Rome or Canterbury? The Vatican’s new provision for ex-Anglicans

by
28 October 2009

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From Mr Tim Hind
Sir, — “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” was as apt for Mark Twain as it is for the Anglican Communion. The potential secession of my brother, John Hind, Bishop of Chichester, to Rome is of interest, but is not a death knell for the Anglican Communion.

Ecumenism is important. Our Lord requires us to seek unity. Let us not, however, be in any doubt that ecumenism is about federation, not empire. The Pope’s offer to Anglicans is not about ecumenism. Whether it is a cynical attempt to shore up the reduction in numbers of Catholic priests is for others to decide.

It is said that we Christians are a rainbow people. This does not imply that each of us is a rainbow. Ecu­men­ism provides us with the opportunity to explore our diversity with each of the different colours of the rainbow providing for a way in which we, as Christians, can reach out to different sectors of the com­munity. Unity is about dealing with diversity con­struct­ively: it is unity, not uniformity.

What is most important at this time is for us to understand what God is saying to us. I believe he is giving the Church of England a wonderful olive branch, which, if grasped, will enable us to move forward with our intention, clearly expressed in the General Synod debate in July, to ordain women to the episcopate.

The removal of a swath of oppon­ents will increase the majority in favour of the consecration of women and empower the Church of England to explore fully this imaginative ministry.

The Church of England’s General Synod, when it meets in February, can now look forward with renewed excitement to the proposition of a single-clause Measure.

It is vital that, when we do ordain women to the episcopate, they are seen by the whole of the Church of England as bishops in their own right. The proposals currently on offer from the revision committee still leave a doubt whether some will see women as second-class citizens. A single-clause Measure will remove that doubt.
TIM HIND
Synod member for Bath & Wells
Plowmans Corner, The Square
Westbury-sub-Mendip BA5 1HJ

From the Bishop of Wakefield
Sir, — The announcement of the Apostolic Constitution for Personal Ordinariates should not be allowed to overshadow the advances that have been made over the past gen­era­tion in Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, or to distract us from our search for the visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote, “The common heritage of the achievement of the ARCIC agreed statements, and in the IARCCUM principles for shared work and wit­ness (in Growing Together in Unity and Mission, 2007) remain the solid ground both for our future co-operation as global communions, and our regional and local growth in common faith and witness.”

In the global context, the Anglican Centre in Rome has worked to devel­op friendly and informed relation­ships between the two communions, facilitating conversations not only between the ecumenically commit­ted, but also with Vatican depart­ments less familiar with other traditions.

My own work with the Liturgical Commission involves direct contact with the Roman Catholic Church (and the Methodist Church) through observers, and also through ecumen­ical scholarships and study of liturgy, which works across all boundaries, national and international.

In my own diocese, as in others, relations with our Roman Catholic counterparts are warm and con­fident, and, indeed, I have been in contact with my Roman Catholic counterpart in this part of Yorkshire, since last week’s announcement, re-offering our continuing commit­ment.
STEPHEN PLATTEN
Chairman of the Anglican Centre in Rome
Bishop’s Lodge, Woodthorpe Lane
Wakefield WF2 6JL

From Canon Robert Cotton
Sir, — I submitted to the revision committee a proposal for a society model whereby those opposed to women bishops would belong to a society, embedded within the Church, outside diocesan structures, receiving oversight from a “sympa­thetic” bishop. Clearly the Pope has adopted this pattern quicker than the revision committee could.

But this means that the question before Synod in February changes. No longer is there force in the argument that provision has to be made for those unable to accept women bishops; for that has now happened. So the simplest solution becomes a real possibility: a single-clause Measure, with a clear protocol agreed with the Roman Church about how Anglican priests who want to accept the Pope’s gracious offer can do so.

Even if the revision committee cannot change direction in response to this quickly enough to amend their report before February, General Synod will know that the terms of this debate have shifted irrevocably.
ROBERT COTTON
9 Eastgate Gardens
Guildford, Surrey

From Mr Peter Brown
Sir, — I, for one, rejoice at the prospect of finally seeing the back of the traditionalists. Their going to join the Roman Catholic Church would be the best thing since the ordination of women. The Anglican Church will be all the better for their going. Thanks to their continual sniping and carping, the Anglican Church is being discredited daily.

I am sure I am not alone when I say to these folk: “The door is open — please, just go!”
PETER BROWN
Binfield, Predannack, Mullion
Cornwall TR12 7EZ

From the Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan
Sir, — Do I understand the Pope’s surprising offer to Anglicans to mean that those who have treasured Ro­man practices in an Anglican context will now have the chance to treasure Anglican practices in a Roman con­text? And is that actually tempting?
COLIN BUCHANAN
21 The Drive, Alwoodley
Leeds LS17 7QB

From the Revd J. D. Wright
Sir, — The Pope’s invitation to disaffected Anglican clergy to join the Roman Catholic Church has not been well thought out. As many such clergy already use the Roman rite, I doubt that they would want to use Anglican rites on joining the Roman Catholic Church. Also, I wonder how many of them wish to follow the Pope’s traditional teaching on homo­sexuality.
J. D. WRIGHT
St. Cuthman’s Vicarage
Whitehawk, Brighton BN2 5HW

