The personal ordinariates established for allowing Anglicans to keep their religious patrimony while coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church may become a new bridge toward Rome for “a whole range of Protestants Christians,” writes Fr. Dwight Longenecker in the magazine Inside the Vatican (February).
Ordinariates have now been erected in England and the U.S., with another one to follow in Australia. Among all three, they will gather over 100 clergy and “several thousand lay people.” Later “waves” of converts are expected. But Longenecker believes that the ordinariates will welcome more than a small number of conservative Anglo-Catholics as the Anglican Church will change beyond recognition, leaving no other option for Anglicans than to join the Catholic Church (a majority of Anglicans are evangelicals, and not all Anglo-Catholics want to be Catholics, while the liberal wing of the Anglican has no interest).
But he sees another alternative: noting that a group of “conservative, liturgically-minded” Lutherans has already been allowed to join the ordinariate, Longenecker claims that the future of these new structures may be to pave the way for Protestants of various kinds to join the Roman Catholic Church. If Lutherans can join the ordinariate, why not Methodists, with their historical roots in Anglicanism? For this to happen, the ordinariates need not be merely conservatories of venerable traditions, but to see their mission as evangelization and outreach. “One of the best groups to whom they might reach out are American Evangelicals.”
Longenecker warns about simplistic views of evangelicals: many of them also have an interest in the historic faith and long for a church that is liturgical, “rooted in a deep spirituality.” When they engage in such a search, usually they first come across Episcopal or Lutheran Churches, but may find a modernist agenda. Joining Roman Catholic parishes—if they overcome anti-Catholic prejudice—presents other problems, as well as a cultural gap. According to Longenecker, Catholic parishes in the Anglican tradition might offer them an atmosphere where they could more easily feel at home.
(Inside the Vatican, P.O. Box 57, New Hope, KY 40052,