The need for a universal primacy exercised by the Bishop of Rome

01 November 2006

From the Revd Mark Mesley SSC


Sir, — Your correspondent Dr N. P. Hudd (Letters, 20 October) presumes to write on behalf of Anglicans. He does not speak for a good number of Catholic Anglicans.

Has he forgotten the ARCIC agreed document The Gift of Authority (May 1999), which recognised the importance of primacy in the context of conciliar forms of governance in the worldwide Church?

Bishop Edwin Barnes in his recent tract Authority: Who says so? (Tufton, 2006) reminds us that our Church has already agreed to the “need for a universal primacy exercised by the Bishop of Rome”. Some people may well think that the exercise of such authority by the Bishop of Rome as universal Primate is deeply problematic. Many Anglicans, however, are beginning to wonder whether the lack of authority in the Anglican Communion is not a far bigger problem.

Therefore, the Church of England and the Church in Wales should recognise their relative lack of authority, as mere provincial synods, to proceed with the ordination of women to the episcopate. They should not compound the error of their prevous unilateral action. Moreover, we are told that we are still in a period of “open reception” with regard to the latter; but this process will effectively be brought to an end (prematurely) by the consecration of the first woman “bishop” in our respective provinces.

This must be a matter for the wider Catholic Church (East and West) to decide upon, and not one that Anglicans can resolve by themselves. Our lack of humility in this respect is very evident, and the General Synod, especially the House of Bishops, needs to repent for its lack of fidelity to received Catholic order.

Several bishops known to have reservations about the wisdom of allowing women to become bishops without ecumenical consensus were apparently absent from the July vote in favour of further innovation. Were they afraid to stand up and be counted?

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