Cardinal Walter Kasper has called for the Anglican Church to “clarify its identity,” saying the church must make “certain difficult decisions” to determine whether it belongs to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the first millennium or the Protestant Churches of the 16th century.
The cardinal’s remarks precede the Anglican Communion’s upcoming Lambeth Conference, a worldwide gathering of Anglicans that takes place every ten years. Controversies concerning biblical authority, sexual morality, and the ordination of women and homosexuals as bishops are expected to dominate the conference.
According to the Catholic Herald, Cardinal Kasper said the Anglican Church must ask itself where it belongs.
“Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox - or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions,” said Cardinal Kasper, who is president of the Pontifical Council on Christian Unity.
The cardinal said he hoped that there would be a deciding moment for Anglicanism at the Church’s next Lambeth Conference. Cardinal Kasper has been asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head Anglican prelate, to address the conference.
“We hope that certain fundamental questions will be clarified at the conference so that dialogue will be possible.
"We shall work and pray that it is possible, but I think that it is not sustainable to keep pushing decision-making back because it only extends the crisis,” Cardinal Kasper said.
The Church of England is considering proceeding with the ordination of women bishops and the sanctioning of homosexual partnerships, both of which are serious obstacles to unity with other Christian bodies and within the Anglican Church itself.
Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, sparked controversy as the first openly homosexual Episcopalian bishop. His plans to enter a civil union with his partner have also angered conservative Anglicans. Bishop Robinson plans to attend public events at Lambeth despite the fact that he was not invited by Archbishop Williams.
Conservative bishops, led by Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, have been dismayed by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to condemn homosexuality outright. According to the Catholic Herald, they plan a rival conference in the Holy Land in June.
Cardinal Kasper in 2006 said that Anglican plans to ordain women as bishops would lead to “a serious and long lasting chill.” However, last month the Church of England’s Legislative Drafting Group published a report preparing for women bishops, who are already ordained in several Anglican provinces.