Eleven Years On

Mgr Andrew Burnham

I WAS minded to write a review of the Ordinariate project, ten years on from January 2011, when the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was inaugurated, but at that time felt I had little to say. During that ten year period, I had served first as an Assistant to the Ordinary – a role which never really worked out – and as the Pastor of the Oxford Ordinariate Mission. When the Governing Council was re-constituted, my role was discontinued, I think rightly because the Ordinariate needed to move forward using the talents of its younger priests. To that end, I engineered the take-over of Fr Daniel Lloyd as Pastor of the Oxford Ordinariate Mission when he was appointed diocesan parish priest caring for Holy Rood, the church where the Oxford Ordinariate Mission meets. That was four or five years ago. I similarly relinquished the role of Director of Formation when a more suitable candidate appeared – Fr Michael Halsall, a priest who was working in Allen Hall, the seminary where most of our priests had been formed. I was no longer the one with the most recent experience of the formation of clergy. Last but not least, I relinquished the role of liturgist for the Ordinariate when the work of Anglicanae Traditiones, the international commission on liturgy for the Ordinariates, was complete and when my own brainchild, the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham was largely superseded by the new Divine Worship: Daily Office.

Having said all that, I have not in any sense retired. I have been parish priest of East Hendred Catholic Parish for ten years and am very happy in that role. After ten years as a flying bishop, dipping in and out of the parish life of over a hundred parishes, it has been wonderful once more to serve as a diocesan priest,and be the pastor of a particular parish, baptising, admitting to Holy Communion, confirming, marrying, working with our own Catholic school – St Amand’s – and looking after a fine bunch of people. In a beautiful nineteenth century church, with fine stained glass, Anglican patrimony rather takes care of itself. We use the RSV and sing plainsong and decent hymns and it all feels not dissimilar to when I was a Vicar in Nottingham thirty years ago. There are a few congregants with ‘Anglican previous’ but this is hardly ever mentioned.

It has not been possible to keep up with what is happening in the Church of England. I suspect that what I read on social media, in this respect as in most others, gives me very partial sight. As we always suspected, having fought wars over the ordination of women, the Church of England is now having to fight wars over homosexual rights, and has yet to meet head-on the challenge of non-binary gender. I remember a significant conversation I had with Richard Harries, back in 1995. He was Bishop of Oxford and I had just arrived at St Stephen’s House as Vice-Principal and was getting my licence regularised. I told him that I had been much impressed by the argument of the late Peter Hebblethwaite who had presented the ordination of women as an Anglican experiment on behalf of the Universal Church. I thought that was a useful perspective. Harries enquired why, therefore, I could not ‘come fully aboard’ or, as David Cameron would have put it, ‘keep up with the programme’. I explained that I could not embrace a position which did not convince me, however helpful it was as a perspective. We had a not dissimilar exchange years later at a bishops’ meeting where the subject now was homosexual partnerships. This was all very relevant in 2008 at the Lambeth Conference when the Holy See made a fresh attempt to convince the Anglican Communion over women’s ordination only to discover that Anglicans had moved on. The pressing issue in 2008 was not women’s ordination – there were many women bishops there – but homosexual marriage. California was ahead and much of Africa stayed away. I now think – along the lines of a recent article of Theo Hobson – that the Anglicans may need to be as accepting of diversity in this area as they are in the area of women bishops. The guess is that liberal Evangelicals, who dragged their feet over divorce before accepting it – does anyone still remember ‘Option G’ and all that? – will drag their feet over same-sex marriage but then accept it.

Much is made of the reception of Anglican bishops into the Catholic Church. ‘Conversion’, though often used, is not really an appropriate word to describe the point when the baptised move into the full communion of the Church: even ‘conversion’, however, is preferable to ‘defection’, another commonly used term. We have seen recently the movement of several bishops: Michael Nazir-Ali, notably, but also another Ebbsfleet and a Burnley. We are in danger of losing count of these receptions. And it is not just bishops: three incumbents in my local area have made the move. Nothing has changed in recent times: the Anglican Catholic apologetic depended upon all Anglicans, however diverse their views, being able to share Bible, Creeds, Sacraments, and Orders. Those who accept the ordination of women and same-sex marriage can still invoke that apologetic, simply giving time to conservatives to catch up. Those who do not cannot logically accept the Theo Hobson line and accept diversity. I remain a member of the Prayer Book Society but now think that, were I to return – an unlikely scenario – I should be bound to accept the orders of all my fellow clergy and indeed ‘use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon’.

East Hendred

4th March 2022

Immaculate Conception 1994

Andrew Burnham

IT WAS on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 1994, that I left St John’s, Carrington, where I had been Vicar since 1987.  There were the seeds of what was later to happen in the final service: the music was the Mozart ‘Coronation Mass’ and, rather daringly, I sang the Sursum corda and Præfatio in Latin.  I was leaving the parish because I was finding it increasingly impossible to be the local representative of the Church of England amidst the ecclesiological chaos of the time.  Moving to St Stephen’s House, Oxford, as Vice-Principal (through the good offices of Bishop Geoffrey Rowell, whom I had known since New College days), I understood my new task to be one of formation of clergy – whether those clergy  (myself included) remained part of the Church of England or not in the medium to long term was not my concern or pre-occupation.  Serving alongside able academic colleagues was not only stimulating but formative and I remain grateful for that time.  My brief, as someone moving from parish ministry, were the twin portfolios of liturgy and mission, and I learnt a great deal from several years as Chair of the BTh Supervisory Committee, collaborating with colleagues from the various different Oxford theological training institutions.  I also served on the General Synod, as an Oxford proctor – a minor miracle that election! – and as Chairman of the ‘Catholic Group’ on Synod and a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission.  All of that led to me being invited in 2000 to be Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

This flood of reminiscence – prompted by a reminder from my old friend Fr Bill Gull – has led me to reflect on some of what was left behind when, ten years ago, I became a Catholic.  I am thinking not of the obvious stuff – cathedrals and parish churches, clergy and congregations – but of the matters with which I was concerned, teaching at St Stephen’s House.  Mission, for everyone in the West, remains in crisis.  To say that no one knows how to do it or what to do is a gross generalisation but captures something of the dilemma that is faced by the inexorable decline of Christendom and the cultural patrimony of Christianity.  I cannot pretend that I knew much about mission either.  I studied and regurgitated the insights of David Bosch and Grace Davie but managed little more.  What I have more in mind about what I left behind are the liturgical developments which have taken place in the Church of England.

When I became a Catholic, and on the strength of my Manual of Anglo-Catholic Devotion, the pocket version of which (2003) still brings in the odd shilling of royalties, and Heaven and Earth in Little Space: The Re-Enchantment of Liturgy (2010), I was invited by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to be Co-chair of Anglicanæ Traditiones, the commission which worked on the liturgical texts for the new Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans who had become Catholics.  It was an honour: the real Chair was Archbishop Gus diNoia.  The results of that commission were very satisfying: the Calendar, Pastoral Services, and Missal were a conservative reworking of traditional Anglican liturgical sources.  Though there are traces of the American Book of Common Prayer of 1979, as filtered by the Book of Divine Worship 2003, what we really have is the Anglo-catholic consensus of how things were in England in 1960, before half a century of upheavals in the liturgy of the Church of England.   This classical corpus of, so to say ‘pre-conciliar’ Anglicanism, is very much what Pope Benedict XVI envisaged and it resonates with – but is distinct from – pre-conciliar Roman liturgy, 1962 and all that.  All this has since been further consolidated, specially in ‘the Commonwealth Edition’, by Divine Worship: Daily Office (2021), the classical Anglican Office, as known in 1960, with what is essentially the 1922 Table of Lessons, updated in 1961.  Though I played no part in this development – which largely replaces my own contribution, The Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham (2012) – I cannot but admire the fine liturgical book Ordinariate folk have for their daily prayers.  I shall persevere with Latin on my iPad but many prefer a proper liturgical book as is, strictly speaking, canonically required.

In liturgical terms, what I left behind when I celebrated the Eucharist for the last time as an Anglican on St Andrew’s Day, 2010, the tenth anniversary of my consecration as a bishop, was half a century of liturgical work in the Church of England.  I had followed the progress of this work since 1965, and had the privilege of taking part in some of it, but continued reflection is not just nostalgia but pondering what particular use, in due course, it might be to Ordinariate Catholics and thence to Catholics more widely. 

Before proceeding further, several principles need to be established.  One is that liturgy cannot be discounted simply because of its association with errant theologies.  If that view were taken, nothing of Cranmer and his prayer books would be admissible.  Much of Cranmer however has been already grafted into Catholic life and liturgy.  Another principle is that there should be no accommodation of the deliberate ambiguity and evasion indulged in by Anglicans to include incompatible theologies.  It is for this reason that none of the Anglican Eucharistic Prayers – not even Cranmer’s 1549 prayer – is deployable.  All of the modern work necessitated equivocation in the Synodical process by which they were authorised.  We are hunting for buried treasure in liturgies rather than adopting actual forms of liturgy.

At this point one recalls the usual response of Anglo-catholics to the best efforts of Anglican liturgists.  This response a century ago led to a wholesale rejection not only of the 1927/1928 Prayer Book but also of the suggestions of the bishops thereafter as to material from it that was salvageable and serviceable.   It led also to unfavourable comparisons between modern Anglican liturgical reforms and post-conciliar Roman liturgy, when, objectively speaking, the Anglican vernacular was stronger. Much of this response was tribal rather than literary or theological.  The Anglo-catholic worldview was – and presumably still is – quite sharply expressed.  Much derision was heaped on the Alternative Service Book 1980 and the Common Worship services at the turn of the millennium and some of the real gems in such collections as Lent, Holy Week, Easter 1986, The Promise of His Glory 1990, Enriching the Christian Year 1992, and the various recensions of the Anglican Franciscan Celebrating Common Prayer deserve to be remembered more fondly.  Arguably the best material from such collections have already been captured in the volumes of Common Worship but the tendency of Anglo-catholics has been to greet official publications with derision, mocking their equivocations.  When obliged, magpie-like, they pick out what is most useable and pastorally apt and combine that with whatever they have chosen to use from post-conciliar Catholic liturgy.  Personally I would have welcomed the opportunity to incorporate some Anglican prayers into the modern Roman Mass, much as I did as an Anglican.

Departure from the parish life in 1994 and from the Church of England in 2010 have indeed been loss and gain, in more senses than one.  What I was brought up with as a cathedral chorister in the early 1960s is still around:  the Prayer Book, the RSV, and decent hymn books – but there have been many good things since, not least from the work of the Church of England Liturgical Commission in the second half of the twentieth century.  Meanwhile, on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2021, 27 years after leaving St John’s, Carrington, I am happily serving a different parish in the full communion of the Catholic Church.  Such is the goodness of God and the powerful intercession of the one who on account of God’s prevenient grace was untouched by any stain of sin that I am richly blessed.  May you, reading this, be similarly blessed.

East Hendred

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

8th December 2021

St Andrew’s Day 2021

TWENTY-ONE years ago, on the feast of St Andrew, I was consecrated bishop in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.  It was a wonderful day, the night before spent at Lambeth Palace, with the Bishop at Lambeth taking the children up to the roof to look at the foxes, whilst Archbishop Carey, in a rare moment of levity, remarked that the children of the bishops-designate – the present Bishop of Manchester was the other ordinand – would discover that the foxes were of ‘different integrities’.  (If you don’t understand the joke, you have been spared a great deal of trouble.)  The ceremony in St Paul’s was impressive.  Bishop Walker got to choose the preacher – Bishop Jack Nichols – and I got to choose the music.  Our family favourite for big occasions – ‘Soul of my Saviour’ – was vetoed by the Archbishop because of its eucharistic theology. For this there was some compensation in the afternoon when I was privileged to preside at Benediction at St Alban’s, Holborn.  The Anglo-catholic turnout for the day was remarkable: so many people wanted to be blessed at the end of the ceremony that I was too late for lunch; the procession into and from Benediction excited the 100% Mexican wave of genuflections for which Anglo-catholics are famous.  It is, of course, Christ who is honoured and not his feeble and frail minister.

