"This Could Be Its Finest Hour"

Here's an interesting article from The American Spectator.

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This Could Be Its Finest Hour

By Mark Tooley on 8.17.12 @ 6:09AM

The Church of England defends traditional marriage reverently, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.

The U.S. based Episcopal Church's recognition of same sex unions last month mostly excited a big yawn. More interesting is the resistance of its mother body, the Church of England, to Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to install same sex marriage in Britain. The latter's opposition is more significant because it remains its nation's established church and still wields political and constitutional powers.

Episcopalians have often behaved as the established church in America. It once was the church of America's elites. But now below 2 million members and spiraling, the Episcopal Church no longer excites more than knowing smiles. Its affirmation of transgender clergy last month, at its General Convention, fulfilled stereotypes about modern, liberal Episcopalians.

The Church of England similarly often has a penchant for striving to be trendier than thou. But even as it presides over an increasingly secular Britain, it cherishes its role as senior church in the global, 80 million member Anglican Communion. And its few pockets of spiritual vitality in Britain often tend to be evangelical, often immigrant. Its second senior most prelate, the Archbishop of York, is himself a Ugandan and potentially the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

It's also true than in a secularizing country, the Church of England (unlike U.S. Episcopalians, who mostly just resent more numerous evangelicals) appreciates the threat to religious liberty under a regime of imposed same sex marriage. How would the established church disallow what the civil law requires? The church may have to disestablish, especially if it desires any continued leadership over global Anglicans.

British media quoted church officials dismissing government plans as "'half-baked,' ‘very shallow,' ‘superficial' and ‘completely irrational.'" Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu only slightly more diplomatically lamented that government proposals "have not been thought through and are not legally sound." The church's official response rejected the government's push with vigorous, point-by-point rebuttals.

One organizer of that response was Bishop of Leicester Tim Steve, who declared on his own: "Marriage is not the property of the Church any more than it is the property of the Government. It is about a mutually faithful physical relationship between a man and a woman." He warned, despite government claims of protection for churches, "If you do what the Government say they are going to do, you can no longer define marriage in that way. It becomes hollowed out, and about a relationship between two people, to be defined on a case-by-case basis." Imposed same sex marriage would precipitate the "gradual unravelling of the Church of England which is a very high cost for the stability of society."

In its official response, the church criticized the government's idea, which would "alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history." Marriage benefits society by "promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation." The church noted its past support for benefits for same-sex couples, and warned that redefining marriage for "ideological reasons" would be "divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships."

Compared to Episcopalians, the Church of England sounded like Southern Baptists, declaring marriage was instituted by Christ Himself for all people as a lifelong union of man and woman. It even quoted the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, hardly an arbiter of modern fashion. And it cited ancient words so recognizable to all English speakers: "The Church of Christ understands marriage to be, in the will of God, the union of a man and a woman, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till parted by death."

"Many, within the churches and beyond, dispute the right of any government to redefine an ages-old social institution in the way proposed," the church noted, soundly more truly conservative than the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. "It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage is not a case of knee-jerk resistance to change but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole."

The church, which is legally bound to conduct marriages to all British citizens and currently conducts one quarter of all Britain's marriages, wondered how its beliefs long could survive, even with ostensible protections for religious freedom. It also asked why the government would continue to allow civil partnerships for same sex couples after legalizing same sex marriage. And it asked how the new law would define adultery and consummation.

Rowan Williams steps down at the end of this year as Archbishop of Canterbury, no doubt partly due to his frustrations over schisms and divisions among Anglicans precipitated by the Episcopal Church over sex issues. He came to office with liberal views, but his liberal critics now chide him for supposedly "hardening" the church's resistance to liberalizing on sex. The church's defense of traditional marriage may have lasting constitutional implications for Britain. It may also turn out to be its finest hour.

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century.

Church of England Will Have Women As Bishops

From The Telegraph
By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor

In a meeting behind closed doors in York, the Church’s House of Bishops gave its approval to legislation to admit women to the episcopacy and rejected a series of attempts to significantly water down the powers of future female bishops.

But they also agreed a key protection for conservative evangelicals and Anglo Catholics who object to women bishops on theological grounds.

In theory the vote clears the way for the church’s General Synod to have a final vote on the issue in July.

