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’