Those early days are a treasured memory, though within weeks I was desperately ill in hospital and the senior flying bishops, retired and serving – John Richards and Edwin Barnes – were engaged in damage limitation.  Perhaps I should be pensioned off.  There was a hesitant return to work but, during my ten years, not least because of the support of my wonderful staff, I managed it all.  When George Carey invited me to be Bishop of Ebbsfleet, I did say that I was on an ecumenical journey and that, were I a bishop, the focus would change from an individual journey to a corporate one.  After all, I had been ordained into the Anglican ministry in 1983, at the height of the ecumenical excitement about Anglican and Roman Catholic convergence and in the nineties I had lived through what I had thought was a very disappointing response from Roman Catholic bishops to that possibility.  I think the give-away was a remark later from Cormac Murphy O’Connor, always good for a joke.  He said that wherever there were two buildings in close proximity – Anglican and Catholic – he was in no doubt as to which one would become the church and the other the church hall.  Basil Hume had said something similar about the problem of two churches on the same high street, when the SSC (the Anglo-catholic priestly fraternity) invited him to meet them thirty years ago in St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road.   To give George Carey credit, he accepted my point about ecumenical journeying – though, no doubt, having in mind a different time-scale – and, later on, Rowan Williams, though sympathetic to what he would have seen as Catholic convergence, accused me of putting my foot on the ecumenical accelerator.  I was proud about that because ecumenism had become – and still is – the kind of forum in which much was said and little done: well-meaning talk is easier than action.  Meanwhile I was getting a reputation in Anglo-catholic circles for saying RITA, Rome is the Answer.  People found that thrilling talk but too dangerous seriously to contemplate.

I am still very mindful of the clergy and people of Ebbsfleet, a community which embraced over 100 parishes in thirteen Church of England dioceses, from Truro in the South to Lichfield in the North, Hereford in the West to Oxford in the Midlands.  Some of these clergy and communities made the journey with me.  Some wished to but could not manage it.  Others were bewildered by the suggestion of what to them seemed like moving denomination and forsaking beloved communities.  All were beloved and continue to be loved.  Since I resigned, on St Andrew’s Day 2010, after ten years’ ministry, there were to be two more Bishops of Ebbsfleet, both called ‘Jonathan’.  One moved to Fulham, to pick up where Bishop John Broadhurst had left off.  The other recently resigned because he too had made the RITA decision.

Andrew Burnham

East Hendred 30 November 2021

Divine Worship: Daily Office

Andrew Burnham

OF ALL the breviaries and office books on my shelves none is more handsome than Divine Worship: Daily Office (DWDO), which arrived on 20th September 2021.  It is beautifully produced, with clear type, and thin pages.  It marks a re-set, a change of direction for the UK Ordinariate, which had previously been using the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, published in 2012.    To state an interest, I was one of the compilers of the Customary, along with Fr Aidan Nichols OP, but neither of us was involved in DWDO.  The work has passed to a new generation and the underlying rationale has been revised. 

In preparing the Customary, we sought to provide for the use of the Cranmerian Offices, with the monthly psalter, co-ordinated with the Roman Office Lectionary and with post-biblical readings from the English spiritual tradition, notably from the writings of St John Henry Newman.  We envisaged that the typical user – an Ordinariate cleric, say – would be serving in both diocesan and Ordinariate contexts and that what we provided needed to work in both so that, for example, a priest could use the Liturgy of the Hours (LH) in the morning and Prayer Book Evensong in the evening.  The lectionary produced proved to be somewhat cumbersome, and it was revised in the annual Ordo.  The Customary then fitted the quirky Prayer Book tradition of having a table of lessons within it which had since been superseded!  There was an attempt to recognise various Catholic usages, such as ‘O Lord open…’ only at the beginning of the day, ‘Alleluia’ after a fully congregational Gloria Patri, a range of Invitatory psalms at Morning Prayer in LH, the New Testament canticles in LH as an alternative to Nunc Dimittis at Evening Prayer when the Order for Compline is to be used later, and the Roman pattern of psalms for Lauds and Vespers on Sundays.  Flexibility was introduced, such as allowing the suffrages as found in the North American Book of Divine Worship, and the daily Roman psalm scheme as an alternative.  There was an acknowledgement of the long-standing Roman custom of laudate psalms (hence ‘Lauds’), encouraging the pre-conciliar practice of ending the psalmody at Morning Prayer with Psalms 148-150.

All of this is now history – the Office in the Customary being superseded – but it is worth noticing that the adaptations and flexibilities acknowledged one of the features of the Prayer Book Office as celebrated in the Church of England in the twentieth century, namely the widespread practice of local variation.  Thus, at St Stephen’s House, where I was a student and taught, the psalter at Evensong was the Revised Psalter and the second lesson at Evensong was replaced with a non-biblical reading.  Many places introduced the Office Hymn – either before proper psalmody, as after the 1970 reforms, or after ferial psalmody, before the Magnificat, as before the conciliar reforms.  In England, the penitential introduction to Morning and Evening Prayer was largely replaced by the simple and direct 1928 form and the State Prayers – at least in my experience of many years in cathedral and college chapel contexts – seldom used.  The reforms of the 1960s, including changing the order of Te Deum and Benedictus and the use of other New Testament canticles all played into the mix.  In short, the Customary, commending particular practices and introducing flexibility, drew attention to the considerable number of variations and, in retrospect, made the mistake of preferring particular patterns in an area where people had particular preferences of their own.

So, what does DWDO get so spectacularly right?  Well, ‘spectacularly’ is the word because the volume looks and feels magnificent.  The compilers and publishers deserve enormous credit for this.  They also deserve credit for the important decision largely to maintain Cranmer’s Morning and Evening Prayer as found in 1662.  They have avoided temptations, such as reverting to 1549, with its differing start to the two cardinal offices.  To understand the decision to stick with 1662 it is necessary to look back to the liturgical debates of a hundred years ago, when moderate high churchmen influenced the compilation of the 1927/8 Prayer Book in ways that did not satisfy Anglo-catholics.  They made fatal compromises, such as in the placing of the epiclesis in the eucharistic prayer and the abbreviation of the psalter (by omitting the unpleasant bits), and Anglo-catholics retaliated by largely rejecting 1927/8, even in the form commended for use by the Bishops after the revision had been rejected in Parliament.    These tensions resurfaced in the 1960s, with Series 1 and Series 2, and tampering with the Prayer Book text again came to nothing.  Having said this, DWDO, by including Prime and Compline, does conform to 1927/8, as well as to the various Anglican monastic books and such publications as the Cuddesdon Office Book

In its rubrics DWDO attempts to set principles and parameters to how the material is to be used and these are sensible and mainstream.  One such is the commending of Prime and Compline as simple lay offices for morning and night prayer for the laity.  It is hard to know, incidentally, how the clergy would make use of Prime.  The old Anglo-catholic practice was often to cast Morning Prayer as Vigils and Lauds and anticipate the celebration the night before.  Prime then could be said duly at daybreak.  I cannot imagine that that arrangement ever really worked and personally, though I am usually up by 6am, I cannot sort out a schedule which would include it.  It is splendid, however, that Prime is preserved.

The great glory of DWDO is that it gives us the Anglican daily round of Common Prayer in a fine liturgical book, a book which matches the Divine Worship: The Missal (DWDM) and the books of Pastoral Services.    The Revised Standard Version (RSV), bound in with it, though not always matching the beauty of the Authorised Version of 1611, is a significant improvement in accuracy and clarity.   Nonetheless I do question the practical consequences of the decision to include the Bible.    Doubtless it will help some travellers – though most of us mostly do not travel and those who do may well find what they need on an electronic device.  Also, with the local Catholic hierarchy poised to adopt the English Standard Version (ESV) – broadly the RSV without the frequent ‘beholds’ – an argument may soon be made that the UK Ordinariate move almost imperceptibly from RSV to ESV.  Then there is the question of the diet of Scripture.  What is prescribed in the very fine table of lessons in DWDO (ultimately a solid Tractarian piece of work in 1922 as revised in 1961) is four portions a day, in addition to whatever is encountered at Mass (a further two or three portions).  Who has the stomach for this much?  And how well does it all synchronise?   It is too much for me – well fed by the more modest Roman provision – but I  shall set myself an experiment and report back.  The experiment is this: how well do the DWDO readings for Sunday Evensong fit with the readings for Sunday Mass?   

In due course I hope to see a version of DWDO without the Bible.  That would not only support the Anglican patrimony of reading lessons from an actual bible (a practice which, to be fair, DWDO encourages) but also permit the use of DWDO with different reading schemes.  If the DWDO pattern of lessons prevails then we shall have to see an end to the two-year daily eucharistic lectionary, the staple of the daily Mass.  We may also see – and this, in  some ways, would be a good outcome – increased demand for the one-year mediaeval mass lectionary which is part of Prayer Book patrimony but that would then entail a revision of DWDM….

East Hendred

Our Lady of Walsingham 2021

Traditionis Custodes

ON 16 July 2021, Pope Francis published motu proprio the document Traditionis Custodes. He was writing to bishops worldwide, regulating the celebration of Mass according to the Usus antiquior, the older Use. Since the Usus recentior, the more recent Use, is almost always celebrated in the vernacular, the Usus antiquior – as revised by Pope St John XXIII in 1962 – is almost always referred to as ‘the Latin Mass’. In the first few days there has been an intense interest in this letter. Since its regulations were to be implemented with immediate effect, much comment was pastoral and practical. Some comment, from surprisingly highly-placed sources, was very critical. There was discussion too about how and whether this new document contradicted the apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum (2007), which had extended to all priests of the Latin Church the right to celebrate the Extraordinary Form (Pope Benedict’s term for the 1962 Mass).

Leaving aside these mostly canonical, ecclesial, and pastoral matters – all of which have received substantial attention – our remarks here are confined to liturgical matters, and to very specific ones. Cardinal Sarah, speaking to the Sacra Liturgica conference in 2016, suggested that, from Advent Sunday that year, all priests should plan to celebrate Mass ad orientem, that is, facing East. Another suggestion of his was that certain features of the Usus antiquior, which had been incorporated into the Divine Worship liturgy of the Personal Ordinariates might re-emerge in a fourth edition of the Roman Missal. He had in mind in particular the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the traditional Offertory prayers, and the Last Gospel at the end of Mass. Other features of the Divine Worship liturgy that could be re-visited might include the ‘-gesima Sundays’ before Lent, the restored Pentecost Octave, and the re-scheduled Ember Days. We do know that the Pope countermanded the ad orientem instruction and we also know that Cardinal Sarah’s time as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship was not extended but we do not know – but can guess – to what extent his thinking reflected that of the Congregation. With the Pope’s intervention, the movement known as ‘Reform of the Reform’ lost any sense of official endorsement. The hope for the ‘Reform of the Reform’ had been boosted by Summorum Pontificum because Pope Benedict had specifically asked that the two Forms – Ordinary and Extraordinary – should inform each other, leading to their mutual flourishing and interdependence. Cardinal Sarah’s celebration of the Ordinary Form at the London Oratory, in Latin and with great beauty and splendour, had bookmarked how comely such a celebration should seek to be.

Two particular observations might be made about the future of the Latin Rite at this juncture. One is that its vernacular expression in Divine Worship: The Missal is not affected. However traditional the mode of celebration, and however many echoes of the Extraordinary Form it may contain, it is not the Usus antiquior and it is mandated and regulated by the Holy See. Its incorporation of traditional Anglican material from the liturgical books is entirely in accordance with the provision of Anglicanorum coetibus (2009). The second observation is that, though the ‘Reform of the Reform’ may have run into difficulties a few years ago, the curtailing of the celebration of the Usus Antiquior could be an opportunity for a reset. Particularly in view of the recent regulations surrounding the celebration of Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, there may be a risk of the Mass concelebrated in Italian replacing the Latin Mass as a norm. Italian is a lovely language but it is a regional one not a universal one and concelebration may be particularly apt for occasions on which priests and people wish to join in mass celebrated by their bishop (or pope, or abbot) but, in other circumstances, it is less than ideal. The liturgy, like the Church, is semper reformanda and I reflected on this very thing as, this morning, I prayed the awkward Prayer over the Offerings for St Bridget’s Day. Why awkward? God apparently was ‘pleased to create in St Bridget the New Man’ and we were offering a ‘sacrifice of conciliation’. The language of the vernacular may be specialised but these examples would mystify most. My hope is that those who love the Latin liturgy – especially the young – will turn to the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form, with its opportunities for combining vernacular lections and Latin prayers, Gregorian chant and traditional polyphony, and – as Cardinal Sarah indicated – the ad orientem position. What is much more important than the direction in which you face – God is immanent as well as transcendent – is judging the aesthetic properly. Buildings are sacred too and they have to be used congruently.