From Mr Peter Bolton
Sir, — So, everyone is happy. That which Catholics have been asking for is to be provided by the Holy Father; those who have fought long and hard for the episcopal ordination of women will get all that they have asked for with no conditions: equal bishops with equal authority. I just can’t help wondering how long those who are left will continue to balance on this three-legged stool that has had one leg kicked away.
PETER BOLTON
46 Manor Road
Weston-super-Mare BS23 2SU

From the Revd Barbara Watson Hammond
Sir, — It occurs to me that there have been other times in history when popes have invited or sum­moned the best of English men to leave all behind and defend the Catholic Faith — in the Crusades.

They left behind their womenfolk, who successfully kept everything going — the kingdom, the castles, the farms, and the homesteads, etc. — until the survivors returned, and a new generation of goodly young men grew up to restore the balance in society.

Will history repeat itself now for the Church of England?
BARBARA WATSON HAMMOND
27 Maisemore Gardens
Emsworth, Hants PO10 7JU

From Canon Paul Oestreicher
Sir, — Whatever the Pope’s inten­tion, I pray that the law of unin­tended effect may operate. I pray that it may liberate the best Archbishop of Can­terbury world Anglicanism can hope to have from the role of reluct­ant diplomat. I pray that Rowan Williams might now be set free to lead a Church, Catholic and reformed, in which women and men have equal dignity, and in which our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers are gladly embraced.
PAUL OESTREICHER
The Chaplaincy
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9RH

From Sister Myra Poole SNDdeN
Sir, — I am deeply ashamed and personally dissociate myself from the actions of Pope Benedict XVI, supported by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Rt Revd Vincent Nichols, over the proposal of Personal Ordinates for those An­glicans who convert to Rome on the question of women Bishops.

I know I speak for many others as well. The papacy has shown scant courtesy to the members of its sister Church, and publicly insulted the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The situation of women in the RC Church is dire, but in spite of that we have run Catholic Women’s Ordina­tion for nearly 20 years, and with some considerable success.

Many people may not know that Archbishop Nichols was the Church’s representative on the National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW) in the 1990s, and it was he who suggested the title of a booklet published by the NBWC, Do Not Be Afraid, on the position of women in Church and society. If only he had taken this title to heart, as many of us have done, women would now be in a much better position.

The details of this proposal have yet to unfold; but I think this action could backfire badly on the reputa­tion of the papacy and the RC Church, especially in England. The idea that this Pope is determined to work towards Christian unity is a myth. This proposal did not come from the Council for Christian Unity in Rome, who, I understand, were not in favour of this action, but from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Levada.

The only unity Pope Benedict XVI and his advisers want is the unity with those who are “right-wingers”, to use a political term. If the Pope had to appear on the BBC’s Question Time, he would get an even worse reception than the British National Party leader.

The question now for RCs who have a much greater understanding of what Church should and could be is openly to call these present actions of this papacy to account in the light and spirit of Vatican II. With others, I wait to see how this situation will unravel.
MYRA POOLE
Catholic Women’s Ordination
210 Compass House
Smugglers Way, London SW18

From the Revd John Macpherson
Sir, — Few of us would wish to deny disaffected C of E clergy the oppor­tunity of joining the Roman Catholic Church, any more than we would seek to stand in the way of soccer players’ accepting a tempting offer to move to another club.

Those clergy who go, however, will be expensive to replace. It is surely to be hoped that the Vatican will pay the Church Commissioners a substantial transfer fee to cover the cost of each departure.
JOHN MACPHERSON
Little Tanglewood, Markyate
Herts AL3 8PZ

From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, — When I was the Team Vicar in Turville, Buckinghamshire, I was approached by a Benedictine monk who supported the ordination of women and was considering marry­ing for the second time. His first wife died before he became a monk and a priest about 15 years ago.

After a considerable interval, he was received into the Church of England by the Bishop of Oxford in St Mary’s, Turville, in the presence of his Roman Catholic and Anglican friends. He came in faith to us with nothing. He was excommunicated by the Church he was leaving.

I believe the free transfer between our two Churches either way to be an act of faith in a personal journey, a sign of a unity yet to come; and it should be supported. But for a priest to move one way or the other and to expect the entire structure of pay, accommodation, and place of worship to move with him is in an entirely different category, falling short of a personal act of faith exploring the unknown and carrying no baggage.
PAUL NICOLSON
Chairman, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
38 Ebury Street
London SW1W 0LU

From the Revd Robert Charles
Sir, — The latest gesture of the Roman Catholic Church, offering a special facility to disaffected Anglicans, has come at a sensitive time for many of us who have little appetite for some of the proposed changes that threaten the traditional structures of our Church.

Traditionalist bishops have said that they are considering the Roman option, a statement that I find alarming and premature. In effect, they are saying that they no longer believe their ministry as Anglican bishops to be Catholic in the sense that that word is understood within the Roman Communion.

