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for the Ordinariates, was complete and when my own brainchild, the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham was largely superseded by the new Divine Worship: Daily Office.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’.
4th March 2022