East Hendred

23rd July 2021 St Bridget

A New Look at the Roman Option  

Dating from 2007, the Ebbsfleet years, this shows some of the thinking at the time.

ONE OF the prime objectives of Forward in Faith’s self-understanding, at least as far as the British leadership is concerned, is corporate reconciliation with the Holy See.  This has been an objective, at times covert and at times overt, and one of the catchphrases has been that the Free Province – an objective in itself – is ‘a Catholic solution to a Catholic problem’.  This catchphrase, in my view, has been problematic for two reasons.  One is that it states as a ‘solution’ – i.e. an objective – that which the rhetoric at other times would claim to be no more than a stage towards the real solution, namely corporate reconciliation with the Holy See.  The second is that what is proposed is, in essence, a Protestant solution to a Catholic problem.  That is to say: it has been the Protestant denominations which have sprung from newly-formed and break-off groups, based on soundness of faith and doctrine, order and moral life.  The Catholic solution to the problem of disorder is to cleave to whatever seems to be the primary focus of orthodoxy – pope, patriarch, metropolitan or bishop  – and persist within the body.  (It is interesting that this distinction would render ‘Protestant’ the schismatic bodies within – or formerly within – the Catholic fold who maintain the Faith in a sede vacante mentality, regarding the reigning Pope as heretical.  This is not a purely quixotic point because the rhetoric of classical Anglicanism with regard to the Pope and the Church of Rome has certain similarities with modern Roman Catholic schismatics: that is, if the Lefèvrists are not Protestants, neither are the Anglicans).


A Free Province?

Whether or not there is an ecclesiological problem with the Free Province ‘solution’ regarding itself as a ‘Catholic’ solution, there is equally an ecclesiological problem or two with the Free Province regarding itself as authentically Anglican.  For one thing, it would be in ‘impaired communion’ (to use the normal phrase, which is of course problematical) with the Archbishop of Canterbury, if he (or indeed she) presided over a college of bishops which ordained and admitted women bishops to its number.  For another thing, it would be basing its independent ecclesiological stance on the doctrine of provincial autonomy, the very doctrine whose premises and consequences Forward in Faith was established to oppose.


There is also a problem with the word ‘free’, useful as it has been for polemical purposes.  For one thing, it suggests a ‘break out’ or a ‘break away’.  A ‘free province’ wrested from the Anglican Communion or from the Church of England would be no more and no less than a continuing church, either another member of the Continuum or joining up with a member of the Continuum.  As we have seen, that is not a ‘Catholic’ solution and, despite much excitement and talk, especially following the decision of the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion in autumn 2007 to seek corporate reconciliation, there is no precedent, to date, of a ‘continuing church’ being corporately reconciled with Rome.  Substitute ‘new’ for ‘free’ and posit a decision by the Church of England to reorganise itself so that those who disagreed with the decision to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate were constituted into a provincial grouping and we avoid this little difficulty.  Equally, to avoid the tendentious word ‘province’ which, as Colin Podmore has shown,[1] anyway has different meanings and weight in different parts of the Church, a circumlocution might be used to describe the ‘new’ ecclesial group which was authentically Anglican, because it was established by the General Synod, and yet remained faithful to the ARCIC vision and formed, as it were, an advance party in that process.


The Manchester Process

The most likely outcome of the Manchester Group – the working party under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Manchester currently (2007) looking at the possibility of inclusive legislation on the topic of women bishops – is that solutions will be proposed which, despite their generosity, do not adequately provide ecclesiologically for the traditionalist rump.  One imagines, as with the proposals before the Governing Board of the Church in Wales in 2007, actual pragmatic protection, for the time being, of parish priests and parishes which do not accept the episcopal and priestly ministry of women but no truly adequate ecclesial framework.   Truth to tell, there may be no ecclesial framework logically possible for an ecclesiola which does not accept the orders of the ecclesia of which it is a part.   The fundamental problem would seem to be that, though it is perfectly possible for a larger group – the Anglican Communion – to contain within itself those who have a restricted view of who should belong (in this case, those who would restrict priesthood and episcopate to men), it is not so possible for the small group to accept the authenticity of the order and sacramental life of the parent body, increasingly depending as it would on that which originated in those whose orders were in doubt.  Needless to say this is not intrinsically about gender: something of the same problem has existed and would exist – for instance at the beginning of the Church of South India scheme – were ministries which were not episcopally ordered received and integrated without episcopal ordination.


Assuming, then, an outcome from the Manchester Group that does not constitute the ejection of traditionalists but does not adequately provide for them and for their prospering, supporters of the Free Province, determined to persevere, are faced with three possibilities.  One is accepting structural defeat and retreating behind the great west door of the parish church, there to order the life and worship of the local community as best they can for as long as they are spared.   A second is attempting to wrest a free province from the parent body.  A third is seeking refuge elsewhere, as individuals or groups.   The likelihood is that all three of these strategies would come in to play, depending on personal agendas, parish politics and peer group pressure.  The first, which one could caricature as ‘the pope in his own parish’, is not dissimilar to what has happened elsewhere in the Anglican Communion and has established itself as a non-regenerating, obsolescent model.  Asked what he was going to do about the Vicar who celebrated the Parish Mass in Latin, the late Bishop F R Barry reputedly said, ‘Let him die’. ( Die he eventually did and the parish returned to its former vigour and instituted that regenerative liturgy of the mid-twentieth century, the Parish Communion. )  The second possibility is that a body like Forward in Faith, if not Forward in Faith itself, simply acted as though it had got its province.  There would be wars over parish quotas, increased isolation from diocesan and deanery structures and a certain feeling, not uncommon with Anglo-Catholics, that, in their very defiance of error, they were champions of the Faith, all the more heroic as they were picked off one by one.   It is hard to see, however, how such parishes would continue to grow, or work positively for the Kingdom or, indeed, ever renew themselves in terms of priestly leadership.  Any bishop would insist, surely, that a new parish priest would bring the parish back to conformity and the customary blandishments not to say disingenuousness of archdeacons during vacancies would be replaced by even sterner admonishments and little need for disingenuousness.


Seeking the Roman Option

It is the third group – the individuals or groups seeking refuge elsewhere – which is the concern of this essay.    Whether there would be 100/150 parishes involved – that is, a third group as large as the other two – is hard to say.  The best guess is that there would be far fewer parishes, as regards whole groups, and far more parishes, as regards significant individuals, clerical and lay.  The evidence[2] is that almost no one would be seeking refuge formally in Continuing Anglicanism or in Orthodoxy.  Almost all the traffic would be Rome-wards.  Anecdotal evidence – and past experience – suggests that the pilgrimage would be heavily clerical.  The extent of the traffic would depend on what the reception was perceived to be or likely to be.  There is a stock of stories about insensitive and inappropriate reactions from Roman Catholic bishops – though, as always with anecdote, the occasional example becomes generalised and a particular instance becomes thought to be typical.  Equally there is a stock of stories about imaginative and welcoming ‘re-tread’ or ‘re-spray’ experiences, to use the argot.


What we need to ask is whether there is a way that this development – seemingly inevitable – could be managed by the Church of England and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to the enrichment of all concerned and to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  Could this be – to use a Church of England phrase – a ‘fresh expression’ of ecumenism?  Could it be an engine of mission?  Could a decision to foster this development be framed as a fruit of the IARCCUM exploration, an opportunity to try something out?  Could those involved be regarded by both bodies as, to repeat a phrase used by the writer of this essay[3] at the joint meeting of the House of Bishops and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in 2006, ‘a common treasure rather than a common problem’?


A Corporate Movement?

It seems to be part of the job description of a Provincial Episcopal Vicar not only to care for those unable to accept the development of doctrine represented by the ordination of women as priest and bishop but also to seek out and promote ecclesially coherent solutions to the problem of what is handily, if absurdly, called the co-existence of ‘two integrities’.  Given the premise of most Anglo-Catholics, that the trajectory of ARCIC and the goal of reunion with the Holy See must not be compromised, it is surely actual reunion with the Holy See which is the ‘Catholic solution to a Catholic problem’.   Anything less than that, to borrow a couple of Titanic metaphors already heavily over-used in the endless discussions which have been part of the Anglo-Catholic bereavement experience, is somewhere between rearranging the deckchairs and climbing into the lifeboat.


So what could a corporate movement, managed by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, look like?  It would need to be small enough and flexible enough to be experimental and expandable enough to cope with further growth.  It would be something that people looked on with fascination and saw others undergo before it seemed workable as a future project to them.  It would need to respect the integrity – in the right sense of that word – of the participating bodies.  Those who came under Roman Catholic jurisdiction in the process would need to be subject to Roman Catholic canons, able to confess the faith, live the moral life and accept the traditional disciplines.  If it were truly to be a corporate process they would need to arrive with gifts and not empty-handed: the Anglican patrimony is a rich inheritance and not to be squandered.  There may be enough constraints implicit in all this to ensure that the experiment would be small but a decision would need to be taken whether this would be something that would be tried at a national level or in one particular Roman Catholic province or Church of England region.


Anglican Patrimony

It is perhaps appropriate at this point further to consider Anglican patrimony and the viability of this becoming an uncontroversial gift, an enrichment of the one partner by the other.   There are controversial things to bring which cannot and sometimes even should not be brought.  By this is meant the ability of some Anglicans to sit light to devotion and doctrine, to take a low view of Bible or Creed, to routinely ignore contradictory life-styles or in the name of inclusion, tolerate casual use of the sacraments.   Roman Catholics will have problems of their own in these areas and these are not matters for ecumenical re-enforcement.  Amongst the good things, clearly gifts from any perspective, are such things as historic buildings,[4] church bells, church choirs, and fine hymn singing, the Parish Eucharist as a solemn celebration and primary focus of the liturgical week.  There is considerable Anglican hinterland which is part of the context.  Anglo-Catholic clergy no longer regularly gather so readily, perhaps, birettas in hand, to study the Sunday Gospel in Greek, and they are less familiar than their forebears were with the spirituality recently best represented by a collection like Love’s Redeeming Work[5] and with the hagiography recently best represented by Robert Atwell’s Celebrating the Saints.[6]  Nevertheless the over-romanticised group memory of the work of Anglo-Catholic priests in slum areas, fighting plague and prejudice, and living on a pittance continues to inform and inspire the best of work.  We may have few lessons to teach about the work of the single priest on soulless council estates – Roman Catholics know this one well – but there is plenty of good practice encapsulated in the notion of the parish priest having the cure of souls for the whole population of his parish.  Sometimes this is represented by a civic involvement, often by involvement in Church neighbourhood schools in which there is otherwise little or no Christian life,  always by an openness to read banns and bury, if not always to baptise or marry all comers on demand.  Many parishes have premises which are used more generally by the community and in many parishes ‘the Vicar’ is still something of a local point of reference, even for those of other faiths.


What all of this adds up to may be best described, after all, not so much by the hinterland metaphor but by the phrase ‘Anglican DNA’, something shared by clergy and parishes of wildly different theological backgrounds.  At its worst, as has often been observed, this DNA programmes clergy and parishes for maintenance and survival, however unpropitious the statistics or the trends.  At its best, this DNA equips the Church of England for mission and evangelism, persevering in casting the net.  Neither the Church of England’s Decade of Evangelism nor the Roman Catholic Church’s international Decade of Evangelisation is generally reckoned to have been a success – though who knows where we would have been had these initiatives not been taken in the 1990s? – but what is instructive for our purposes here is the focus of each.  Both of vital importance, the Roman Catholic Church focus was on rekindling the interest of lapsed Catholics and stimulating a return to practice, the Church of England focus was on telling the story to those who were not familiar with it, breaking new ground.  Interestingly, Catholics nowadays are talking about mission and evangelism more generally and Anglicans, though keen on ‘fresh expressions’ as we have seen, have been investing heavily – and promisingly – in ‘Back to Church Sunday’ initiatives.