By accepting the need for ordina­tion by a Roman prelate, they are in effect acknowledging that their Anglican orders are null and void, and that by so doing they are receiv­ing something they did not possess previously. However Rome may attempt to acknowledge their Anglican ministry, the fact is that it will not be recognised as a priestly ministry in the Roman sense.

I hope that bishops considering this course of action will immedi­ately cease confirming and ordaining in the Church of England. To con­tinue to do so is tantamount to saying to candidates that they are conferring upon them something they have come to believe to be deficient, while, for their part, they are about to seek the “real thing”. I would find it impossible to allow such a bishop to confirm people I had prepared for confirmation.
ROBERT CHARLES
The Vicarage
Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6AA

From the Revd Patrick Davies
Sir, — The Apostolic Constitution is a very creative and generous move. And, while it is hard to know what this means until we see the details, it does offer, for some of us, some hope. For many, including me, leaving the Church of England is something we never wanted or looked for, and pray we don’t have to. It does feel, how­ever, that we are being increasingly marginalised within the Church of England.

It seems that any provision that will allow us to remain in the Church of our birth is offered grudgingly. I respect those who, although supporters of women’s episcopacy, have striven to find a solution to this problem. But, as it was stated, a structural problem requires a structural solution, and no one has grasped that nettle yet.

We Anglican Catholics who live and work and love the Church of England are left feeling isolated and uncertain; for, no matter how often we have asked to remain, to be offered structures that will allow us to thrive with dignity within our own Church, these have been ig­nored.

Despite having achieved their goal of allowing female ordination to the episcopate, this was not enough for liberals. The attitude from the likes of WATCH, Affirming Catholicism, and Inclusive Church has only underlined the lack of love for those subscribing to an orthodox faith. Many lay people and priests feel they are an unwanted minority facing a bleak future on the outer fringes of the Church in which we were baptised and which taught us the faith that we hold dear.

Isn’t it possible that even now, at this late hour, our own Church can show the same degree of love, imagination, and flexibility as the Pope has shown? I beg that the General Synod and the House of Bishops will offer a structural provision to allow us to remain in the Church of our birth and heritage.
PATRICK DAVIES
St Crispin’s Rectory, 2 Hart Road
Fallowfield, Manchester M14 7LE

From Mr Robin Saunders
Sir, — In matters of religion, as St Bernard of Clairvaux put it, it is better to persuade than impose. The Church of England long ago lost the power to impose, and, whatever one may think of the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans, if it reveals that the C of E can no longer persuade many of its existing members that its message is worth while, then this will raise serious doubts about its capacity to evangelise the increasingly secular majority outside its current membership.

The claim to be the Church for the whole nation will be shown to be a hollow one unless it moves fast to prevent such a loss and to restore the historic compromise, albeit in what may well be a radically new form.
ROBIN SAUNDERS
29 Bedingfield Way, Lyminge Folkestone, Kent CT18 8JH

From the Revd A. Pyke
Sir, — The great Christian traditions could be likened to the tectonic plates that cover the earth’s surface. Period­ically, the stresses along the fault lines build up sufficiently to trigger an earthquake resulting in a new alignment of the plates. This process is costly and painful to us, but necessary for a dynamic earth that is capable of renewing itself over time.

The papal offer is, perhaps, one of those seismic moments. Anyone who is able to meet the conditions set out by the Holy Father by subscribing to the Roman doctrines that have historically divided us belongs there in the Roman rather than in the Anglican Church.

Our respective spiritual journeys are taking us in opposite directions, and it will be to our mutual advantage if the stresses can be relieved. The manner of our separation is crucially important to both our futures. God will not bless either bitterness or triumphalism.

I would like to see a service of valediction take place in which we can give thanks for the journey we have taken together up to this point, and commend each other to the grace of God in a spirit of love and generosity. If we are each being led by the Holy Spirit in this journey of faith, then our fellowship need not be broken, and we can look to God for his blessing as we move forward in obedience to his will as we understand it.

Is it too much to hope that something like this could happen?
ALAN PYKE
29 Stuart Court, High Street
Leics LE8 0LR

From the Revd Clive Kirk
Sir, — Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury should issue an open invitation to all our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, including priests and religious, who are unhappy about a lack of recognition for women, a celibate clergy, the position of other minority groups, and contraception to join the Anglican Communion and retain their rights in a similar fashion to the promises from Benedict XVI to those going in the other direction.

Rome would gain by the loss of its “difficult” ones and we would retain a Catholic wing, perhaps even a stronger one.
CLIVE KIRK
The Rectory, Ockham Lane
Ockham, Surrey GU23 6NP

From the Revd Paul Ockford
Sir, — As a retired Anglo-Catholic priest with 39 years’ experience, I have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in many denominations. In pastors, both men and women, and in the laity. As God prospers and supports his work across the spectrum of Christianity, it seems that the further machinations of mere mortals in Rome are increasingly immaterial.
PAUL OCKFORD
78 Wold Road, Pocklington
York YO42 2QG

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