that there is plenty of Roman nuttiness, particualrly in America, and there too is plenty of scandal and cynical maneuvering and what not. But even as an Anglican, one can see the Glory of God shining through the fissures in Rome's worldly surface. And while I think I can see that Glory in Anglicanism too, its certainly not as clear. One has the impression that the glowing of the fissures in Anglicanism might just be the fire of judgment at its core, rather than the Shekhinah Glory. Yet do I hope.
On the other hand, I sort of expected this. General Convention 2003, with the election of Gene Robinson, happened during the summer after my first year at Seminary. So I experienced a good two years of Anglicanism's downward spiraling before my ordination. When the time came for me to be priested, the hand was writing legibly on the wall, and I had serious reservations about being made an Episcopal priest. I had a fairly clear idea of what it would mean for a catholic Christian to submit to ordination in the Episcopal Church. In the end, I felt God was telling me that this was the place where I could be closest to his Son's own priesthood. The ony real priesthood is in the person of Christ (in persona Christi, as they used to say), and therefore to minister the cross in the person of Christ means to minister in Christ at once as priest and as victim. I felt God telling me that here, as an Episcopal priest, I could give the most and get the least. Here I could pour myself out in union with Christ's own outpouring. Here I would have an opportunity to pray for those who don't know what they're doing. Here I could expect dividends only from the treasury of Christ's merit. Knowing this, in the weeks before my ordination, I began to pray Michael Ramsey's prayer at the end of my office each day:
Lord take my heart and break it: break it not in the way I would like, but in the way you know to be best. And because it is you who break it, I will not be afraid, for in your heands all is safe and I am safe. Lord, take my heart and give to it your joy, not in the ways I would like, but in the ways you know are best, that your joy may be fulfilled in me.
And having not prayed it thitherto, at Evensong, right before my priesting, I added the final clause:
So, dear Lord, I am ready to be your priest. Amen.
So here I am, Father WB, episcopal priest. But I cannot forever endure the mess that ECUSA has become. It will kill me. I already feel ready to retire, and I'm not yet thirty years old. I believe that, barring some seismic turn-around, ECUSA will kill whoever remains in it. Negotiating the scylla of heresy and the charybdis of a hardened heart, is a desperate and seemingly impossible task. And that's why I welcome these kinds of Vatican murmurings. Something's got to be done. This is at least a sign of something being done by someone. I also welcome the murmurings of certain of the primates. But it remains unclear to me that they will be able to provide a home for the orthodox remnant and that, even if they can, its not at all clear (to me, anyway) that the Communion will survive America's winnowing.
In the meantime here's what I recommend: pray (really pray; if you want help, email me), read your Bible, and bless those who persecute you.
Update: I shouldn't really say that my ministry has been "joyless." It has been pervaded by joy, but its the kind of serene joy of the cross. And for me, sinner that I am, its fragile.