Thursday, 11 April 2013

A re-branding exercise?

Among the  objectives of the new organisation to be launched this month, Anglican Catholic Future, is the - on the surface-  laudable aim of "returning to the fundamentals of the apostolic faith."  
But evidently what is not envisaged is a return to the fundamental maleness of apostolic order if the new network's programme of events and speakers [here] is anything to go by.

Why, one wonders, is another organisation of this nature needed in the Church of England? Has Affirming Catholicism become too 'Affirming' and insufficiently 'Catholic?' We all have our opinions on that one, but there does seem to be an element of desperation creeping into its analysis of the current state of the Church when Anglican Catholic Future's 'mission statement' includes these words:
"..The Catholic identity of the Church of England has suffered a crisis stemming from a preoccupation with divisive issues. As a result the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism has become fragmented and nerveless. Many who hold this tradition dear feel that the time is right to rediscover our Catholic roots and values for the sake of the church’s witness in our land.

Following the imperatives that guided our Catholic forebears in the Church of England we will focus on theology, spirituality and the life of prayer, liturgy and worship, vocation and priesthood, ecumenism and social justice. We will seek to model a style of discipleship faithful to the riches of our tradition, which encourages us to be creative and credible, imaginative and generous...."
Isn't all this somewhat late, having undermined, if not destroyed, both our claims to apostolicity (how do they imagine our Oxford Movement forebears would view that?)  and any realistic hopes for unity? We can understand why the bed on which they are now lying is so uncomfortable, at least viewed from the perspective of the authentic Anglican Catholic tradition, but they - more than most- have helped to make it that way with precisely their "preoccupation with divisive issues" and their determination to use them to further the liberal (and secular) agenda within the Church at the expense both of its internal cohesion and of the larger ecumenical imperatives. Having done their worst in this regard, does anything of Catholicity, except the inessential and incidental trappings, now remain?

I'm sorry, but all these fundamentally theologically liberal and revisionist organisations now laying claim to the word 'Catholic' in contemporary Anglicanism remind us of nothing more than those countries which tended to employ the words 'Democratic Republic' as a means of self-description. One knew that democracy was the very last thing on their minds...   


  1. I didn't think this was secret, but isn't this the first step of a rebranding exercise by Affirming Catholicism, now that all their aims have been achieved or about to be achieved? They can grandly claim to put all the contentious issues behind them (easy enough for them, because they've gone or are imminently going to go, in their favour).

    They can then stand on the moral high ground, at least in their eyes, while trouble makers can be set up to be seen as bickering and harking back to old disputes.

  2. Joseph Golightly11 April 2013 at 16:45

    They have the momentum to succeed unlike the Trads who just like to dress up and be pretend catholics. I guess they will get their hands on the catholic societies' money especially that £2m in the CBS!

  3. Affirming Catholicism....shouldn't they become Catholics before they do this? The Catholic Faith admits of ONLY male priests and bishops. This is not "affirming Catholicism" it is a misappropriation of the word "Catholic"

  4. The last comment on the thread here:

    is unintentionally comic:

    "Prayers rising for them; may this be the start of a new Catholic Revival.

    Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 11 April 2013 at 10:58pm BST"

    To quote and apply what has become an an American stock phrase from the film "The Princess Bride" (1987) “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” -- in this case, the word "Catholic" (and perhaps also "revival").

  5. It depends on whether you define Catholicism by the sex of its clergy, by the formal bonds of communion with a particular see, or otherwise.

    You have chosen, or feel constrained by, the maleness of clergy; most Catholics believe they should be in communion with Rome.

    I fail to see why you should be so disparaging – even vituperative – about people who are trying to rediscover what being Catholic means within the Anglican churches of the present day. You have drawn a line in the sand that suggests to you that they are tilting at windmills; the majority who call themselves Catholics would also put you on the other side of what amounts to a great deal more than a line in the sand.

    A little humility – even generosity – is indicated.

    1. You fail to see why I should be so disparaging....
      Really? Perhaps a little clue might be that the very people behind this new venture are those who have been working and lobbying very hard for those like me to have no place whatsoever in the Anglican churches of the present day.
      It's certainly an odd moment when the 'victors' demand humility and generosity from those they are in the process of crushing.

    2. And, I should add, as you so rightly point out, have made those of a certain Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology utterly marginalised and very likely ecclesially homeless.
      Generosity? Well, the best I can come up with at the moment is that ACF will rediscover the riches of catholic faith in the ashes of the building they helped to burn down.
      And, of course, a hope that our present bitter divisions do not reach up to heaven.
      Humility? I'll have to work even longer and harder on that!

    3. Abervicar, to re-discover is not to re-define but however you put it, all we ask from our side of the line is to be allowed to follow Christ according to our conscience not as others think we should according to theirs.

      From the first comment, above: "They can then stand on the moral high ground, at least in their eyes, while trouble makers can be set up to be seen as bickering and harking back to old disputes"!

      From your April 5 comment on an earlier thread "I hope we will be able to move forward together: being able to disagree with generosity and a common faith in Jesus is in large part what I continue to find attractive about being an Anglican. I hope this – the first meeting of the GB I will have attended – will not change that!"
      What happened at Governing Body to change what appeared to be such a promising start?

    4. What happened at Governing Body was a mature, sensible and generous conversation focused firmly on the theological issues, which included among those in the group I was in two measured and articulate opponents of female ordination from either end of the theological spectrum. I then came home to find in this blog the very suspicion and sniping we had pledged ourselves to overcome. So that’s what happened.

      I well remember the Diocesan Conference when Jeremy Winston shared with us the nasty comment offered to him on his arrival that there was no longer a place for him in ‘this’ church. It was exactly the sort of unforgivable comment that destroys trust and dialogue, and I deplored it in the knowledge that he had done more than most to build bridges in the Church that others on both sides had torn down over the women priests issue (and in the knowledge that he received equally nasty barracking from his own ‘side’).

