Flying bishops: We’re not going yet

01 October 2010

By Ed Thornton

Two Church of England bishops have denied reports they will resign to take up the Ordinariate before the end the year.

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Andrew Burnham, and the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Keith Newton, both Provincial Episcopal Visitors, were said this week to have decided to leave the Church of England and had accepted the Pope’s invitation to join an Ordinariate within the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Herald said today: “Senior Anglo-Catholic bishops are likely to take up the Pope’s offer of an Ordinariate before the end of the year.” Bishop Burnham was quoted in The Tablet saying that Pope Benedict XIV had made the offer “and I’ve decided to respond to it”.

The statement, though, is ambiguous, and, in any case, has no date attached to it. Bishop Burnham said on Friday: “If there is to be an announcement, it will be early in the new year.”

Bishop Newton said on Friday that he had not resigned. “There’s nothing definite yet.”

The two bishops will be on study leave from 9 October until the end of December, during which time they are expected to consider the implications of the Pope’s offer.

Earlier this year, Bishop Burnham and Bishop Newton, along with the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, travelled to Rome to meet members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (News, 7 May).

Bishops Burnham and Newton said in a statement to The Catholic Herald that the Ordinariate offer was not dependent on any action by the Church of England’s General Synod. “The initiative should be judged on its own merit. It will require courage and vision on the part of those who accept the invitation, particularly among the first to respond.”

A retired Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Edwin Barnes, told The Tablet this week that he would join the Ordinariate “because the Anglican Church is no longer the one holy and apostolic Church it says it is”.

The news comes in the same week as the launch of a new society, formed to “give some sort of identity” to traditionalist Catholic clergy and laity who do not yet wish to leave the Church of England for the Ordinariate. The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Revd John Ford, said the new Society of St Wilfrid & St Hilda would “provide a place within the Church of England where Catholics can worship and minister with integrity”.


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