FOUNDED by St Francis in 1221, the Third Order, Society of St Francis, is one of the largest and most established religious communities: thousands follow its rule of life in their own homes around the world.
Yet it has taken 800 years for the Church of England to officially recognise it as an order.
It was only when Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes took over as the Minister Provincial for Europe last year that he thought to double-check that the order had been officially recognised by the Anglican Communion — and found to his surprise, and to everyone else’s, that it had not.
The omission was something of an oversight, but it was an important one. Professor Hughes said: “We now have the tick in the box, but it is a very important tick. We can now play our proper part in the advisory committee between bishops and religious communities, and be represented on Synod. We will be able to play more of a part, have more influence, and, I hope, more impact on the Anglican Church.”
Other religious communities already recognised include the Community of St Mary the Virgin, in Wantage; the Northumbria Community; and the Community of St Anselm.
In the European province of the order, there are 1851 professed tertiaries and novices of the Third Order, and about 3000 worldwide, with growing numbers in Scandinavia.