What Is the End Game?

Two days ago we witnessed a divide in the direction in which English Anglo-Catholics are heading.  There are those who will accept the offer of an Ordinariate, a neat ecclesial solution to the thorniest ecclesial problem.  This option has the advantage of being strong in vision, and comes with genuine sacramental assurance via full entry into the Roman Catholic fold.  Then there are those who, for whatever reason, are forming a new society which aims to grab what the hierarchy has thus far refused.  Without clear authority or sacramental assurance, the ‘Society of S. Wilfred and S. Hilda’ is therefore a more rickety option even if it is brave in attempting to provide an ‘in house’ option for those not wanting unity with Rome.  Anyone doubting this uncertainty should note of the manner in which it was presented.  Even its most passionate advocates were speaking of it as being problematic and seemed less than confident of its long term effect.

It is because I am convinced that this society cannot deliver, resulting in further pain and distress for its members, that I was negative about its implementation at the Assembly.  These doubts remain but one sentence in the FIF press release has made me pause and take stock.  Let me quote:

The crucial issue is the ministry of the Pope himself, as the successor of St Peter.  Anglicans who accept that ministry as it is presently exercised will want to respond warmly to the Apostolic Constitution.  Those who do not accept the ministry of the Pope or would want to see that ministry in different ways will not feel able to accept Anglicanorum Coetibus.

Perhaps the venture was not launched with enough clarity?  You see it was presented using quotes from Newman and Pope Benedict alongside firm assurances that this was a move to "shore up the bridge on this side of the Tiber."  And we were led to believe that the society would care for those who want the Ordinariate model (but not yet).  What then do we make of the statement above which speaks of difficulties with the papal office?  It suggests to me that this society is less a holding house for Roman wannabees and more akin to the continuing churches of America.

I would suggest that in the interest of clarity, fairness and honesty the society should be crystal clear about its intended destination and ultimate vision from the outset.  Otherwise it might be claiming to be something it is not and could lead people into blind alleys.  If it really is a holding house for those awaiting the Ordinariate, it should be established in partnership with the bishops entering the Ordinariate and full communication channels should be left open.  Furthermore it should set time scales for its members and regularly meet to discuss how to fulfil its clear ecumenical purpose.

But if the society is intended for those who cannot ultimately accept Papal authority, then this should be stated and a separate loose federation set up for Ordinariate enquirers.  People can always move between the two at any point according to matters of conscience.

How dangerous though for those wanting to be late additions to the Ordinariate if they start looking to those whose real desire is to keep them sitting still!  No society can hold together or deliver if pulling in opposite directions and for that reason any pretence that the society can serve more than one agenda needs quashing.

Furthermore, clarity on behalf of its leadership would allow it to be greeted warmly.  If it is for those remaining Anglican at all costs, then I am certain that no Ordinariate enquirer would want to do anything other than wish it well.  It would also please the House of Bishops and General Synod who would have a clear statement of Anglican allegiance and thus be more sympathetic.  What would be outrageous, and I do not use the word lightly, is for the society to be set up on false promises.  If the use of "we look to Rome" language masks a truly protestant intent what use does it serve?  It will only confuse, hampersand bewilder the laity and clergy alike.  These are serious times and we do not have time for games.  I urge the society to make its destination crystal clear at its meeting in October.  We have been asked to be gracious to those with different conclusions to our own.  I honour that — but we must be allowed to ask questions!

Author: Fr. Ed Tomlinson

The son of an Anglican clergyman, Fr. Edward Tomlinson was born in Wigan before moving to Santiago, Chile as a baby where his father worked as a missionary with SAMS. He returned to England in time for schooling and spent those formative years in Norfolk attending the Cathedral school. He then moved to Homerton College, Cambridge before working as a primary school teacher in Colchester, Essex. It was here that the boy raised as an Evangelical (for which he gives thanks) encountered Anglo Catholic devotion for the first time. This soon led him to Westcott House in Cambridge to train for the priesthood. At Westcott the joy of encountering Anglo-Catholicism was dampened however by the horror of encountering liberal theology! The reason for his calling came into sharp focus as he avowed to stand up for the orthodox faith with every fibre of his being. A happy curacy at S. Thomas of Canterbury church in Brentwood prepared him for his current post as vicar of S. Barnabas’, Royal Tunbridge Wells. He writes a regular column for New Directions, the magazine of Forward in Faith and is also editor of the The Church Observer, a Church Union journal. In addition he writes a daily blog which, much to his surprise, continues to gain a loyal following. He is married to Hayley, a painting conservator at the National Gallery, and has two young children Jemima and Benedict.

17 thoughts on “What Is the End Game?”