But there were signs it has plunged the Church into further uncertainty amid fears that the compromise failed to satisfy either side in the debate.

It remained unclear last night whether the compromise would be enough to see off the prospect of a large-scale exodus of traditionalists to the Roman Catholic Church or a new breakaway Anglican group.

Equally campaigners for women bishops privately voiced disappointment at the compromise. They fear attempts to make women “second class bishops”

Parishes and dioceses have already signalled strong support for ordaining women as bishops.

But a significant minority of traditionalists cannot accept the authority of a women bishop on theological grounds.

Complicated arrangements have been drawn up to allow to request to opt out and answer to a specially chosen male bishop instead.

The House of Bishops agreed last night that the alternative bishop’s authority would be “delegated” from the woman rather than independent from her and that this arrangement would have legal force.

But they also agreed that traditionalist parishes would have more say in who the alternative bishop would be – potentially undermining the powers of the woman bishop.

In statement the House said: “The legislation now addresses the fact that for some parishes a male bishop or male priest is necessary but not sufficient.

“The House rejected more far- reaching amendments that would have changed the legal basis on which bishops would exercise authority when ministering to parishes unable to receive the ministry of female bishops.”

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A look into the Church of England's future…

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

The House of Bishops of the Church of England today concluded its consideration of the draft legislation to enable women to be consecrated as bishops. It agreed that the legislation should be returned to the General Synod for final approval.

A Reluctant Anglo-Catholic

I went to England to study at Oxford afflicted with a severe case of Anglophilia. I had come from an Evangelical background, and much influenced by C. S. Lewis, was simply looking for 'Mere Christianity'.

I wished to be a 'Mere Christian' in the Anglican Church, and by God's grace I was an Anglican for fifteen happy years, and an Anglican priest for ten of those years.

Then in 1995, while a country vicar on the Isle of Wight, I left the Anglican Church for 'More Christianity.' My whole conversion story is told elsewhere — on my website and in various publications — but suffice it to say that the question of women's ordination prompted an examination of authority in the church which led me back to Cardinal Newman and the Fathers of the Church and finally to Rome.

Ten years later I was ordained through the Pastoral Provision and now welcome the erection of the Ordinariate. I hope to comment here regularly, and to meet and support an increasing number of brothers and sisters as they enter the Ordinariate.

A "Reluctant Anglo-Catholic"? Only because I was always more of a mainstream Anglican in churchmanship. I loved Catholic spirituality and Catholic worship, but never signed-up and called myself an 'Anglo-Catholic'.

I hope all those who are full-blooded will forgive me for that!

Ordinary Time?

Monday of the fifth week of Ordinary Time (memorial of St Paul Miki and his companions, Martyrs), that is to say February 6th 2012, is the fiftieth 60th anniversary of the death of King George VI. It is therefore also the 50th 60th anniversary of the Queen's Accession. But because February is a pretty grim month, the celebrations will be held over until the summer. Making February that much more grim this year is the Westminster Session of the General Synod of the Church of England, also scheduled to begin on Monday 6th. This promises to be four days of anything but Ordinary Time.

A draft Agenda has now been published on the official C of E website. For anyone who cares for the Church of England, and especially for its Anglo-Catholic rump, it would make a good calendar for four days of prayer. The first day (or rather half-day, beginning after lunch) is as usual just official business to be got out of the way, though perhaps the Loyal Address will be more worthwhile than usual, bearing in mind the date. Perhaps prayer will be said for the repose of the soul of His Late Majesty.

The real matter of the Synod starts on Tuesday 7th. From 2.30pm there is to be a presentation of the Draft Code of Practice regarding Women to the Episcopate, with questions following. That exercise in squaring the circle, making it clear that women who are ordained as bishops really are bishops with all the authority of their office —  yet somehow allowing those who do not accept them as bishops to continue to live as though they did not exist — promises to be a fascinating time of prestidigitation. It will be an exceptionally worrying time for our brothers and sisters who want to be able still to say with integrity that "the Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church".

The next day looks like being especially lively. On Tuesday there will have been just two and a half hours for the subject but on Wednesday there will be a much longer time for debate: Except for the few minutes of a report on Standing Orders and a brief time for evening prayer the Synod will debate Women in the Episcopate from 2.30pm until 7pm. During this they will consider a diocesan motion from Manchester and another, much less friendly to Anglo-Catholics, from Southwark.