Anglo-Catholic Baggage

Assuming Anglicans seeking corporate reunion will not arrive empty-handed, and are therefore worth rescuing from the lifeboat and hauling aboard the ocean-going liner, we need to look at what’s in it for the Churches – the Church of England, in particular, who in one sense would be ‘losing’ clergy and parishes – and how it could be done without, for instance, the Roman Catholic Church having to recant its formally expressed views on Anglican Orders[7] or on the essentially post-Reformation nature of Anglicanism.[8]  Those looking for reunion are not arriving with mutually acknowledged, let alone recognised, priestly orders, nor are they arriving from a sister Church, despite the respect inspired by the ‘ecclesial community’ from which they come.   The liberal end of the hospitality party cannot help thinking that the Anglicans would be best off where they are and where, in terms of word and sacrament, they are already making an effective, and probably sacramentally valid, contribution.   This liberal end fears a fresh infusion for ultramontanism.   The conservative end of the hospitality party welcomes a black-suited band, reinforcing some aspects of traditional Roman Catholic faith and practice, but worries about the counter-cultural and transgressive mentality of Anglo-Catholics.[9]  Both liberals and conservatives worry about being overwhelmed by the material needs – not to say occasional marital problems – arising from married clergy, by the gay sub-culture to which some of the single clergy belong (reinforcing their own problems in this area), and by the disturbing and undermining of the relationship of the Churches.  How, for instance, can the Roman Catholic hierarchy be selective about whom it has, without being thought to be ‘cherry-picking’ or making rude implications about the Church of England’s selection procedures and the parochial experience of its clergy?  What are the consequences for the ecumenical endeavour, the ongoing work of ARCIC, the relationship of Canterbury and Rome?


Neither an Anglican Use….

To some extent these are questions that have already been tackled in the aftermath of 1992, the opening to women of ordination to the Church of England priesthood.  Lessons on both sides have been learnt about being too trusting and not being trusting enough.  What we have to ask here is what are the distinct, practical problems of corporate reception, which would be a new venture.  What we have to rule out immediately is provision similar to that made for the Anglican Use in the United States.  Time will tell how authentic that experiment was but it is important to realise that it was particularly American and particularly of its time.  For one thing, it was essentially to do with liturgical taste and the culture of choice.  Most Anglo-Catholics in England either use the breviary and missal in full or use as much of them as they reasonably can.  There is no call for a distinct ‘Use’.  For another thing, the Anglican Use in the United States is having understandable problems with growing and reproducing itself.  It is hard to see where new priests would come from and where they would be trained.  As the congregations’ memory of American Episcopalianism fade, their need for a distinctly Anglican Use also fades.  What will remain, one imagines, is a residue of accomplished, classical liturgical celebration, well-executed and commending itself not because of liturgical affinity to Anglicanism but because of its quality.     English Anglo-Catholics often too produce liturgical worship of accomplishment and élan, perhaps reflecting an Anglican predilection for planning and rehearsal as contrasted with a Catholic (and indeed Orthodox) preference for sorting things out as you go.  Some, at least, of this is what might be called fish-knife Catholicism, where everything is so correct that the overall result is rather unlike that which it is seeking to imitate.  So, no place for an ‘Anglican Use’, though one could imagine ‘Solemn Evensong and Benediction’, continuing to meet a need.  (It is hard, however, to imagine anyone objecting more to the final part of such a service than the compiler of the first part, Archbishop Cranmer).   The nearest one might get to an ‘Anglican Use’ might be a knapsack of Anglican material – canticles, hymns, prayers and psalms – together with, possibly, versions of the Daily Office and Pastoral Offices with which the general public is familiar.  The new English translation of Roman Catholic liturgy may well reduce the purpose of such an Anglican knapsack but in any household there should be  opportunities for bringing out of the treasury things both old and new.[10]


…nor a Uniate Church

If there is no place for an ‘Anglican Use’, there is surely no place for anything like a Uniate Church.  Not only is the word ‘uniate’ proving less than helpful in the ecumenical enterprise, it really applies to a group celebrating a distinct Rite where all that has remained to be done is the reconciliation of  already recognised ministries into full communion with Peter.  The ‘uniate’ solution might have worked for the Anglican Communion, or for provinces of it, when ecumenical convergence was plain – and who is to say, under God, that that convergence will not re-occur? – but it seems implausible at present.  ‘Uniate’ status for one group of Anglicans is neither helpful to the ecumenical cause nor a realistic provision for the limited size and scale of those concerned.  There would also be the problem, which Cardinal Hume foresaw, of a third brand name on the High Street – neither Catholic nor Anglicans but a hybrid.


Something New

What is not entirely new to the High Street is the Local Ecumenical Project – hereafter LEP.  Governed, from an Anglican point of view, by the ecumenical canons (Canon B44), there have been instances of LEPs in which Roman Catholics and Anglicans have taken part together.  The question which this paper asks is whether the Church of England Canon (e.g. B44 ) and Codex Iuris Canonici 1983 (e.g. Canons 1205ff) of the Roman Catholic Church and the experience of LEP collaboration might enable the sharing of spiritualities temporalities in a way which is new but with sufficient precedent to be achievable constructively, easily, quickly and non-controversially.


Since it is essentially a canonical question, it is a question for the canonists: suffice it, for the moment, to look at some of the issues and possibilities implied in the scene as set.  Clearly the building must remain as an Anglican Parish Church as long as it is needed within Anglican parochial strategy.  (Some would continue to be needed, others plainly would not).  Clearly too the congregation or congregations continue to be responsible for the quota, which should cover the actual costs of ministry, though not necessarily the on-costs.  The parish priest would continue to reside, as appropriate, in the parsonage and, whilst he and his congregation were under full Anglican canonical obedience, he would continue to serve.   Meanwhile, with the permission of both Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, he would undergo formation and training, evaluation and inspection, for the next stage of his ministry.  If there were two congregations emerging, both would have to be pastored and provided for as directed by the bishops concerned but the priest might be permitted by the Roman Catholic bishop to officiate non-eucharistically in accordance, however, with Catholic canon law.  (That would affect, for instance, whom he might marry).  Ordained in due course as a Catholic priest (if the process were completed satisfactorily) he would then celebrate Mass, using the Catholic eucharistic rite and following Catholic eucharistic discipline.


Meanwhile the Anglican Area/Rural Dean would retain the right to provide Holy Communion services according the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and, whatever the Sunday arrangements, such a service would always be celebrated on Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, Easter Day, Ascension Day and Pentecost, unless the Anglican diocesan bishop directs otherwise.  The parish priest would not celebrate the Church of England Holy Communion service and the people of the parish – those baptised and those admitted to Holy Communion – would choose whether they are on the Anglican list or the Roman Catholic list.  Transfer between the lists would be a matter referred to the local bishops or persons nominated by them.


This vision – captured in a particular scenario – poses as many questions as it answers and would require many of its more simplistic assumptions to be looked at in some detail.  There are issues of supply and succession, whether or not other denominations could be part of such an LEP too, how effectively to minister to significant minorities wishing to remain Anglican, how to present the brand message of the parish church without compromising the claims of the Roman Catholic Church, and so on.  Suffice it to say here that they are not insoluble questions and not questions which have never been asked before and partly, at least, dealt with.  The canonists would solve some of these puzzles and think of others.



It is not hard to view this scenario, in one sense, as a simple triumph for Roman Catholicism.  A supply of buildings, the temporalities of which were the responsibility of another body; an influx of experienced clergy and people; a supply of mass centres, some at least of which would have enough merit to be both edifying and, if the experiment went well, permanent;  pastoral access de facto to the general public, with a huge impetus to mission and evangelism; an appropriate and measured piece of progressive ecumenism without sacrifice of ecclesiological or theological principle: these would all be prizes for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.[11]   Would they be a wooden spoon for the Church of England, ashes instead of a garland?


The priority of mission and evangelism and the rhetoric of partnership means that the scheme as outlined would not represent a defeat for the Church of England, one of whose major objectives is furthering the missio Dei, however that is best done.  The Church of England and Roman Catholic Church are not rival grape-pickers, hurrying through the vineyard and racing to reach the finest fruit first.   Even as regards temporalities the Church of England would do well through the arrangement: quota payments reflect actual attendance at the parish church and it is easy to see some of the smaller, less viable inner urban parishes which might become involved in this enterprise paying their way more effectively.   Most particularly the Church of England would have found a solution to a significant part of its problem with ‘two integrities’.  Here would be an opportunity to lose the provisions of the Act of Synod; the new Anglican-Roman Catholic Partnership would provide for those for whom Resolutions A and B of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure has been insufficient.  It may even be that a similar LEP model, with Protestant groupings, might be a way of providing for Reform parishes.


Romanitas is not built in a day, to adapt a phrase, and the way to proceed with this new look at the Roman Option would surely be for a group under the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster to study the proposal and discuss the emergent possibilities and then for a group of LEPs to be set up to explore the project on the ground.   A thinly-spread national group might be an embryonic Personal Administration and would need a nominated (Roman Catholic) bishop to be its prelate.  A more local experiment, for instance in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, would be even simpler.  A seven-year experiment, as allowed by Canon B44, would establish the viability of the enterprise and the worst that could happen would be that, if it came to an end, a number of clergy and people would find themselves wanting to work and worship elsewhere.


If this experiment in something new were judged successful, it would not because a be number of Anglo-Catholic parishes had metamorphosed into churches of the Roman Catholic obedience.  That would indeed be the simple outcome for some – probably those whose liturgical culture for a generation or two has never really been Anglican – and there would of course be those which, after a brief experiment, did not in fact change, beyond perhaps a change of priest.  The experiment would be truly successful if also – whether mainly or partly – a  number of vigorous LEPs emerged, with mainstream Anglican and Roman Catholic congregations meeting on the same premises, united in mission and bound together by the vision of the ARCIC and IARCCUM dialogue.  Such congregations, meeting together for non-eucharistic worship and working together catechetically, evangelistically and pastorally, would indeed be a sign of the Kingdom.





Andrew Burnham

Dry Sandford.  SS Chad & Cedd, 26th October 2007

[1] Podmore, Colin, Aspects of Anglican Identity, London 2005, pp69f

[2]from the years 1992-2007 and from the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s confidential ‘Twenty Questions’ survey, 2005.

[3] at the joint meeting of the House of Bishops and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in Leeds, autumn 2006

[4]  though few Anglo-Catholic parishes have mediaeval or other Grade 1 church buildings

[5] comp. Rowell, Stevenson, Williams, Love’s Redeeming Work,  Oxford 2001

[6] comp. Atwell, Celebrating the Saints, Norwich, enlarged edition 2004

[7] Apostolicae Curae (1896)

[8] Dominus Iesus (2000) 

[9] admirably explored and explained by John Shelton Reed in Glorious Battle, Nashville, 1996

[10] Matthew 13:52

[11]  If indeed  the Church in Wales followed the practice of the Church of England

The Beginnings

First published in the Catholic Herald in July 2013 and published in the Advent 2013 edition of The Friends of the Ordinariate Newsletter.


COMING down to breakfast in a small hotel on the Borge Pio, I was greeted enthusiastically by an elderly American tourist.  ‘Good morning, Your Excellency!’ he said, no doubt noticing the pectoral cross I was wearing over my black suit and clerical shirt.   When my wife and daughter joined me, a few moments’ later, the American’s smile turned into a scowl.   Whether he thought that this bishop had brought along an irregular household or guessed correctly that this person whom he had assumed to be a Catholic prelate was really a Protestant I never found out.

