Of course, it is tempting to wax nostalgic about a simpler era when all we had to keep track of was High & Crazy, Low & Lazy, and Broad & Hazy. There were some fuzzy borders between these three Anglican world views, and a fair amount of breadth within them, but there seemed to be certain assumptions and pre-suppositions about each that we could take as axiomatic.
When I embraced Anglicanism (and the Episcopal Church) some 35 years ago, I entered, so to speak, through the High & Crazy door. This no doubt affected my ecumenical outlook, particularly in the direction of Rome and the Eastern Rite churches. They were our "Catholic cousins"--you know, the old "branch theory" ecclesiology from the halcyon years of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism. The Church of Rome was our Mother. The Reformation may have been necesssary, but it was a necessary evil. Any schism is evil. And in England, of course, it was as much (or more) a political event as a religious one. Since the Catholic Revival of the 19th century, and in the light of Vatican II, there is more and more convergence between Anglicanism and Rome, and with a little more patient endurance, we can look forward to organic reconciliation.
So went the narrative, at any rate. Sadly, it appears to have been a high water mark in ecumenical relations that will probably not be equalled in my lifetime. As I monitor cyber-traffic, in fact (which I do a fair amount of, though I know there are those who process much more), I am disturbed to notice a resurgence of anti-Roman polemic among some Episcopalians. It doesn't come from the traditional source, however, which would be the Low & Lazy contingent (i.e. Evangelicals). No, this time it emanates from our Broad & Hazy friends (aka "progressives").
Most recently, Episcopalian anti-Roman bile seems to be in reaction to reports like this one, which calls attention to the subtle but unmistakable Romeward ecumenical gestures that are present in the Archbishop of Canterbury's post-General Convention reflections. I can't help but notice the irony in listening to Episcopalian liberals wrap themselves in the rhetoric of the Reformation as they protest (thus making them, generically, "protestants") what they perceive as Archbishop Rowan's inappropriate fawning toward the Holy See. Invariably, it isn't long before they bring up the sexual abuse scandals that have made headlines over the last decade, as if that anomalous dysfunction can negate everything else that the Roman Catholic Church is and stands for. One expects the next General Convention to entertain a resolution that the petition "From the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, Good Lord deliver us" be restored to the Great Litany!
I have often said that I am a Christian by call, a Catholic by conviction, an Anglican by preference, and an Episcopalian for the sake of expediency. That is to say, in terms of the subject at hand, that I choose to be an Anglican because I believe myself to have, if there is such a thing, an "Anglican soul." The temperament, the ethos, the spiritual tradition of Anglicanism seems to me to have the best prospect, over time, of making me holy and fitting me for Heaven. And since I am "Anglican by preference," I can't actually be some other kind of Christian, including a Roman Catholic Christian.
But I have nothing against Roman Catholicism. I do not believe it to be a false religion, something to be eschewed or avoided. I hold that Church in the highest regard, and am a huge admirer of the present Pope and his predecessor. I have not exhaustively read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but I cannot imagine that there is anything of substance in it that I could not wrap my mind and heart around if it were necessary for me to do so. Although I don't expect to see it happen, nothing would give me greater joy than to be part of some body of canonical (that is to say, Canterburian) Anglicans that is sacramentally reconciled with the Holy See before I die.
Moreover, I would contend that my own position is not on the margins of Anglican thought, practice, and ecclesiology, but, rather, squarely in the mainstream. The kind of Rome-bashing that is going on in some quarters of the Episcopal Church is inherently un-Anglican in character, and not worthy of those who purvey it. Beyond making awfully strange bedfellows of American TEC liberals and Sydney-style evangelicals, it's just a smokescreen for the trenchant refusal of the General Convention majority to understand autonomy as having meaning only in the context of accountability-in-communion. It's much too Catholic a notion for them.