On Thursday morning, once further additional eucharistic prayers have been considered, 'Women in the Episcopate' will reach its final drafting stage before becoming law. That is unless in some way (perhaps by a failure to obtain a two-thirds majority in each House) the whole thing is put off for another five years.

It is sad to be bringing all this to your attention just as everyone is so excited at the establishment of the American Ordinariate. For us in England, though, it is of great importance. One way or another, it will affect how the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham develops over the next few years. Either it will speed its growth (as I pray it will) or it will provide yet one more line in the sand for the survivors of the Anglo-Catholic Movement to hide behind. They will be waiting once more as many of us have done in the past for something to turn up. So, friends, pray for the Synod, and especially for those who are trying to retain in the C of E a few shreds of its catholic past.

The Only Faithful Response

Someone I know was "gotten to". A friend who was in full support of the Ordinariate just a few months ago is now vehemently against it. It is not because of any shocking piece of new information that he discovered while reading through secret Vatican documents (nothing so dramatic as that). Rather, it is because–as he told me–he spoke to a "continuing Anglican" priest who told him that Rome's real motivation is to bring us under their thumb and then play the "old switcheroo" and force us to give up the Anglican liturgy. Once he "realized" that this was "going to" happen, he stepped back and changed his position.

Aside from the fact that this is a grave misunderstanding of the circumstances (Rome has bigger fish to fry than getting former Anglicans to use the Roman Missal), we have to ask ourselves if this is even a properly balanced concern. True, Rome can change the liturgy and make some people upset, but it is not as though the Anglican Churches have never had to worry about this. Episcopalians know very well what happened with the Book of Common Prayer in 1979, but does further division solve this problem? Division breeds division and the rejection of the papacy is now reaping what was sown. If you bake a cake and it comes out tasting like dog food, it will not solve the problem to throw away the cake and use the exact same recipe a second time (or a third, fourth, or fifth time). As one Anglican clergyman said to me just the other day, "communion with Rome is the only faithful response at this time in the history of Anglicanism".

Anglicanism is at a crossroads, and the status quo is not a viable alternative at this time; something must change. To continue on in the same pattern of, "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)", will not solve anything. As Anglicans, many of us realized some time ago (some more than others) that we really need the Catholic Church. Without her we are only going to perpetuate the dysfunctional habits that have become a part of the ecclesiastical descendants of Cranmer. C.S. Lewis once had Aslan the Lion lament, “O, son of Adam, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that will do you good.” Reunion with Holy Mother Church will do us good. It may bring persecution as well, but then faithfulness to God always does. Moving into the unknown is certainly a concern for many, but the Lord never promises that we will be able to stay in our comfort zones.

I know of people who have chosen not to join the Ordinariate because they do not want to have to go through a marriage annulment. Another person I know said outright that he does not want the Ordinariate because he does not want to have to submit to the Pope. One man said that it may be right for me, but it is not right for him (!). Mistaken and confused ideas about who and what the Catholic Church is are not in a shortage right now. Those who decide not to join will have different reasons for doing so, and I am not about to stand in judgment on their inner motivations. Yet, coming into communion with the Catholic Church should not be done because we believe that we are going to get what we want. If one's own selfish desires are first in his thought process, then he is not thinking in a godly manner. I (and others) have said this before, but it appears like it needs to be repeated.

I also know of Anglican clergy whose primary motivation for joining the Ordinariate is so that they can find a place where no one is going to try to ordain women to holy orders. Aside from the importance of this concern, this is not a proper rationale for entering into this process. The wrong expectations will always lead to disappointment. How we approach new ventures in life will greatly determine how we respond to the challenges that those new ventures bring upon us. I fully expect that our entrance into communion with the Holy See is going to be a blessed and joyful event. That does not mean, however, that I think that it will be all "wine and roses". Faithfulness to Christ always entails trials, and persecutions will undoubtedly come upon those who wish to serve God with deep commitment. There were many who joined the Church in the first century, but not all of them remained within her fold when the trials arose.