It was April 2008 and, having just celebrated my sixtieth birthday, I had gone to Rome for a holiday.  I had never been before – despite being Bishop of Ebbsfleet, a ‘flying bishop’, I neither fly nor enjoy travelling far – but thought that I really must visit the Eternal City, the focus of so much of my ecclesiological angst.  Though it was a holiday – with overnight stops in Beaune and Nice and Florence and Assisi – it was also an opportunity to make some contacts.  If I were to make enquiries, would anyone at the Vatican see me?  I imagined that the answer would be ‘yes’ and that some lowly monsignor at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) would sympathise, over an espresso, with my own longings for High Church Anglicans – those who call themselves ‘Anglo-Catholic’ or ‘Catholic Anglican’ – to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church, unity with the Pope, the successor of St Peter.   As it turned out, I was able to visit not only the PCPCU but also the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), formerly called ‘the Holy Office’, the body which enforces and safeguards Catholic doctrine, the body of which the then Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, had been Cardinal Prefect.  More than simply visiting these curial departments, I discovered that I should be received at the highest level in them, each time by the Cardinal in charge, surrounded by his senior staff.  I had rather forgotten that, as a Provincial Episcopal Visitor (‘flying bishop’) and suffragan (auxiliary) of the Archbishop of Canterbury, any visit I made to the Vatican deserved to be taken seriously.  And, indeed, once the appointments had been made, my fellow ‘flying bishop’, Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough, arranged to fly out and join me.

We were not the first Anglican bishops to visit on this kind of mission – seeking out the possibility of reconciliation with the Holy See in the midst of a certain amount of confusion and disintegration within Anglicanism.  Before we had been, there were stories in the press about various English diocesans making secret visits though, as it turned out, these seem to have been strategic attempts to manipulate the politics of the Church of England rather than serious endeavours in the search for Christian Unity.  At any rate, none of those bishops (at any rate yet) has been reconciled with the Catholic Church.  And there were bishops from the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) – mostly from America or Australia – who, drawing inspiration from the  Affirmation of St. Louis (1977), had parted company with the Archbishop of Canterbury and mainstream Anglicanism.  These TAC bishops had signed up to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in order to be received into full Communion with the Catholic Church, at St Agatha’s Portsmouth, in October 2007, and at the time of our visit to Rome, it seemed probable that this would come to fruition.  Bishop Newton and I were not attempting to manipulate the politics of the Church of England, nor were we promising, like some reports of the TAC overture suggested, 400,000 converts.  We were enquiring seriously whether our priests with their congregations could be received into the Catholic Church, not as defectors from the Church of England (as we came to be labeled) but as what Anglicans had always claimed to be, a bridge between the two communions, or as we put it, a treasure to be shared.

I am not at liberty to reveal any of the conversations that took place five years ago in the Vatican, except to say that we were reassured that the Holy Father had taken a keen interest in us, and in our plight in the Church of England, since 1992, the year when unilaterally the Church of England ordained women to the priesthood and thus effectively ended the coming together of Catholics and Anglicans within the foreseeable future.  We were told simply to wait and see what happened as a result of our visit.  It is important to say that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leadership of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales were kept fully informed by us of what we were doing – though it made a much more interesting story to suggest that we had gone behind their backs.

Five years on, and we have seen the publication of Anglicanorum cœtibus, providing for ‘personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church’.   Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution was promulged on 4th November 2009, the feast of St Charles Borromeo, the sixteenth century reformer whose task it was to combat the divisive effects of the Protestant Reformation.

So far there are three ordinariates – the UK, North America, and Australia – each presided over by an Ordinary who, though not a bishop, has the juridical powers of a bishop.  The ordinariates themselves, though not dioceses, have much of the character of dioceses, as regards culture, independence and management.   Keith Newton, the youngest and fittest of the three serving Anglican bishops who crossed the Tiber, became the Ordinary in the UK and he is assisted by the former Bishop of Fulham, John Broadhurst, Chairman of the campaigning group, Forward in Faith, and by me.  We have called the bluff of Anglicans who loudly profess the desire to be reconciled with the Holy See but who, faced with the opportunity, turn it down.  We are few, like Gideon’s men (Judges 6), but the bravery of eighty priests, most of whom have lost stipend and some future pension benefits, and the thirty or forty groups of lay people, who have lost their habitual time and place of worship and nowadays go to church at a less convenient time and to a less convenient place, is, we believe, the beginning of something new and something magnificent.  It is not just Choral Evensong and all that, though the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham provides that for us, it is a step towards the healing of one of the most damaging wounds of history, the dividing of Christ’s Body the Church, here in England.

Church Music – A Sacred Cause

I HAVE recently been watching on as members of my family have engaged in research into genealogy.  I have reflected on how my father, David, took himself off to church in Kirkby, a colliery town in Nottinghamshire.  He must have been about ten years old – so we are talking about the early 1920s – and he got himself baptised and confirmed and sang as a boy treble.  His voice didn’t break until he was 17 or 18 – such was the low protein in the diet of the poor.  He wanted to be a music teacher, but couldn’t get a grant to go to college, so taught himself what he could.  Truth to tell, his musical sensitivity far surpassed his modest keyboard skill, though he was the organist of Worksop Priory from the mid-1950s for nearly a quarter of century.  It was his ability as a choral conductor that carried him through.  As well as a church choir, with seven or eight adults and more than a dozen local children (drawn from the non-churchgoing part of the public), he ran several other choirs in his time, founding the Worksop Bach Society, which rehearsed on Sunday nights after Evensong, in our sitting room at home.  Slightly ambitiously, we began with the B minor Mass, which was never performed, unlike the Gillies Whittaker edition of the Matthew Passion, which was performed in a lower key, with piano accompaniment.

My father was acutely aware of the importance of church music and sent both his sons – my older brother and me  – to board at Southwell Minster, to sing in the choir there and be educated at the Minster School (first the Junior Department – 8 to 10 year olds – and then the Grammar School).

From Southwell, my brother and I went successively to New College, Oxford, to read music.  He was more accomplished as a keyboard player than I but neither of us became part of the chapel choral foundation.  I delighted in attending Evensong daily during term and, egged on by the organ scholar, Murray Somerville, I studied for and sat the ARCO exam, scraping through the pieces but doing better on the harmony and counterpoint.  In due course I became Director of Music at St Margaret’s, North Oxford, and began to be interested in choral singing.  I did the Choirmaster’s diploma (CHM) and was examined by the redoubtable Martindale Sidwell.   Returning after Oxford to Nottinghamshire, I became organist of St Leonard’s, Wollaton, and then Director of Music at St Mary’s Clifton Village, where a Marcussen organ had recently been installed.   In 1973 I was recruited as Director of the English Sinfonia Chorale and became Chorus Master, later Principal Conductor, of the Nottingham Harmonic Society in 1974.  Some ten years later I was ordained and relinquished both the musical posts.  I was earning half my living from conducting and playing and the other half from a series of jobs in education.   There was something of a crisis for me in 1979, when I applied for – and got on to the short short-list for – Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral.  I didn’t get the job, of course: I discovered late in the day that the job specification included abilities as an organist, which I simply did not have, and, even later in the day, that, of the four of us – two Anglican and two Catholic – the other Anglican was the prodigiously-talented Stephen Cleobury.  He got the job, and I did not help myself – country cousin as I was – by getting stuck in a traffic jam and being an hour late for the choir rehearsal which began the interview.  It was a moment of truth and, soon after that, my thoughts began to return to ordination, which I had abandoned as a course of action as I began to immerse myself in theology in the late 1960s.  The third generation – my son – did rather better.  He has not become a musician either – he now lives in Sydney – but he sang in New College Choir as a treble and later as an academical clerk, in the meantime going off to school at Winchester College on a music scholarship  .

I shall write some other time about some of the other things going on, but what concerns me here is church music.  It is there in our family history, playing a far from unimportant part, and it surfaces all over the place in the lives of others who have served in church, cathedral, and chapel choirs.  It has played an inestimable role in the work and witness of the Church, interacting with the general public, and, far from fossilising, it has metamorphosed impressively to include, and give musical opportunities, to girls and women.

My son suggested to me that I expend some of my influence and use some of the opportunities I have to further the cause of church music.  Tales reach us of choral foundations in reduced circumstances and even threatened with closure.  Some of the discussion of diminutive weekday congregations scandalously disregards the presence of a dozen or so schoolchildren and half a dozen or so adults who congregate in their own way.    One gains the impression that the pastoral care of choirs and nurture of the children in them is done badly by the clergy.  My own father used to quarrel with the clergy – as organists do – and point out to them that most of the new growth of families and children in the church was the result of his recruitment of them, rather than any pastoral work done by the clergy.

Any reference to family history must include my mother’s side.  She came from Baptist stock, and my grandparents and she spent many Saturdays singing in performances of Messiah, Elijah, The Crucifixion and the rest, in the chapels in neighbouring towns and villages.  It was how non-conformist society flourished and I had further cause to reflect on that, when I conducted the Nottingham Harmonic Chorus in Nottingham Albert Hall, still the meeting place of the Central Methodist Mission.   It was not until we moved to the new Royal Concert Hall that the umbilical cord which united us to the nonconformist tradition was cut.

Throughout my teenage years what drew me in most was the mystery of Catholicism.  I cannot now remember which Viennese Mass it was that the Nottingham Bach Society were singing that evening in St Mary’s in the Lacemarket in Nottingham but I vividly recall the thrill of hearing the Latin of the Creed.  Music might be the bicycle of the liturgy, as the late Thurston Dart used to say, but, even outside the liturgy, music speaks of the transcendent God.  That early memory – maybe 1963 – resonates with the experience of conducting the Monteverdi Vespers in the former chapel at Kelham.  It was so evocative that even the wall in the apse seemed to yield up a crucifix, formed of damp patches in the plaster.

It is chilling to think how many now grow up without the knowledge of the Bible stories, the customs, the hymns, the festivals, the prayers, and the seasons.  This is the Church in retreat at least as much as it is the Secular West advancing.  I think I should devote more of my energy in the years remaining to the cause of the Choral Tradition.


My last post was A Search for an Adequate Ecclesiological Provision (2005).  This post, containing an article written five years later (2010), and after the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (2009), is, in a sense, a sequel.


FIVE years ago I wrote a paper, The Search for an Adequate Ecclesiological Provision, which I discussed with the Archbishop of Canterbury and most of the bishops in the third of England in which I serve.  Some of the sees have changed hands in the meantime and some involved in the discussion have moved elsewhere, for instance the Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu, became Archbishop of York.  In the paper I outlined three kinds of ecclesiological provision which might make sense to Anglo-Catholics: ‘the New Province Solution’, essentially the ‘free province’ proposal put forward by Forward in Faith, a ‘Historic Province Solution’, that is, the creation of new dioceses within existing structures to embody and enable the distinctive faith and witness of traditionalists, and what was called a ‘Society Solution’, where what was distinctive about the traditionalist constituency was not its belief that women could not be ordained to the episcopate and priesthood but its culture and life.  A ‘society’, like a church, could revise its rules and, theoretically, at least, such a society would have a continued use and value in the mission and life of the Church even after changing its rules about how could be its bishops and priests.


It is not the purpose here to argue afresh for any of these solutions: any who have ears to hear have surely by now heard the debate and it is important that we respect the integrity of each other – that word ‘integrity’ again – by assuming the good faith of others’ arguments.  Suffice it to say that the three solutions are seen to have insoluble problems.  The ‘New Province Solution’, it is said, is effectively an ecclesiola, a church alongside a church, the ‘Historic Province Solution’, with problems of who is in full communion with whom, makes distinctive demands of an archbishop which undermine basic ecclesiology.  There is also some fall-out on the whole issue of territoriality and the relationship of the Church of England with the civil authorities.  The ‘Society Solution’, the least developed of the ideas, continues to draw support but the relationship of the society with the parent body – the whole issue of permeability and interchange-ability (essentially the same issue presenting in two forms) becomes acute.   Bedevilling all three solutions is the problem that, somehow, women in episcopal orders and priests’ orders are not, as far as everyone is concerned, ‘the real thing’.  Indeed the Church would be setting up discriminatory structures in which those – from the evangelical wing and from the Anglo-catholic wing – who doubted women’s orders could not only flourish but claim to be the authentic, faith-bearing nucleus of a somewhat incoherent and unfocused organisation.

