If this Jonathan Wynne-Jones story in the Telegraph is accurate, Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an Ordinariate to traditionalist Anglicans may turn out to be a master stroke:
Dressed in their black cassocks, the three Anglican bishops had hoped to pass unnoticed as they emerged from the Vatican into the shadows lengthening across St Peter’s Square.
Having just assured one of the Pope’s key advisers of their momentous decision to defect to Rome, they walked along the cobbled streets fearful of being recognised, hoping to keep these discussions to themselves.
The Church of England appears to be a lot more upset than it is letting on.
But they were betrayed even before they had returned to England, with word of their meeting spreading from one rectory to another, angering and alarming clergy loyal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who feared he was being undermined by this papal gambit tempting disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church.
This week, the plots hatched behind closed doors in the Vatican last year will be played out in the open as the former bishops lead dozens of clergy and hundreds of worshippers in taking up this historic offer.
Stop right there. “Papal gambit,” Gracie? “Plots hatched behind closed doors in the Vatican?” Jon, the Anglicans approached Rome; all Benedict did was to make it as easy as he could for them to do what they wanted to do. But do go on.
The Pope’s offer to Anglicans has divided parishes across the country – even causing an acrimonious split in a convent – and has sorely tested relations between the two Churches, with Rowan Williams reduced to a mere bystander as a congregation in his own diocese became the first to head to Rome.
The C of E is desperately trying to keep trads on board.
Anglican bishops have visited their traditionalist clergy in an attempt to prevent the wave of defections from growing.
While those who have already swum the Tiber are telling trads how nice the water is
Meanwhile, their former colleagues travel the country talking to priests considering joining this quiet revolution.
In Great Britain at least, the Ordinariate has the potential to completely reshape British Christianity.
According to Fr John Broadhurst, one of the former bishops who has been pivotal in establishing the framework, the exodus to Rome could swell to tens of thousands once the Ordinariate begins to take shape.
“This could herald a real transformation of the English religious scene and be an aid to the conversion of England,” he says.
Why? Conservative Episcopalians will find the following painfully familiar.
For [Broadhurst] and dozens of other traditionalists, it no longer resembles the Church they entered. Instead, they feel it has grown increasingly liberal and intolerant of dissenters. “It has changed out of all recognition from the Church I joined,” says Fr Geoffrey Kirk, of St Stephen’s, Lewisham, and the former secretary of Forward in Faith, an Anglo-Catholic group representing up to 1,000 clergy.
“Orthodox Christians in the Church of England are being marginalised by this liberal agenda that keeps on accelerating. You look around the leadership of the Church and there’s no one there who is likely to stop it.”
Yet for David Lashbrooke, who is married with children, his concerns at developments in the Church of England outweigh his material needs. “It’s an extraordinarily difficult decision to make as I’m leaving behind people I’ve ministered to for a long time, but I’m disappointed by the Church [of England] and how it seems to be led by popular culture these days,” he says.
Mr Lashbrooke was the priest at St Mary the Virgin in Torquay for a decade, but last month he told parishioners he was “putting away his sword after fighting for the Church to remember her roots.” He then placed his chasuble and stole on the altar and walked out of the church, leaving behind him a stunned congregation, many of whom were in tears.
However, the church has been divided by Mr Lashbrooke’s decision, with 50 members of the congregation following him to the Ordinariate.
Let’s see. In this corner, we have the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever theological disagreements one might have with Rome, one cannot dispute that it is a theologically serious place. In this corner, we have the Church of England which is a theological mess any way you look at it and whose Episcopalianization is rapidly proceeding.
Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian who can arrive at an answer now and again and who thinks that it is a good idea not to change settled Church teaching unless there is a pillar of cloud and/or fire somewhere nearby. The Archbishop of Canterbury, on the other hand, thinks everybody is right even when they contradict one another and therefore the journey is the destination.
The Bishop of Rome is a Christian leader. When confronted with the Anglican problem, he pushed through a plan rather quickly. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a Christian conversation facilitator. One of the reasons why the Vatican left Dr. Williams out of the process is that if they’d let him in, they’d still be discussing how the first sentence in Anglicanorum Coetibus should read.
I can’t understand the Ordinariate’s appeal. I can’t understand it at all.