A Catholic lady said to me a while ago, "I don't care what liturgy you use, or whether you are traditional or not, I'm just happy that you are going to be at the altar with us". Her heart reveals the same humility that should be evident in us: joyful for the blessings of God and not murmuring about anything that disappoints (cf. Philippians 2:14-15). My friend that I mentioned at the beginning was led astray and I pray for him that he will come back to the truth. What becomes more difficult is when someone is led astray and yet is still seeking to join the Ordinariate. We all come with the "baggage" of our sins–I have mine and you have yours–but we should be coming with humble hearts that trust God to give us what we need more than what we want (for they are not always the same thing).

To all my brothers and sisters who are getting ready for the establishment of the Ordinariate here in America, I encourage you during this Advent season to use it as preparatory, not just for the proper celebration of the Christmas season, but also for the proper celebration of our entrance into the Ordinariate. Prepare your hearts for obedience; not just obedience to those things that you like, but also obedience to the things that make you uncomfortable. If we only obey the things that we are comfortable with, then can we say we are truly submitting to our leaders? Jesus likes to force us out of our comfort zones, and if you are coming to the Ordinariate in order to find your comfort zone, then you misunderstand how the Church works. Challenges and sacrifices will be in the future, and we are called to rejoice in the midst of them. Yet, we will not be able to rejoice properly if our hearts are not right, and for that we need preparation. The preparation of Advent (as well as the coming Lenten season) is an ideal time to offer "our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto" God our Father.

The Genesis of Anglicanorum Coetibus

The following paper was presented by Dr. William Tighe at the 2011 Anglican Use Conference, which took place at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington, Texas.

The Genesis of Anglicanorum Coetibus


The title which is given to my presentation in the conference program, “The History of the Movement,” is very convenient for my purposes, since it gives so very little away and allows me under its rubric to speak about almost whatever I please. In fact, what I will be (mostly) speaking about is the background and origins of Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC), its genesis in other words. And here I must make a disclaimer: a good deal of what I shall say involves speculation, informed speculation to be sure, but if a skeptic should dismiss it, or parts of it, as “guesswork” I would be hard-pressed to rebut him — but one reason for this is that some of the information on which I shall build my conclusions has reached me over the years with injunctions of confidentiality about its sources. Also, as much due to considerations of length and the avoidance of excessive complexity, as for any other reasons, I shall not discuss, except passingly, events subsequent to the appearance of AC in October/November 2009, and the thorny and contentious issues connected with its implementation.

How far back should such an account go? Should one treat the various phases and reports of the ARCIC process from 1970 (or 1967, if one includes the preliminaries) onwards, and the high expectations of an imminent “sacramental reconciliation” between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church that accompanied this process until well into the 1980s, or even later? I think not, except to note that for a brief time there seems to have been a real possibility that Rome would reconsider its 1896 condemnation of Anglican Orders in the bull Apostolicae Curae, a possibility dashed by the Anglicans’ acceptance of the pretended ordination of women. Should one discuss in detail the insistence on the part of the Roman authorities from 1973 onwards that the pretended ordination of women to the priesthood (and, later, episcopate) would form an insuperable obstacle to the realization of this goal? Not really, save to note two or three important aspects of this matter: first, that this “Roman caution” was for a long time expressed, however definitely, in a very low-key manner; secondly, that down at least to the end of the second phase of the ARCIC process around 2007 both the Anglicans and Catholics involved in the process seem to have colluded (at least corporately) in avoiding any discussion of the question of the pretended ordination of women itself or of its bearing on the ARCIC process, despite the fact that from the time of the end of the first round of that process in 1981 it appears to have been realized, and desired from the “Roman” side at least, that the issue would need to be addressed (even though ARCIC has never to this day addressed itself to the issue); and, thirdly, and (for my subject most importantly) that in its ecumenical dealings with the Anglican Communion Rome always regarded the Church of England as the “bellwether” Anglican church, that is, the one whose actions in Rome’s eyes represented the Anglican Communion as a whole. Thus, as regards the pretended ordination of women, while Rome stated as early as 1973 that the acceptance of this innovation would make the hopes with which the ARCIC process began incapable of realization, the fact that women were purportedly ordained to the priesthood by the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong in 1971, the Anglican churches of Canada and New Zealand in 1976, the Episcopal Church in 1977 (after earlier uncanonical ordinations in 1974 and 1975), and so forth, and even the first purported consecration of a woman as an Anglican bishop in 1989 in the Episcopal Church, seems to have left Rome “unfazed;” and even though Rome sought for the English bishops to make a “wide and generous response” to those Anglicans, especially clergymen, who would seek admission to, and frequently ordination in, the Catholic Church after the Church of England General Synod’s rather unexpected approval of the measure opening its priesthood to women in 1992, it seemed at first at least half inclined to believe that the ARCIC process could continue with “business as usual.”