    1. Many thanks to Stephen Marsden for drawing attention to the fact that the statement was not from FiF but issued on behalf of a group of bishops, most of whom have spent the last 18 years keping as much distance from FiF as possible and offering no leadership whatsoever.

      1. The evidence of history is that the FiF leadership has signally failed to deliver the solution which we its members sought. By cutting FiF off from the counsels of the Church of England they have ensured that the arguments – which we would and should have won – have been lost in precisely the places where it matters. The result is the crisis now facing Catholics in the Church of England which was eminently avoidable.

        A different approach is now required – and a willingness to fight for our Patrimony, rather than leaving it behind and walking away.

        1. I fear that Mervyn has not read "Consecrated Women?" or, indeed, taken note of the huge support given to the Catholic group in synod by Forward in Faith, particulalrly at the National Assemblies over many years. As one of the many hundreds of members of Forward in Faith who have engaged with these issues over the past 20 years at parochial, deanery, diocesan and synodical level I can safely repeat the adage "we won the arguments, but lost the votes". It is the Church of England which has failed to listen and so FiF is not in a position to provide the "solution which we its members sought". Having said that, there is a very serious offer on the table for those who are truly seeking "Unity and Truth" but for that we must express our thanks to Holy Father who might just have noticed the visionary motto of Forward in Faith!

          1. Mervyn has indeed read Consecrated Womenand thought it a very flawed proposal from Day One.

            It is precisely the fact that FiF put all its eggs in the Third Province Basket which has resulted in its complete failure when the crisis arrived, as we always knew it would. Nor does FiF have a "Plan B".

            By spending most of the past fifteen years in an imaginary third province, cutting itself and its members off from the mainstream life of the Church of England, creating a subculture of isolation from the synodical system at all levels, it has ensured that in many places there are no Catholic clergy and laity present where vital votes are taken, especially elections to General Synod. Its credibility within the Church is zero, having made its unilateral declaration of independence from the CofE.

            The result is, fewer Catholics on General Synod, and a certain failure in any attempt to mitigate the Measure.

            Thankfully only half the Catholic clergy in England actually belong to FiF, and only a very small percentage of its members are remotely interested in following its failed leadership into the new Continuing Church created by the CDF.

            The prospects for the future will be greatly improved once they have moved on.

            1. I'm pleased to hear that you have read it so I will not have to rehearse the argument for a free-province – it's the only model that makes any ecclesial sense – ANYTHING less than this is merely terminal care and does not provide a structure for our children.

              In Synods it is not just about votes, involvement etc. Look at how nasty the General Synod has become. Even the Archbishops are unable to tame this monster and 16 of thier own fellow Bishops voted against the Archbishops' proposal in July.

              Remember that the safeguards and provisions (resolutions A,B and C) are all removed by the legislation.

              I'm not quite sure how an ecclesial body in communion with the Holy See (with 1.2 billion members) can be classed as a "continuing church" –

              Mervyn if you have decided to stay-put come what may and that's fine for you but please be honest about the reasons and don't resort to blaming others as an excuse. At least FiF did something! Most of these Bishops setting up the Society are very late-comers to the battle!

    2. Perhaps Stephen Marsden is so keen to "put the record straight" because someone has acted without the authority of the FiF Executive/Council in using the FiF mailing list to distribute this press release which does not accord with the official stance of Forward in Faith expressed both in the Council and, most importantly, by the National Assembly. It is disgraceful that FiF resources have been used to assist with this ill thought through venture which I have yet to see anyone identify, a real need for! (Except possibly Bp Urwin whose hand is all over this initiative and who seeks a compromise so that the increasingly weak Walsingham Guardians can can find a more comfy fence to sit on!).

  1. At best doomed and at worst a puppet for the mainstream C of E, one that eventually will go ‘Affirming’. A playhouse in a liberal Protestant denomination – also true of perhaps well-meant Anglo-Catholic congregationalism – or a place for gay æsthetes to witter about liturgy and art.

  2. Fr Tomlinson's mistaking of the source of the press release, corrected by Fr Marsden, and the postal address of the Society being the same as FiF's encourages me to pass on the questions asked by some groups at the Ebbsfleet Lay Conference on Saturday 25th September. Isn't FiF the very Society we need and which we have already got? There were reminiscences of the language of 'seizing' what is not granted and 'our bishops' consecrating new bishops over the border. Why would FiF, re-inventing itself under new episopal leadership – the Society's named bishops, including the chairman of FOAG, instead of the 'old guard' of Fulham and PEVs – and called a 'Society' succeed now at 'seizing' where it previously failed? This is what the laity asked. My own reflection is that when Bishop Mark talked at the Sacred Synod of a Society 'within the Church' he put his finger on the trojan which may destroy this project. 'Within the Church' means interchangeability of sacraments and ministers, dependence on a parent model. It is exactly the difficulty of those issues which has led the Church of England to reject traditionalists' proposals six times (Guildford, Gloucester-Guildford, Manchester Group, Synod 2008, Revision Committee, Synod 2010) and I don't think the Society proposal disguises the difficulties sufficiently to allow traditionalists proposals to slip through the seventh time round.