Recent Developments: (1) Manchester Group

Since those discussions of five years ago, there have been many developments, amongst them, most recently, the General Synod debate of July 2008 and the subsequent work of the Manchester Group, a legislative drafting group, a revision committee of the General Synod, with its own steering committee.  Though the Manchester Group (hereafter the Committee) has not yet completed its work (February 2010), delaying its reporting to Synod until July, the Committee chose to minimise the risks of rumour and distortion by periodically making statements about its progress.  Nothing is certain until the report is complete, indeed nothing is certain until the completion of the synodical process (which may or may not be successful) but it seems clear that, though the Committee was able procedurally to examine afresh every option, and not only to accept the steer of the July 2008 Synod, the three solutions in The Search for an Adequate Ecclesiological Provision have each been found wanting.  More than that, though the Committee agreed in principle to the transfer of powers to bishops who cared for traditionalists, it could not agree on what should be transferred and concluded, therefore, that any care of priests, parishes and people, unable to accept the ordination of women, should be delegated by the diocesan bishop and, logically it seems, to take place within the diocese, the local church, even if those invited to offer ministry on the diocesan’s behalf were themselves from further afield.

Recent Developments: (2) Anglicanorum cœtibus

Breaking in on this process was the offer in Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum cœtibus, published on 4th November 2009.  Briefly that extends the canonical provision associated with personal prelatures – of which there is at present only one, Opus Dei – to distinct groups of Anglicans supplicating to be admitted individually and corporately to full union with the Holy See.  Canonical provision is extended because, instead of a ‘personal prelature’, what is offered is a ‘personal ordinariate’, a canonical device made available for the organisation of military chaplaincies nearly thirty years ago.  The difference between the two is briefly: (1) a ‘personal prelature’ is ‘composed of deacons and priests of the secular clergy’ (Canon 294) which can ‘incardinate students and promote them to orders’ (Canon 295) but which is essentially clerical; ‘lay people can dedicate themselves to the apostolic work of a personal prelature’ (Canon 296) but they themselves – a not entirely uncontroverted point – remain members of the diocese, the local church in which they are set; (2) a ‘personal ordinariate’, on the other hand, is a species of local church whose laity belong.  Two persistent points of misunderstanding can be cleared up: first, the ‘personal’ refers to the relationship of the prelate or ordinary to the Pope (a similar relationship to that of the diocesan bishop to the Pope, but the diocesan bishop, as a successor of the apostles, is ordinary sui juris; second, the fact that the ordinary may or may not be in episcopal orders is not an overthrowing of basic catholic ecclesiology (though it is certainly an obfuscation), but a reflection that the relationship of the Pope to the ordinariate is fundamental.  (A similar observation might be made about the relationship at various times of the Archbishop of Canterbury or Bishop of London to various extra-provincial congregations).


It is not the purpose of this essay to argue about the circumstances of the papal initiative, though I should want to argue that those who see it as irrelevant to England have missed the point.  Indeed Pope Benedict’s address to the Bishops of England and Wales on their ad limina visit early in 2010 made it plain that this was an initiative which included Anglicans in England and Wales.  I should also want to say that, had the papal invitation occurred any later in the synodical process, Anglicanorum cœtibus might have been regarded as an opportunistic bit of poaching (in which light indeed some have nevertheless seen it).  My own view is that, by publishing the Apostolic Constitution whilst the Committee is still in session, and the Synodical debate is incomplete, what the Holy See is saying is that any such offer should be considered in its own right and not as some sort of a Plan B should things go badly for Anglo-Catholics in the women bishops’ legislative process.


Anglicanorum cœtibus and Ecumenism

What deserved to be argued further is whether this is simply a pastoral provision – a pope with a large pastoral heart offering refuge to those unchurched by ecclesiological uncertainties – (and it is certainly that) or whether it is also symptomatic of a new ecumenism, a ‘cutting of the ecumenical Gordian knot’, as it has been hailed by some.  The ecumenical explorations and negotiations of the Church of England have scarcely been impressive in terms of results (though they have engendered some very fine reports).  There is nothing to compare with the success of the Church of South India project (whatever one thinks of that methodology) and even the achievements of the Porvoo Conversations are mitigated by the outstanding problems round the gender of bishops, same sex marriage, presbyteral ordination and non-presbyteral eucharistic presidency, problems which are bearable not so much for ecclesiological reasons as geographical ones: the North Sea is wide, deep, and impenetrably dark.  The ARCIC process, though it continues, has no foreseeable outcome and the Anglican-Methodist Conversations have rather fizzled out because of Porvoo-type complications which are less negotiable here at home.


Compared with this, the Roman Catholic Church, despite its apparent intransigence, has had more success.  Major initiatives with the Orthodox – the big prize – are at least now tackling the main obstacle, Petrine primacy.  There has been real progress with the non-Chalcedonian churches, and the initiative with the Society of St Pius X, though in some senses a dialogue with extremists, is at least an attempt to repair a recent schism and restore a rather large nexus of conservatives to the fellowship of the Church.  It may be that Anglicanorum cœtibus should be viewed more as an initiative in line with these ecumenical explorations than as an initiative tailor-made for Anglicans.  Just as the ‘Society Solution‘ has  interested  some  Anglican bishops  –   distinct societies, with their own culture, being a way of holding not only Anglo-catholics and Conservative Evangelicals but also, potentially, Methodists, Salvationists, and the rest – so the ‘Ordinariate Solution’ (to generate a phrase) is potentially a way of the Catholic Church incorporating not only Anglican groups but Orthodox, and perhaps eventually certain Reformed groups too.  It is not only the similarity of these new ecumenical models but the differences which are important.  The Apostolic Constitution has drawn some criticism because it requires individual submission to the Ordinariate and full acceptance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It has drawn further criticism because it has been produced under the ægis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) rather than as the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU).   It is the first two of these three features – individual conversion  (at least in formal terms) and credal conformity – which explain why this is a matter for the CDF.  It would be – and remains – the competence of the PCPCU to work for – and even effect – ecclesial reconciliation between sister churches.  But bringing about the reconciliation of individuals and groups, on the basis of what they believe, or have come to believe, is very much the competence of the CDF.  In my view the various political questions – about timing, consultation, and secrecy – have obscured the perception of the significance of the process.  It may be that this is a new ecumenism, somewhat shorter in its lead-in times not least because of the comparative modesty of its objectives, and that such practical problems as there have been are the problems endemic in any prototypical process.  Meanwhile, the older, established ecumenism – the ARCIC process as far as Anglicans are concerned – and it will be interesting to see how that process itself reflects on the contribution of the newer methodology.  If the weakness of the newer method is that it does not bring about the reconciliation of entire churches and ecclesial communities, the weakness of the older method is surely that there is neither individual and communal cost nor real prospect of anything much changing within anyone’s foreseeable future.


The Future of Anglo-catholicism in the Church of England

Returning to the Church of England, it is now difficult to see how a logical ecclesiological framework could be created for traditionalist Anglo-catholics and, looking at worked examples elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, one sees, in some places, something of a moratorium on the ordination of women bishops in most of the provinces that have voted currently to have them and, in others, a kind of Anglo-catholic congregationalism which relies on an evangelical definition of the local church as ‘the parish’ rather than Catholic one, where the local church is the diocese.  Any kind of future surely depends, then, on sexual discrimination and inadequate ecclesial structures.  This is highly defensible as a temporary phase: there is a generation of clergy and people whose expectations round the maleness of clergy which will eventually pass.  The question is whether it is defensible in the long term as part of the ongoing character and life of the Church.  Having said that, it would be surely intolerable if the only doctrinal test of clergy and laity proved to be their acceptance of ordained ministers of both sexes, and that has seemed to be the case sometimes in both North America and Scandinavia.    Against that, the fact remains that the rhetoric of ‘permanent and honoured place’ is part of the living memory of the ordination debate of the early 1990s.



The conclusions one might tentatively draw from all this may be summarised as follows.  Anglo-catholics can and should expect a protected place within the Church of England, even though such a protected place might fall well short of a robust ecclesiology, let along the prospect, intrinsic to Anglo-catholic self-understanding, that, however unlikely it is, the Anglo-catholic explanation and expression of the faith and order of the Church of England should be coherent and normative.  Second, as the Archbishop of Westminster has pointed out in connection with the Apostolic Constitution, there is a place and vocation for Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England and only those who, whatever their views on women’s ordination, see the Petrine ministry as a fundamental building block of ecclesiology, should seek to be reconciled with the Holy See.  Third, and following from that, that Anglo-catholics who respond to the papal initiative in Anglicanorum cœtibus are responding within the broad context of the convergence made possible by ARCIC – whereby they have moved from an essentially Cyprianic ecclesiology towards an acceptance of the Petrine ministry – are continuing to build the kind of bridge which mainstream Anglicans in general and Anglo-catholics in particular have always said that it was the Anglican vocation to build.


Dry Sandford

10th  February 2010


In the past twenty years, I have written some papers which, for me, were milestones in my thinking,  I am beginning to look through them and, to preserve whatever is of interest, putting some of them into this blog.  This paper was written early in 2005.   At the time, I was a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, a suffragan bishop assisting the Archbishop of Canterbury.


THIS PAPER has arisen out of a series of private conversations with bishops and priests and lay folk.  It makes no claim to reflect others’ views but is offered as a contribution to an important debate in the life of the Church, as the Church of England ponders how it may continue to be properly inclusive of those within its life who hold seemingly irreconcilable ecclesiological positions.  This is not a new dilemma for the Church of England: there have been noble attempts at inclusion these last ten years and, before that, there has been a whole history of holding in tension widely different theological positions.


Assuming for the purposes of this paper that the Church of England will wish to move to the ordination of women as bishops and will also wish to make proper provision for those – bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people – for whom such a change is not self-evidently apostolic, the search is now on for structural solutions which are ecclesiologically robust enough to allow for continued life together as the pilgrim people of God.  The Church of England would continue to be inclusive of a variety of disparate ecclesiologies and theologies and would endeavour, if anything, to improve upon the robustness, pastoral and theological, of the arrangements of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993, whose embryonic and provisional nature have been commented upon.  Here we look at some possible structural solutions – beginning with the New Province solution but looking also at a couple of other solutions which are not entirely different from out-workings suggested in the Rochester Report but which are here further developed.  As we look at three such solutions in all, there will be some attempt to assess their relative merits and some tentative conclusions.


I          The New Province Solution


There is a solution on the table – the ‘New Province’ (hereafter NP) of Consecrated Women and, were Anglicanism as ecclesiologically robust as we should like it to be, nothing short of such a province would do to make proper provision for traditionalists.  After all, the Anglican Communion has stumbled into accepting a doctrine of provincial autonomy, at least as regards women’s ordination, which means that, though ecclesiological inconsistencies inevitably exist in the relationships between provinces, they cannot exist logically within provinces.  To that extent, what goes on within provinces that ordain women which in any way serves to inhibit women’s ministry is unsatisfactory.


The NP proposal has considerable merits and has been worked out skilfully by the lawyers and deserves nothing less than a full consideration.  There are some anxieties about whether an NP in practical terms would be sustainable: for one thing, there are arguably many inner urban parishes within the constituency which presently depend on the generosity of more prosperous churches of different traditions.   Some work has been done on this: a modest feasibility study of parishes which look for extended episcopal care to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet was undertaken on behalf of Forward in Faith.  The assumption was made that a diocese of Ebbsfleet might travel light and, with clergy costs held at under £25k per head (today’s prices), be self-reliant.  A more prudent view might be that a diocese of Ebbsfleet, with careful control, would be more than able to fund its own stipends and pensions but might need some help with some of the less obvious costs of ministry.