It was only in July 2006, almost three years after the Episcopal Church’s consecration of a pseudogamously partnered man as Bishop of New Hampshire that Walter, Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), the Vatican’s “ecumenical office,” delivered an urgent address to the House of Bishops of the Church of England imploring them to proceed no further with measures allowing for the appointment of woman bishops, as such a measure would render impossible the realization of previous Anglican and Catholic ecumenical aspirations. (I shall return to this episode further on in this presentation.) Cardinal Kasper had a reputation, perhaps not undeserved, for being interested primarily in cultivating ecumenical relations with representatives of the historic Protestant churches, such as those that made up the Lutheran World Federation or the Anglican Communion, to give two examples, and rather less with conservative or dissident groups stemming from those traditions, and reacting to their perceived liberalism, such as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, or the various “jurisdictions” that make up “Continuing Anglicanism,” and this address to the Church of England’s bishops was almost the “last hurrah” of this type of Catholic ecumenism. Almost — for there was to be a last farewell to it at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

All this said, the remainder of my presentation shall tell “three stories:” the story of the Traditional Anglican Communion’s approaches to Rome; the story of England’s Forward-in-Faith organization and its dealings, or the dealings of some of its member bishops and clergy, with Rome; and, finally, and perhaps most significantly, the almost completely unpublicized story of the secret discussions between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome and some English Anglican bishops in 2008 and 2009.

Continue reading "The Genesis of Anglicanorum Coetibus"


My hands gripped the backs of the carseats in front of me as the other vehicle slammed into the passenger side of our car. Before we stopped, we had spun around 540 degrees. My grandfather was making a left turn in front of a hill and the other car came over the same hill going about twice the speed limit. If I had been buckled into my usual seat I would have been killed; in spite of my error, God protected me that day. As it turns out I happened to be sitting in the exact center of the vehicle and centrifugal force kept me from moving more than a few inches from that spot. I was eight years old but I can see it like it was yesterday. My grandfather was not hurt but my grandmother had a concussion and was never able to recall a moment of that day for the rest of her life.

Many who have spent any time at all in Anglican parishes have said that Anglicanism feels much like that accident. Having left communion with the Catholic Church, the Church of England was sideswiped and it is only by the grace of God that any of us survived. Most of us believe firmly that the "reformation" should never have happened and that the continued splintering is evidence that division only leads to more division. We all know about Anglicans who have some confusion about who they were before the "reformation". These brothers of ours have lost any recollection of what really happened, and do not realize just how bad the schism was. It was the mercy of God alone that allowed the Catholic faith to remain anywhere in Anglicanism. Divine providence smiled on those in the Anglican tradition just enough to keep Catholic truth from disappearing as it did in most areas of Protestantism. He watched over us by providing men down through the last few centuries who were able to help us retain the Catholic faith, as well as guide us on this path back toward unity. None of us can take any credit for this, we are merely the happy recipients of the love of God.

Then a few years ago, some Anglican Bishops who had also seen the light, themselves said, "we survived, and we want to come home". They too saw that unity needed to be restored. When the paramedics showed up at the scene of our accident, the last thing we needed to do was to tell them how to fix us. Yet that is exactly what my poor grandmother was doing; her concussion made her become confused about everything. She insisted that we go to the hospital around the corner from our home, even though it was seventy five miles from the scene of the accident. In times like we are going through right now, it is easy to get upset at the slightest things and end up trying to tell those receiving us how it is to be done. That is an awful temptation and we need to guard our hearts against it. Rome did not leave, the Anglicans did. We are not receiving the Roman Catholics back into our fold, they are receiving us. It is time to come with appreciative hearts and say "thank you for the hospitality". Whether you are a priest who does not like the way the formation process is laid out, or a layman who does not want to have to be catechized (all over again), you need to recognize the amazing grace that is being given to us.

