THREE Church of England bishops went to Rome last week to meet Vatican officials. One of them, the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Keith Newton, is said to have been asking Anglican priests to join him in an Ordinariate in the RC Church.
The Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, and two Provincial Episcopal Visitors, the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Keith Newton, and the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Andrew Burnham, met members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome last week.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the Bishops had told senior Vatican officals that they were “keen to defect to Rome”. Bishop Newton said on Tuesday that the visit had been a “fact-finding” mission to “explore issues”, and that it had been “over-hyped” in the press.
He offered “No comment” when he was asked whether Dr Williams had warned him that he would have to resign if he sought to “actively recruit”. On Wednesday, Lambeth Palace had not responded to a request to confirm or deny whether this warning had been given.
The Bishop said that he had been “going around talking to people and asking them to let me know” their attitudes to the Ordinariate. He would not say how many had expressed an interest “until after Synod”, which meets in July.
A priest under the Bishop’s care, who wished to remain anonymous, said last week that he had been invited to a lunch in Walthamstow attended by 20 of the clergy, in which the Bishop had made it “very clear he was going to join the Ordinariate. He talked about his discussions with Rome about the Ordinariate, and he wanted urgently to know who would be joining him.
“Clearly the members of the SSC [the Society of the Holy Cross] there were in favour of doing that, but a number of us said that we didn’t want to give up the fight and that we remained loyal Anglicans.
“He spoke to us after lunch, and we listened to him for almost an hour. He wanted to know who would be joining the Ordinariate, and how many parishioners we would be bringing with us. He made it clear he would be joining, himself.
“He told me some time ago that the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he cannot openly recruit, because otherwise he would require his resignation. The Bishop was openly asking them to join with him . . . You can’t have a bishop openly trying to recruit for another Church, and yet staying within it at the same time. . . There have been a number of these lunches.”
The Vicar of St Saviour’s, Walthamstow, the Revd David Waller, said on Wednesday that his PCC had resolved that it wanted in God’s good time to opt for the Ordinariate. Rome had made it clear what it was offering. “But what is not clear is how to get from A to B. Nobody knows that, and nobody is telling us,” he said.
“It takes time, and everything depends on the practicability of it, but we cannot wait for ever, because things are moving forward in the Church of England.”
Three parishes in the deanery have voted for the Ordinariate.