If a Common Fund of NP parishes (hereafter NPPs) needed a proper allocation of historical resources and some help from the existing provinces, a complicating factor financially might be that NPPs would be more numerous in some parts of the country than others.  Would a diocese such as Hereford, which has no petitioning parishes, support any of the costs?  Or, to put a similar but entirely different question, would a large diocese effectively receive a sizeable subsidy from the hiving off of a score of mainly non-self-sufficient parishes?   Some formula would need to be devised, perhaps along the lines of present mutual support, whereby wealthier dioceses support those with fewer historic assets and poorer church-going populations.   Such calculations would require generosity, imagination and patience.  One assisting factor is that it is not proposed that the NP would have several diocesan boards of finance, even if, as is likely, it were effectively a group of dioceses.   There would be a provincial board of finance and this would even out some of the disparities.


The question also needs to be asks how an NP would avoid becoming effectively a new denomination or a form of Continuing Anglicanism of the sort that has been seen elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.   Three checks and balances suggest themselves here.   One – and perhaps the most important – is that NPPs would in a sense be provisional.  Just as at present a parish has the opportunity and right to vote out resolutions A and B or revoke the petition for extended episcopal care, an NPP would have the opportunity and right to vote itself back into the Province of Canterbury or York.  This would be a two-way process: parishes in the historic provinces would also be entitled to vote themselves into the NP.  Such porosity would  need to be managed carefully.  In addition to present constraints there might need to be minimum periods of engagement with, say, a review possible only every seven to ten years.  That would equally commit parishes to staying within the historic provinces for stable periods as well as committing parishes entering the NP to remain there for a reasonable time.  Without such safeguards the politicking, which so easily replaces steady evangelism, catechesis and pastoral care, is stirred up.


A second of the checks and balances which would bind the NP into the Church of England would be the kind of relationships which theologically are best described as communion even when, sometimes, they fall short of full and unimpaired eucharistic communion.  There would remain, in the historic provinces, some bishops and many priests and parishes whose spirituality and theology was very close to that of NP bishops, priests and parishes.  For example, it is unlikely that many parishes in, say, the diocese of Blackburn, as it presently is, would opt for the NP.  There would be bonds of affection between NP parishes and people and others.  It would be hoped that many NP priests and people would continue to be welcome at deanery chapters and synods, as well as ecumenical fellowships, and there would be the duty and joy of maintaining and strengthening links of ministry and mission.


The third of the checks and balances is economic and material.  One imagines that, whatever the outcome of the Common Tenure debate, there would be no financial arrangements over the making available of churches and parsonages to the NP.  Where freehold is not in force, there would be pepper-corn leases as things moved from one body to another.  Similarly it would be foolish for the NP to re-invent its own version of all the statutory and other bodies that undergird the life of the historic provinces within the nation.  Chaplaincies, charities, redundant churches, schools, social responsibility: here are plenty of areas for common concern and action.  As the churches’ mutual life becomes more ecumenically intelligent, it would be perverse for an NP to go it alone on most of these matters.


There is also the question of the mixed economy of Anglicanism – where it is defined as churches having a relationship with the See of Canterbury.  Such a mixed economy would survive having an Archbishop of Canterbury who believes in women bishops but does not himself consecrate but it is less likely to survive having an Archbishop who leads a province that has women bishops if he himself is the principal co-consecrator.  An NP would look to the Archbishop of Canterbury as primus inter pares whilst he remained a unitive figure for an Anglicanism, some of whose provinces had a male-only episcopate, but there are the worrying possibilities, first, that the Archbishop would himself consecrate women bishops and cease to be a unitive figure and, second, that, once the Provinces of Canterbury and York had women bishops, opposition to women bishops in other parts of the Communion, other than the NP, would collapse.  Here again there would be a danger of the NP becoming a new denomination or a form of Continuing Anglicanism (though, to be clear, this danger is implicit in any of the ecclesiological solutions under investigation in this article).


Another question which arises from the mixed economy of Anglicanism is the extent to which an NP would be typically chromatic.  Some provinces of the Anglican Communion have been fairly monochrome and have continued to reflect the ethos of the founding missionary society, whether ‘high’ or ‘low’.  Most provinces have become more variegated and the provinces of Canterbury and York, at least as described by Fr Aidan Nichols OP in The Panther and the Hind, have at times resembled three (at least) ecclesial communities with incompatible ecclesiologies.  Whereas the viability of other provinces suggests that a fairly monochrome NP – Anglo-Catholic in hue – might flourish, there are certain contra-indications.  One is what John Shelton Reed in The Glorious Battle has described as the counter-cultural nature of Anglo-Catholicism.  He wonders “how it could be so impolitic, so indifferent to the offence it gave in so many ways to so many people whose goodwill would seem to have been desirable” (page xxiv).  He concludes that “Anglo-Catholicism…thrived on opposition” (ibid) – which remarks can be aptly brought up to date simply by changing the tense.  Another contra-indication might be that, whereas overseas provinces have flourished mono-chromatically, we have no experience of monochromatic Anglicanism in England.  A major unknown is the extent to which an NP would attract conservative evangelicals and middle-stump Anglicans.  The basis of the NP, Consecrated Women tells us, would be the Declaration of Assent and that, certainly, together with the historic doctrinal documents and formularies, would have to remain in place for the NP to achieve any stability.


So far it has been assumed that an NP would be a province of the Church of England.  Mutatis mutandis it would not be hard to envisage an NP serving British Anglicanism or indeed international Anglicanism.  If a case can be made for an NP being a means of integration rather than disintegration – and I would argue that the PEV system in England has been integrative rather than disintegrative – then an international NP would be preferable to a series of fissiparous Continuing Anglican bodies and certainly preferable to some of the dog-fights that have taken place in ECUSA.


It has not been an objective of this paper, as has been said, to attack the NP solution – which is arguably the most robust as well as the closest to what we already have in being – and that should be borne in mind as we go on to consider other possible solutions.  We shall look at two other possible solutions which make proper provision for traditionalists without summarily ending what has been described as a period of reception for the doctrinal change of ordaining women and without effectively driving from the Church those who could continue to belong in conscience only if proper provision is made.




II         A Historic Province Solution


One phrase which is often mentioned in connection with a potential solution is a ‘non-geographical diocese’.  But what is a diocese if it is not ‘normally the territorial unit of administration in the Church’?[1]  Territoriality was the secular meaning at the time of Cicero and under Diocletian there were four provinces in the ‘diocese’ of Britain.  Eventually, as we know, when ‘diocese’ had become an ecclesiastical term, instead of a ‘diocese’ of ‘provinces’, we find a ‘province’ of ‘dioceses’, though as late as the ninth century we find a bishop looking after a ‘province’ within a group of provinces known as a ‘diocese’.


The basic unit – whether called ‘province’ or eventually ‘diocese’ – is the local church, looked after by the bishop.  In terms of Catholic ecclesiology, the Anglican Communion is neither one ‘Church’ nor a collection of ‘churches,’ each called a ‘province.’  It is a collection of ‘local churches’ – each called a diocese – which endeavour through the mediaeval arrangement called a province to order their affairs in a common way in order to further their unity with all the other ‘local churches’ throughout time and space.


How geographical must the local church be?  The most recent Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law (1983) defines a diocese not by territory but by cure: a diocese is a ‘portion of the people of God entrusted for pastoral care to a bishop’ (Canon 369).  Even in England jurisdiction is not always geographical: the royal peculiars and Oxford and Cambridge colleges may be historical accidents but they involve overlapping jurisdictions; the armed services may be served in the Church of England by archdeacons but an archdeaconry, usually part of a diocese, is a unit of jurisdiction.


As Professor Allen Brent has pointed out,[2] there is precedent in building local churches round cultures and ethnic groups.  Such is the de facto ecclesiology found in many a city, ancient and modern, not least because of the various  diasporas of Orthodoxy, each reflecting a different national identity.  Not so very different from this, at the macro level, is the overlapping of the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe with such oversight as is extended to Europe by ECUSA and, within Scandinavia, by the Porvoo churches.   At a micro level, we are increasingly discerning clusters of similar parishes, near to each other culturally but not always contiguous, and there has always been informal association built on common approaches and spiritualities.


There is now ten years’ experience of groups of parishes having in common a shared focus on the extended episcopal care of PEVs or of those who provide extended episcopal oversight on a regional basis.   Most of these parishes in the foreseeable future would not leave the fellowships they have joined:  some have petitioned for the care of the PEV as a sign of where they would turn if, as they saw it, the ecclesiology of the diocese were irreparably damaged by the consecration of women bishops but most view the ecclesiology of the diocese as already irreparably damaged.   Though many petitioning parishes have preserved close relationships with deanery and diocese, some giving expression to such closeness in public prayer, there is little sign of a road back to full diocesan participation.  Though the doctrine of reception as usually explained envisages the possibility that the Church of England will cease one day to ordain and license women priests, no one believes that outcome very likely or indeed at all manageable.  The only road, therefore, is the road forward in which it is hard to see Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough as anything other than, in some sense, dioceses-in-waiting.  Time will tell whether those presently cared for by diocesan and regional provision form other local churches or become part of the three PEV sees.


What is distinct about the Historic Province Solution (HPS), then, is not whether the PEV sees develop into ‘local churches’ – a development which has already begun to take place and would be hard to reverse – but whether such local churches constitute (or are part of) a new provincial unit or part of an HPS.  There are two versions of the HPS.  In one version neither the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the Archbishop of York presides at or takes part in the consecration of women bishops.   The ordination of bishops would take place in the cathedral of the appropriate diocese and the presiding bishop would be the outgoing diocesan (in the case of the ordination of a new diocesan) or the diocesan (in the case of the ordination of a new suffragans).

Beverley would then be another ‘local church’ in the Province of York and Ebbsfleet and Richborough ‘local churches’ in the Province of Canterbury.   That would come closest to preserving things as they are.


In the other version, the Archbishop of Canterbury would remain a unitive figure for the Anglican Communion by remaining above the fray whilst the Archbishop of York would take part in the ordination of women bishops.  At that point such bishops in the Province of York who were unable to accept his primatial leadership – and that would include the Bishop of Beverley – would look beyond the province to Canterbury.  This arrangement, though untidy, would be not dissimilar to the arrangement with regard to the extra-provincial dioceses of the Anglican Communion – presently Bermuda, the Lusitanian Church and the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church – which have their own bishops but whose metropolitan is Canterbury.  It is clear, however, that the consequences of an Archbishop of York ordaining women to the episcopate would be grave.  A Northern diocese looking ecclesiologically South would cause intolerable damage to the Northern Province: such an arrangement might indeed be an unwelcome step towards dismantling the whole notion of a metropolitan or provincial ecclesiology.


Common to both NP and HPS is the question of the relationship between the new local churches – which, though inevitably geographical, would have overlapping jurisdiction (just as they presently have overlapping episcopal care) with the English dioceses – and those dioceses which have diocesans who do not themselves ordain women to the priesthood.  York and Blackburn in the Northern Province and London and Chichester in the Southern Province, together with the Diocese in Europe, are the five dioceses at the time of writing.  In a future with women bishops one could envisage that the diocese of Canterbury would be added to this list but it is unlikely that there would ever be more than half a dozen such dioceses in all.  York, Blackburn and London have evolved diocesan provision –under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 – a suffragan bishop who has responsibility for the discrete set of parishes which have petitioned for extended episcopal care.  Chichester and Europe have referred women seeking ordination to the priesthood to the metropolitan, who has made appropriate provision.  None of the bishops in the Chichester and Gibraltar in Europe jurisdictions has himself ordained women to the priesthood.


Part of a possible NP and HPS solution would be the introduction of a specific episcopal area – or archdeaconry – as a unit of jurisdiction in these dioceses for the specific care of parishes which wished, whilst continuing to look to the diocesan as ordinary, to be in unimpaired communion with NP/HPS local churches.   Meanwhile regional arrangements – such as the Bishop of Fulham’s care for parishes in Rochester and Southwark – may well be phased out: there is no reason why such parishes could not be looked after by the new local churches, in this case Richborough.  Equally to be phased out would be resolutions A and B of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure.  With either NP or HPS in place there would be adequate provision for those who conscientiously were unable to recognise the ordination of women as a legitimate development in the way it has taken place.