Others on The Anglo-Catholic have referred to us as survivors, and that is a good title. Survivors will put up with a lot when they are rescued because they are happy just to be alive. Does Rome have some problems that need to be fixed today? Yes. Do any of her problems compare with the chaos that has showed up in Episcopalian and Anglican circles? No. In the aftermath there are a number of scrapes, bruises, and concussions, and it seems like every attempt to fix them has only led to more injuries. Anglicanism has not resolved the rupture with Rome, or even found unity in her own ranks. This is nothing to be proud of. I know that many reading this may be wondering why I am saying what is so obvious, but I have found that not everyone headed to the Ordinariate really understands what is happening. The Ordinariate is not a compromise whereby we come together on equal terms and we can "all be friends again" (though there are obviously some who wanted that). Anyone who thinks so needs to re-read Anglicanorum Coetibus, as well as Ut Unum Sint.

Fifteen years after that accident, I went back down that same country road. The hill that had hidden us from the other driver was gone; it was leveled flat, and you could see clearly for miles in either direction. It is my guess that others had gotten hurt at the same place and the authorities decided to do something about it to prevent it from happening again. I have seen the mistake of my personal journey through Protestantism, and many today see the same necessity for restoration and reconciliation as I do. Survivors need hearts of thanks, not contentiousness. Let us "lift up our hearts" and "give thanks unto our Lord God" that He has seen fit to allow us to survive this disaster and filled us with the desire to return. Were it not for His grace, we would never seek this wondrous reunion that we have been offered. He has not only allowed us to survive, but given us hearts that want to continue to serve Him. To God be the greater glory.

Glimpses of Divine Humor

Thank you to dedicated reader David Quatchak who recommended and secured permission to reprint this story of discovery and conversion.

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Glimpses of Divine Humor

By Andrew M. Seddon, M.D.

On the rare occasions when I attempt the impossible task of imagining what heaven might be like, I envision saints—but not the dour, stern, serious saints of so much artwork. I imagine smiling saints with a humorous twinkle in their eyes. Saints such as Aidan, Cuthbert, Columba, and Patrick; an eighth-century pilgrim to the Holy Land from Byzantium (more of him later); and closer in time and experience, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Why smiling saints? Because, looking back along my path to the Catholic Church, I can see the instances of humor that God used along the way, glinting like flecks of gold sprinkled in a vein of quartz.

Unlike the Celtic saints and the pilgrim who were Catholics in the undivided Church, I, like Cardinal Newman, was an unexpected convert from Anglicanism. Saints, circumstances, history, and my heritage—no doubt at God’s instigation—united to bring me not only across the Atlantic but the greater distance across the Tiber.

Early Years

I was born in England, the son of a Baptist minister. My parents emigrated to the U.S. when I was young, and my father pastored churches in upstate New York, New Brunswick, Maryland, and West Virginia. My sister and I grew up on his excellent, Bible-based preaching, and I will forever be grateful to my parents for the loving Christian home they provided.

My parents recall that my first profession of faith came at age 7, and baptism at 10, but I cannot remember a time when I was not a believer. Being a Christian has always been a natural part of me.

We moved often, and though the flavor of the churches varied, all were Baptist. We had little contact with other denominations. The Catholic Church was rarely mentioned.

If I ever thought of Catholics, it was as fellow Christians who had somehow gotten a little off-track, perhaps never having fully escaped the Middle Ages. Catholics weren’t bad or evil, just poor souls who had to work unduly hard to earn their salvation and who were overly attached to Mary. (She was never referred to in our home as the “Blessed Virgin.”)

It was curious, then—and perhaps the first incident of divine humor—when, after I completed my freshman year at the University of New Brunswick, my parents moved to Maryland, and I transferred to Mount St. Mary’s College (now University) in Emmittsburg—a Catholic college! I didn’t choose “The Mount” for religious reasons, however, but because of its academic reputation and its modest size.

Although I was a pre-med student, my course of study included several required theology classes. My term papers, unsurprisingly, evidenced my Protestant viewpoint. One was returned covered in comments: “See me,” “Ask me about this,” “Talk to me.”