    I offered a paper on the various solutions, including the Society model, five years ago and I discussed it then with bishops, including both archbishops (one of whom was a bishop at the time in the area Ebbsfleet serves), and subsequently by some of those on the Revision Committee. The problem then -and ever since – has been the same old issues of interchangeability of sacraments and ministers and relationship with the parent body.

    My own conclusion is that those Anglicans who are not convinced by the ministry of Peter – beautifully proclaimed in the visit of the Holy Father to the UK this month – should remain with the untidiness of Anglicanism and relate to the rest of the Anglican world as they are directed to by bishops and synods – for that is the Anglican system. Those who accept the ministry of Peter should accept his warm welcome into full communion, a welcome re-iterated in the published speech to the Catholic bishops at Oscott College. There are two routes: one for groups ('the caravan') and the other for individuals journeying alone ('solo swimmers'). Despite press excitement, we have no timetable as yet for the first – though there are groups preparing themselves – and the second route is always available and is even open, at present, for married priests, though whether that would continue alongside an Ordinariate provision we have yet to discover.

    We must not rain on each other's parades but there is much work to be done by the Society of Wilfred and Hilda before it is self-evident that it is viable. And it does need to be clar about its attitude to the Holy See and Anglicanorum Coetibus. Several have pointed out that both Wilfrid and Hilda were zealous supporters of bringing a fragmented British Christianity into a proper relationship with Roman conventions and the Latin Church. Is that its aim or among its objectives?


    + Andrew

  3. What are those who see such a society as a waiting place to go to Rome waiting for? If they're just waiting until the structure is set up and functioning so as to not have the hardships and risks of building up the ordinariate, that seems kind of weak, but I suppose is understandable.

    But, it doesn't seem like that's it. It seems like they're waiting for some better arrangement. What? The Holy Father has made his invitation. It's a rather generous offer. The ordinariate structure is what the Church is offering, and Rome is unlikely to invent some second structure for those Anglicans who were still holding out. That's just not in the cards.

    They're not going to get their "better" offer from Rome, and a new society of ACs with diminished membership from the groups of the past, within an Anglican Church that's continuing on its leftward march, isn't likely to find anything better within the Anglican Communion.

  4. All I can add, Bishop, is that some liturgically conservative and principled non-papalist American Anglo-Catholics, ACism's historic norm on these shores, have found a home as Western Rite Antiochian Orthodox.

    And although I cheer for and celebrate the things the remaining Anglicans still have in common with Catholicism – so evensong at Westminster Abbey with the Pope and a woman dean was no problem; the Anglicans were only being honest about a difference – Fr Tomlinson hit the nail on the head calling remaining Anglo-Catholics' bluff on any claim of hoping for union with Rome some day. The insurmountable difference between infallible church with no repeal of doctrine and a fallible one changeable by vote means union never would have happened and never will happen, and most likely the Anglicans will keep voting to move farther from us. (The ordinariates will be as close to the AC dream of union as can happen.) So end ARCIC. Given reality, sorry, remaining Angl0-Catholics claiming they want union look like they are playing a game.

    1. The young fogey,

      You said: (The ordinariates will be as close to the AC dream of union as can happen.)

      I cannot agree with that.

      The ordinariates are substantially equivalent to a diocese, but there are a couple very significant differences.

      >> 1. The ordinary can be a presbyter rather than a bishop, and thus can be married without violating the custom of not ordaining married men to the episcopacy.

      >> 2. An ordinariate need not have its own tribunals (for example, to process petitions for decrees of nullity of marriage) and other organizational infrastructure that a diocese must have. Realistically, the larger ordinariates probably will need at least five to ten years to establish their own tribunals because a tribunal requires a cadre of at least ten to twelve canon lawyers to serve as judges, advocates for the parties, Defender of the Bond, and Promoter of Justice — and one must have a pontifical degree in canon law (either JCD or JCL, which require a minimum of three years of study at an institution with a pontifical faculty beyond a seminary degree) to be a canon lawyer.

      >> 3. An ordinariate also can morph in other ways to accommodate various circumstances, some of which might not be fully foreseeable as yet. For example, the larger ordinariates probably will establish territorial "deaneries" that could function more like dioceses, with the ordinary functioning more in the role of a metropolitan. There's also nothing to prevent an ordinariate from splitting geographically into several ordinariates over time.