III       A Society Solution


A further solution – not unlike the ‘religious order’ suggestion in the Rochester Report – might be called ‘a society solution’ (hereafter SS).  Such a solution would be built upon what has evolved more fully in the Roman Catholic Church but what is not unknown in the Church of England.  In the Roman Catholic Church there are bishops, priests and parishes which are run by religious orders and there is the personal prelature model, exemplified ecclesiologically – and, for some, infamously – by the Opus Dei movement.  To embrace one or two of the ecclesiological precedents would not be to embrace particular theological positions on other issues – whether the charism of clerical celibacy or the rigour of religious routines.   Moreover some of what the Church of England has invented – e.g. royal peculiars, the visitor system in various Oxford and Cambridge colleges – again provides ample precedent.


SS would be very flexible.  Parishes would be able to opt in – more or less as they have opted in under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 – and, with the consent of PCCs, diocesan bishops would be able to ask parishes who have not so opted in, to adopt SS for the short or medium term.  In the former case, parishes would be seeking to preserve a particular tradition.  In the latter case, diocesan bishops would be seeking to make the most suitable arrangements, whether for the short or medium term.  SS, needing to be reviewed, say, every seven to ten years, or at the end of an incumbency, would not cater for the long term, except insofar as the long term is made up of an accumulation of short and/or medium term arrangements.  There would be stability but there would be flexibility.


SS, moreover, need not be specifically about gender.  One way of the Church of England and the Methodist Church walking more closely together might be for the Methodist Church to continue to be effectively a society, a religious movement or order, which though it had entered into full communion with the mainstream Church of England, indeed with interchangeability of ministers, continued to organise itself as a parallel jurisdiction of conference, districts and circuits.  Such a model would be adaptable for a variety of ecclesial bodies to effectively come together without loss of distinctive strengths and charisms and is potentially, therefore, a very useful ecumenical device.


For Anglo-Catholics SS may indeed crystallize round the SSC (Society of the Holy Cross), which has its own bishops, priests and deacons.   It happens to be the case that clergy of the Society are male but it is unlikely that this convention would survive the ordination of women as priests and bishops in the ancient communions.   Neither the SSC nor SS is intrinsically about gender: what would be more fundamental would be the preserving of a distinct theology and cultural expression of the Faith.  The overall view of some congregations on the subject of gender and ministry might be entirely incidental: there are many parishes in the Catholic tradition where even a majority in favour of women’s ministry would not be sufficient reason to change the tradition.  A large, diverse and harmonious congregation – with everyone able to receive the ministry of word and sacrament from its pastors – is clearly preferable to a congregation, however unanimous, greatly diminished by division.  In this particular way the Church in Wales Provincial Assistant Bishop scheme has had some strengths: the Provincial Assistant Bishop is suffragan to every diocesan and clergy have been able to resort to his ministry regardless of the balance of congregational views.


What could be done for Anglo-Catholics could be done, mutatis mutandis, for Reform.  A society – such as the Church Society – could be set up to which parishes formally affiliated for this purpose.  Such a society would have its bishops and pastors and, again, would have a close relationship with the Church of England mainstream, not least by running mission parishes and projects on behalf of the dioceses as well as on their own behalf.


One danger of SS would be the proliferation of societies.  Anything which resembled the clamour of Catholic societies or the multifariousness of private patrons would be an unwelcome kind of Balkanization rather than an attempt to create unity without uniformity.  There may need to be three societies – one also for the middle stumpers – but it would be vital that no other societies came into being, at any rate with this amount of ecclesiological flexibility unless they emerged as ecumenical projects from other mainstream denominations, making common cause with Anglicanism.


The ‘personal prelature’ canons of the Roman Catholic Church give some kind of guidance as to how SS might work:


Canon 294                   Personal prelatures may be established by the Apostolic See after consultation with the Episcopal Conferences concerned.  They are composed of deacons and priests of the secular clergy.  Their purpose is to promote an appropriate distribution of priests, or to carry out special pastoral or missionary enterprises in different regions or for different social groups.


Canon 295  ¶1             A personal prelature is governed by statutes laid down by the Apostolic See.  It is presided over by a Prelate as its proper Ordinary.  He has the right to establish a national or an international seminary, and to incardinate students and promote them to orders with the title of service of the prelature.


Canon 296                   Lay people can dedicate themselves to the apostolic work of a personal prelature by way of agreements made with the prelature.  The manner…and the principal obligations…are to be duly defined in the statutes.


One thing the personal prelature and the ministry of religious orders within Roman Catholic dioceses assumes is a partnership between the Ordinary of the prelature or superiors of the religious order and the Ordinary of the diocese.  By now we have some experience of such partnerships in the working of PEVs alongside diocesan bishops.  There have been ‘battle of the crozier’ moments, to be sure, but there have also been patterns of mutual trust and godly collaboration to build on.


The personal prelature model has obvious similarities to the kind of arrangements the Church of England has put in place for the armed services, for chaplaincies of various kinds and for peculiars.  Nor is the issue of communion further jeopardised: there would be a state of impaired communion – expressed in a variety of ways and to a variety of degrees – between the societies and the mainstream but that is much as it already is and inevitably will be, almost whatever the future.  In that the societies would have an inner ecclesiological coherence they would function much as local churches, in terms of ecclesiology, with all the responsibilities of seeking and building up with other local churches the unity which is Christ’s will for his Church but which is frustrated by incompatibility of order – whether that incompatibility is caused by disagreement over gender or episcopal ordering.


Advantages of SS include the flexibility of arrangements – whereby, with necessary safeguards, parishes can move in and out of such societies and diocesan bishops – for evangelistic, cultural or pastoral reasons – can request the help of a particular society for a particular parish for a particular period of time.  Here, I think, we have learned a great deal from the period 1994 to the present.  There are many parishes, whether evangelical or catholic, where a congregational vote on the issues of the day would have caused – would cause – disintegration of flourishing communities.  SSC priests and ministers from the Reform tradition have effectively ministered in some of these parishes and this would need to continue to happen.


Another advantage of SS is that it could be designed to permit ecumenical pilgrimage.  If it is the Lord’s will that Anglicans and Roman Catholics should continue to work for unity, it may be the Lord’s will that the SSC be a bridgehead – or forward party – for such a project.  Such has been the dream of papalists – and not only papalists.  Similarly, one can imagine the Church Society, say, becoming freer for conducting pan-protestant alliances of one kind or another.  There would be conversations between Calvinists and Arminians, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, that some of us could only guess at.  A Church of England embracing SS must be prepared to see such societies making their own way, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in the search for unity.  Equally there would be ‘societies’ – Baptist, Pentecostalist, Reformed, Salvationist – that might be heading towards a deeper relationship, and eventually integration with, Anglicans.  Porousness of borders and lightness of structure would be the watchword.


Some Tentative Conclusions


A tempting conclusion is that, however ingenious any of these solutions, none of them is a price worth paying for women bishops.  It would be far easier to say, it could be argued, that each of the solutions is far more disintegrative than the admission of women to the episcopate would be integrative.  And yet, by permitting in the early 1990s those who did not accept women’s ordination to remain within the Church and promising them an honoured place and embracing a doctrine of reception which was little short of eschatological, the Church of England has generated a coherent – if sometimes noisy – minority with a life of its own.  Hindsight would suggest that a regional pattern of extended episcopal care – analogous to Archbishop Habgood’s view that in every deanery there should be a church where the ordained ministers were in principle male – might have served us better than the PEV model.  (Indeed a favourite conspiracy theory is that, by opting for provincial provision, diocesans were hoping to contain – and instead radicalised – dissent.)  Hindsight also would suggest that the view of Archbishop Habgood’s successor – David Hope – was no less wise: that the Church of England should have begun the ordination of women project by agreeing whether to admit women to the episcopate.  The mistake the enthusiasts for women’s ordination appear to have made was to regard opposition as a short-term problem.


It will be noticed that not all of the Rochester Commission’s own options have been taken up here.  The introduction of women only as suffragans serves only to institutionalise discrimination: it would be hard to construct an ecclesiological argument that defended such discrimination and no easier to construct an ecclesiology that allowed an attenuated female episcopate and traditionalists to co-exist in the same communion.  Similarly the idea of ‘a code of practice’, much trumpeted, is discounted.  For one thing, there has been too much chicanery and sleight of hand over the working of Resolutions A and B in the last decade – such at least is the perception – for there to be enough trust to work a code of practice, however firmly entrenched in English Law.  For another, a code of practice – rather like Resolutions A and B – is an essentially NIMBY[3] device and the back yard is not where good Catholic ecclesiology is practised.  Resolutions A and B (without so-called ‘C’) really make sense only where ‘the local church’ is defined as the local congregation, which is not the fundamental unit of Catholic ecclesiology.


Each of the solutions suggested in this paper has advantages and drawbacks.

Each could be written off as a ‘Gruyère cheese’ arrangement, an attack on territoriality.    Territoriality is an important – and incarnational – principle in the life of a national church.  There is something attractive about the notion that every man, woman and child lives in a parish which is part of a diocese.  None of the solutions in themselves is an attack on territoriality: so-called ‘non-geographical dioceses’ would be, in fact, geographically-overlapping jurisdictions.  Such is the reality of urban life – where people live, work, take their leisure, receive education and do their shopping over a very wide area indeed – that territoriality means little more than that everybody is on someone’s books.  The parish priest will find that his or her congregation and electoral roll comprises people from a number of parishes and some parish priests have congregations and electoral rolls comprising people almost entirely from outside the parish.  That is as true of electic charismatic churches as it is of inner city churches where the population is mainly of another faith.  Celebrant-based marriages and crematorium-based funerals have not weakened the sense that people everywhere have a parson to care for them but the likelihood has increased that the ministry given and received will not be local to where they live.


It is not only the overlapping ministries and jurisdictions of different Anglican parishes which complicate territoriality.  There are also the overlapping ministries and jurisdictions of different ecclesial bodies.  Few would see the ecumenical future as a collapsing of jurisdictions into the jurisdiction of the Established Church.  Thus it would be harmless – and ecumenically prophetic – for NP/HPS/SS parishes to operate as Church of England parishes and for it to be understood that each has a secondary brief for those who live outside them but relatively near to them.  (Such is the secondary brief which all parishes already have for congregational and electoral roll members who live outside the parish).  Similarly, parishes of the deanery in which there are NP/HPS/SS parishes, as well as maintaining excellent relationships and a high degree of mutual support of and fellowship with such parishes, would have an secondary brief for those who live in NP/HPS/SS parishes but dissent from their expression of the Faith.  (No change there from the way churchmanships complement and interact).


Of the three solutions, two – NP and HPS – are relatively gentle evolutions of the status quo.   Very little would in fact change.  NP would be ecclesiologically and theoretically more adventurous but would be a clear development of the semi-detached position we have gradually arrived at.  HPS, tying the new local churches into the existing synodical structure, would seem more cautious but might be more radical in feel, not least in the introduction of a new discrete conservative group into General Synod.   SS would need very careful exploration: it would be a new departure for the Church of England and might feel a little bit as if private patronage were growing like Topsy.  But, carefully explored and set up, it could be the most ecumenically creative of all the models, allowing a bit of extra space even on such issues as the Windsor Report was designed to address as the sense of being bound together as ‘communion’ shifted a little towards a looser kind of fellowship.


Choosing between the models is not easy.  NP would be good if it were the rebuilding of the bridge between Canterbury and Rome and bad if it were a way of moving into Continuing Anglicanism.  HPS would be good if it allowed the Church of England to rediscover its momentum and underlying unity, releasing for mission and ministry energy presently sapped by ecclesiastical politicking.  It would be bad if the necessary distances and fences which enable neighbours to live at peace were not properly in place.  SS would be good if it became a creative ecumenical model, a development of the riches of churchmanship and complementary traditions.  It would be bad if it were yet another kind of fissiparousness where notions of underlying unity were largely bureaucratic and spiritually fictitious.

Dry Sandford 17.02.05

[1] Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ‘diocese’ – from which the material in the remainder of the paragraph is distilled.

[2] New Directions

[3] NIMBY = ‘not in my back yard’