Continue reading "Glimpses of Divine Humor"

Father Edwin Barnes: Why I Became Catholic

From the National Catholic Register:

Accepting Pope Benedict’s Generous Offer
by Fr. Edwin Barnes

I had always believed that is what I was — a Catholic, albeit an Anglican one. We said the creeds and expressed our belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” We were taught that is just what the Church of England was; part of that Catholic Church, separated from a great part of Christendom at the Reformation, but with good reason. We had avoided the excesses and errors of other churches; we were a pure church, one which had “washed its face.”

This was just about tenable all the time the Church of England held to Catholic faith and practice. Of course, there were always others in the same Church who disagreed with us, but we had truth on our side. After all, did not every priest at his induction assent to the belief that the Church of England is part of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”? And had not an archbishop of Canterbury (Geoffrey Fisher) declared that “the Church of England has no doctrine of its own, only that of the universal Church?” And whatever others might personally believe, we knew that their orders were, like ours, received in due succession from the apostles (no matter how Rome might say otherwise).

From the 19th century on, though, we had thought of ourselves as part of a larger family, the “Anglican Communion,” largely the fruit of British colonial success. There were millions outside England who were as much Anglicans as we were. Then, especially in North America, some of these fellow Anglicans began to break ranks, particularly over ordination. The first ordinations of women were illegal; but the American church soon legitimized them, and our church followed suit.

The Church of England claimed to be synodically governed but episcopally led. In the early 1980s, it was a synod that first declared there were “no fundamental objections to the ordination of women.” This has often been misquoted as saying there were no theological objections; but, in fact, theology was not discussed. It was all about “justice” and whether women were capable of “doing the job” of a priest. So began the process, first of ordaining women to the diaconate and then, in 1994, to ordaining them as priests.

This step was hedged about. Those opposed to women’s ordination were said to have an opinion equally permissible as the opposite. There would be no discrimination against priests who would not, or could not, accept women’s ordination. Men might still be ordained holding such views. To ensure this would continue, bishops were appointed who were themselves opposed to women’s ordination, and they would care for those parishes and individuals who remained opposed. Some were already in office (mostly as suffragan bishops); eventually another three were consecrated for this task — the provincial episcopal visitors or “flying bishops.”

There was a very strange theology that accompanied this, one of “impaired communion.” It was a ramshackle solution, but so long as women’s ordination was seen as experimental, and the Church of England was in a period of “reception,” then it was possible to survive as a Catholic Anglican. Both Archbishop George Carey and his successor Archbishop Rowan Williams have said that the experiment was reversible. Few of us believed such a reverse would ever happen. And once women were ordained as bishops, it would become practically impossible.

Throughout this time, I was considering my position as an Anglican. Either our church was Catholic or it was not. If it could treat holy orders as a matter of mere opinion, then all pretense of Catholicity was undermined. Yet how could I abandon those faithful laity and priests who still clung to the hope that the Church of England might yet be as it claimed, “the Catholic Church of this land”? The problem for those bishops still in office (I had retired in 2001) was even more acute.

Then came Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Holy Father’s response to Anglicans who sought his help. It seemed, and it still seems, a most generous offer. We might be ordained to the Catholic priesthood while remaining married. We would have our own ordinary, who would be someone who understood us completely. And we were challenged to bring with us the best of our traditions, our Anglican patrimony.

For me, the whole question has been one of authority. By what authority could the Church of England change holy orders? How could it authorize the ordination of men and women remarried after divorce, when our Ordinal had said a bishop or priest must see that his family was a model of Christian living?

If it could determine these matters without reference to Scripture, tradition or the wider Church, where would it stop?

So, already in parts of the “communion” there are bishops living with their same-sex partners, and in other parts “lay presidency” at the Eucharist is becoming the norm.

I still weep for the Church of England and what it might have been. But still I pray that the ordinariate may grow and give hope to faithful Anglicans that the door remains open for them to join us, in communion with the one Church to which we have aspired so long.

Fr. Barnes, one of this blog's regular contributors, has been kept very busy since his ordination as a Catholic priest, helping to get the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham organized. His own blog, in which he shares some of his experiences, is called Ancient Richborough, and it's always worth a visit.