From Glory to Glory

The Church of England is in the middle of a General Synod right now where one of the questions under discussion is whether to allow for the ordination of women as bishops.  Since 1994, the Church of England has ordained women to the priesthood but has preserved the male-only tradition within the episcopate.  According to this article, 42 of 44 dioceses are in favor of making this change, which suggests that the Church of England will be making this change, if not now, then at least in the near future.

If this change is made, I think it very likely that we will see a significant number of "traditional" members of the Church of England come into the Catholic Church.  I also think that many Catholics will be hailing this as a victory and a cause for rejoicing, but I think that would be the wrong response.

To be sure, it is always a cause for rejoicing when our separated brethren come home and are united with us in the fullness of faith.  But if this plays out like I expect it will, then the manner in which it plays out will be cause for some sorrow. "All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).  This is the way of God with us.  His aim is to encourage our pursuit of the fullness of truth by moving us from glory to glory, that is, from one state of glory to yet another, greater state of glory.  Obviously this means shedding something in the process, that inglorious part of ourselves, but our God is not one to harp on our faults and shortcomings, but to continually hold out to us the promise of a greater life with and in Him.

And so, if a group were to come into the Catholic Church through a process of deepening faith and increase in understanding, let us rejoice with the angels (Luke 15:10)!  But I can't help but be twinged with some sorrow if that coming home were precipitated by a whole Church moving further away from the Church Christ founded.

All of this helps to illustrate the import of this statement from Vatican II's Lumen Gentium.   After affirming the identification of the Catholic Church as embodying the one Church established by Christ, it states, "Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines.  Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity" (paragraph 8).

The truth of this first came home to me while listening to Alex Jones' conversion story from Pentacostalism.  He told the story of a woman from his former Pentacostal congregation who was miraculously healed by an unidentified visitor who challenged her to get up out of her hospital bed in faith.  I remember my reaction to this story, which was, at first, confusion.  "If they're wrong, why would God give them a miracle?"

From glory to glory.  That's how He works!

If we are to be more like our Father, we can and should affirm whatever elements of truth are found in other faith traditions, religions, and philosophies (see Philippians 4:8).  And we will have more success by supporting and bolstering these good elements, "forces impelling towards Catholic unity," than we will by tearing down their shortcomings.