Thursday, 5 November 2009
The first generous response? Flying a kite.
On his diocesan website, the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS, an Anglican canon lawyer, discusses - in a question and answer form - the implications of the Apostolic Constitution. Link here:
I include this somewhat intriguing reflection: (the emphasis is mine):
“What will happen in Wales?
It may be that some individual priests and lay people will ask to be received into the RC Church but I think it is unlikely that whole congregations will wish to accept the Pope’s offer. If they do, it may be possible for the Representative Body to lease a church to them and to allow them to rent the vicarage and pay their own priest. They will need to be financially self-supporting. How it will develop in Wales remains to be seen and will obviously depend on how many decide to make the change, but I am not anticipating a great exodus!”
Now obviously, we have little idea as to how representative the bishop’s views are, either of the episcopal bench itself or of majority opinion on the Governing Body
(the "General Synod" of the C in W) or the Representative Body (the structure responsible for finance and property) of the Church in Wales or, for that matter, what that phrase “whole congregations” which he uses might mean in practice. A sceptic might reflect that the bar could be set rather high for congregations to qualify.
But this is not a time to be churlish: the detail of the Personal Ordinariates has yet to be unveiled, and the reaction to the Vatican’s offer of refuge from Anglican Catholics in Wales is as yet something of an unknown quantity. But this is the first “official Anglican” response of this nature to the declaration of the Apostolic Constitution and we should at least welcome these ideas with the same spirit of generosity with which they have been floated.
Those who wish to accept Rome’s initiative should be prepared to run with this; there may be some mileage in it. The Church in Wales, by common admission, has far too many churches, and the latest “membership” figures for the Province are giving us huge cause for concern. To make a certain number of churches in Wales available for the use of a personal ordinariate would make a great deal of sense – financially certainly, but also in terms of the future of inter-church relationships in Wales: a generous response from the Church in Wales itself would help dispel the perception that damage has been done to ecumenical relationships (not only by the recent announcement itself, but also by the developments which made the offer necessary) and it would inevitably result in a reciprocal generosity of approach on the part of those who wish to leave and also the wider community of the Catholic Church which they would be joining. It would be ecumenical credit in the bank and a truly charitable response to those Christian brothers and sisters who are unable to accept the changes brought about in Anglicanism in recent years.
It would also give the lie to those of us who have publicly questioned the commitment of the province to the pastoral care of those previously shepherded by the Provincial Assistant Bishop. I would gladly eat my words if something along these lines developed. It could be a win – win situation for all concerned.