Rome warns Anglicans who contemplate jumping ship

by
16 July 2008

by Bill Bowder

Riding high: Pope Benedict arrives at Bangaroo on Wednesday, for his welcome at World Youth Day, in Sydney PA

Riding high: Pope Benedict arrives at Bangaroo on Wednesday, for his welcome at World Youth Day, in Sydney PA

OPPOSITION to the consecration of women bishops is not reason enough to become a Roman Catholic, Rome has reaffirmed, amid signals that it wants the Anglican Communion to avoid schism.

Its warning came as a number of Catholics in the Church of England considered going over to Rome after the General Synod voted against the inclusion of legislative safeguards when a Measure to introduce women bishops is drafted (News, 11 July).

“The ordination of women is not a good enough reason for an Anglican to be received into the Catholic Church,” Mgr Andrew Faley, the Westminster-based RC ecumenical representative on the Synod, said. While the RC Bishops of England and Wales would maintain a “generous welcome” towards lay people and male clerics who felt that they could no longer stay in the C of E, there was no “fast track” or “respray” for Anglican priests who wanted to serve as Roman Catholic priests, he said.

On Wednesday, the Pope, who was visiting Australia for World Youth Day, was reported as saying that Anglicans needed to avoid “further schisms and fractures”.

Other senior Roman Catholics warned that secessions would not be encouraged, and that talk of Rome’s receiving a group of conservative bishops and parishes was “premature”, press reports said.

The flying Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough (see here) have called a meeting of Anglican Catholic clergy for next Wednesday at St Alban’s, Holborn, to discuss the next step. The meeting is aimed particularly at those whose jobs would be affected by the Synod’s chosen course of action. There will be a further meeting at St James’s, Wednesbury, on 6 August. Canon Martyn Griffiths, Rector of St Mary’s, Henley-on-Thames, said that he had received an invitation by email to the meetings.

Canon Martin Warner, Master of the Guardians of the Anglican Shrine in Walsingham, said on Monday: “Now is not the moment to be making rash decisions, identifying enemies, or seeking scapegoats”: a “potency of generosity” in the General Synod debate should be built on.

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Others have expressed delight that the Synod voted to have women bishops with no legislated limitation of their ministry or jurisdiction. John Plant, who chairs the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, said that the decision affirmed the vocation of women, while including those who took other views.

Canon Giles Goddard, who chairs the Inclusive Church group, said that it was a time for rejoicing. “We have reached another milestone in the long process of removing the barriers to inclusion in the Church of England.” He hoped that “helpful past dialogues” could be revitalised to help those opposed to work with those in favour through an “effective” code of practice.

The Church of Norway, which is in full communion with the Church of England through the Porvoo Agreement, praised the Synod’s decision. “The Church of England has taken a bold and mature action knowing well the immediate costs involved.” The Norwegian Church had been through a similar process itself, and had been “much blessed” as a result, it said in a statement.

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