      But realistically, I fully expect that at least some of the larger ordinariates will be transient structures when the situation permits. Here in the United States, Pope John Paul II reorganized our former "Military Ordinariate" into a "Military Archdiocese" in 1984. I'm not aware of anything that would prevent Anglican ordinariates that gain stability and self-sufficiency to establish tribunals and other administrative infrastructure, and that have enough celibate clergy (who could come from religious orders, as in the churches of the Orthodox Communion) to supply their own bishops, from being reorganized as dioceses in, say, ten or twenty years. Rather, I think that such reorganization is very likely when and where it makes sense.

      Of course, all of this is conjecture on m part, and there's also the reality that smaller Anglican Ordinariates may never grow beyond a half dozen parishes and a small administrative office that handles only matters specific to the Anglican worship and patrimony while relying upon the dioceses within which it has parishes for many of the more standard administrative functions and support.


  5. As I wrote on my blog: My first question is do we really need another Catholic Society and why couldn’t one of the existing Societies undertake this such as FinF, SSC et al. If the new society is designed to prepare for the Ordinariate those who through force of circumstances are unable to take up the offer in the immediate future then it could become a useful tool. But, if as I think, it is to bring comfort to those who reject the Ordination of women either as bishops or priests and nothing else then, for a while it will act as a haven but, eventually, it will fade into oblivion. Talk about “mission” and “Christian Unity” are meaningless unless there is some action. Could it be that some of the Anglo-Catholic Bishops want to be seen as doing something (anything?) whilst retaining the status quo. If unity is really part and parcel of the Society it should be helping and encouraging priests and people to accept the offer of Pope Benedict.

    Secondly, this Society is designed to exist within the Church of England. Do the organisers believe that if it ever becomes successful it would be allowed to continue? I don’t think so! What happens then – a continuing “church” perhaps? Please, not another schism forming yet another continuing church.

    Thirdly, what about the frequently stated aim of FinF to provide a Catholic future for “our children and grandchildren” Once the CofE go down the path of Consecrating Women there is no future for Catholics – one wonders why the Bishops who are setting up this Society don’t understand this. Once the protection afforded by the Act of Synod is rescinded by this new legislation there is no Sacramental Assurance and therefore no future within the Church of England for Catholics.

    In the short term the Society may, I stress may, be helpful but in the long term the only way to ensure a Catholic future for our children and grandchildren is RITA (Rome is the Answer) via the Ordinariate.

  6. I suppose that I should not say it quite so bluntly, but how is this proposed society of vague and uncertain purpose anything other than to seek to follow the path and choices of those high-church Catholic-minded Swedish Lutherans who, since their views began to be proscribed in SveK (Svenska Kyrkan, Church of Sweden) beginning in 1982 have adamantly refused to leave for Rome, Orthodoxy or even, in recent years, the "Mission Province" — a dissident body standing in roughly the same relation to SveK as the AMiA purported to stand in relation to TE"C" at the time of its creation in 2000 — and so have condemned themselves to total marginalization within SveK and ultimate extinction? For a time these held out the hope that SveK would "implode" (i.e., suffer an increasing ongoing lack of active members and of nominal members willing to involve themselves in church-bureaucratic activities out of a vague "public spiritedness," such that SveK as an institutional-bureaucratic structure would begin to collapse) and that they might be well-positioned to pick up some of the pieces, but now it begins to appear (a) that the "implosion" is proceeding at a slower rate than they have hoped and (b) that some of the "societies" and "organizations" of these "stay-in-ers" are beginning themselves to "implode" in a conspicuous way.

    It looks to me as though this "Society of S. Wilfred and S. Hilda" is thus setting itself up to reinvent the "Swedish wheel," which has proven itself to be a square wheel, and of what possible use is a square wheel?

    1. That's very interesting. There are those who hold out these illusory hopes of "implosion" within the Church in Wales. Essentially, they are saying to us "stay put and all will be well." I agree with you about the fatal prospects of such a course of action. The choice appears to be very simple: there is either the Church or liberal protestantism of some kind, there is no middle ground to be found here.

      1. Hmm, Wilfrid and Hilda, great saints, but part of the heritage of the "north countree." And haven't I heard somewhere that these northerners, for all their virtues, ar very anti-Roman, even — nefas dictu — those SSC clergy in the North? (What will Bishop Jarrett do?) And for that matter, wasn't Bishop Mark Sowerby, one of their patrons, until recentlyRector of St. Wilfrid's, Harrowgate?

        I thought for about an hour that this society might possibly be a vwhicle for those on "the slow track" to Rome via the Ordinariat, as opposed to the sprinters on "the fast track" who will arrive early next year. But I now think this unlikely, esp. upon rereading this:


Leave a Reply