      We need to have a more generous honesty with each other if we are to move forward together. I saw it this week in Lampeter; I do not see it in this or the previous post (if I am being unfair please correct me). There is a real will to listen to concerns, needs, hurts and convictions on either side. Let’s not spoil the opportunity.

    5. I'm sorry, but that won't do.
      The 'suspicion and sniping' you identify here is simply a reasonable experience-based reaction to previous promises made, I remember well, after similar mature, sensible and generous conversations in the 1990s, being reneged upon some twelve years later.
      Now, if you are telling us that will not be the case this time around, and that there really is a genuine willingness on the part of the majority and the bishops to work towards a future where traditionally-believing Anglicans will indeed have a permanent and secure place within the life of the Province, then many of us will be more than willing to cast aside our well-justified suspicions and engage with the process of creating that future.
      But it's not mere words we need, however generous and understanding those words may be, it's a commitment to action: the re-creation of secure alternative episcopal provision for traditionalists. And if (as has been stated categorically in the past)that is never going to be on the table.... then all the dialogue in the world will make no difference whatsoever, except to make some of us feel rather better about ourselves.

    6. Abervicar, the unfairness is in the duplicity of those who seem to be incapable of seeing anything other than the ordination of women. In England WATCH insist that they have done everything possible to accommodate those who are unable to accept the innovation. That is simply not true and is exacerbated by the bile poured out in comments on the Affirming Catholicism site.

      In Wales Abp Morgan is equally if not more strident in his views which must be harder to take when he has aligned himself so closely with the Presiding Bishop of TEC.

      It was good to read that your discussion on female ordination went well but discussions are meaningless so long as Abp Morgan insists that there will no provision for traditionalists other than on his terms which gives rise to the suspicion that his sole aim is to get the ordination of woman bishops agreed then change the rules as is happening in England following the Synod defeat. In those circumstances it is hardly surprising that priests in the catholic tradition (as it was originally understood) feel hurt and abandoned and deserve your support if you are able to put yourself in their shoes.

  6. Why should they trust you? Why should you trust them? I’m neither one of ‘you’ nor one of ‘them’. I have my views but as a parish priest it’s my job to try and understand all of my people and to support them in their following of Christ. I keep my parishes informed about what is happening and assure them they will not be excommunicated by either side.

    I was at only one remove from what was going on when the PAB was created, and I can’t speak for what people at the time thought they were promising, though I have been on record as telling my own bishop repeatedly that not replacing David Thomas was going back on what his constituency thought they were being promised at the time of his appointment, and that it was therefore wrong not to continue that provision until some other arrangement was put in place.

    But you can’t expect any adequate way forward until you actually start to trust in the integrity of the people you are dealing with. If ‘they’ are offering ‘you’ the hand of friendship and you bite it, what are ‘they’ to think?

    If it won’t do, Michael, then on behalf of the people in this diocese (several of my parishioners among them) who have asked you to represent them as their chairman, you need to tell the bishops/GB that nothing they are discussing will have an outcome acceptable to you. But it doesn’t help those of us who are looking for a way forward that will include ordained women and those who will not accept them and will be Catholic in its ecclesiology (even if not traditional in its approach to the sex of the ordained) if people and ideas are rubbished or go untrusted because of mistaken or erroneous attitudes of the past.

    I’m sorry, Ancient Briton, that I don’t read Affirming Catholicism’s website. It is of no interest to me; nor are any of the polemics. I follow this blog because of a friendship that began over 40 years ago, and because I care about my friends. I also care about making my parish and the Church to which we belong a place where all may feel welcome to seek a relationship with God through Christ.

    1. Patrick, I'm not sure how to respond to that. No one as far as I know would seek to impugn the personal integrity of any one of the Bench of Bishops. However, where they have acted collegially over episcopal provision, they have certainly not acted in a way consistent with their previous promises. Also, with respect, it is not for them to have to learn to trust us, as the Bench and the GB have between them the power to dispose in this matter; we have none.
      As for the hand of friendship, having once been badly misled, one doesn't always head back for another disappointment.
      But my real question to you is this: in terms of what may or may not be on offer from the bishops or the GB, I have far less information than you; is it, then, still the case that a restoration of the PAB is off the table in any discussions which are taking place?

    2. My apologies Abervicar for what I am told is now kindly termed a 'senior moment'; also to Affirming Catholicism of course. I meant to refer to the Thinking Anglicans site which was mentioned in an earlier comment.

  7. Abervicar, soothing platitudes won't suffice any longer. (I write as a priest of the CofE rather than the CinW, but the issues are the same.)

    We have been blatantly lied to, and promises made to us betrayed, time and again. Meanwhile the intention to unchurch us – to make it impossible for us to remain members of the Church which nurtured us while maintaining the historic beliefs of that Church – is made absolutely explicit.

    But it is we who are being "disparaging – even vituperative", and are expected to exhibit "humility" and "generosity" … !

    If our opponents show some evidence of good faith, I'm quite sure that we will be more than happy to reciprocate. (By "evidence", I mean deeds, not words.) Right now, though, we're still waiting. You must excuse us if there is a certain scepticism born of hard experience.

  8. As I understand it, there is a completely blank slate with regard to the provision to be made should the women bishops Bill be passed in September. (I would remind those who don’t know or have forgotten that the proposed Bill would not come into force until GB has accepted a further Bill making provision for those unable to accept women as bishops). This was categorically promised by the Bishop who was allocated to our group.

    What I think you should do now is actually get involved in the discussions, and make sure that when the committee is created to formulate the Bill supplying such provision there are the right people on it who have clear and constructive views and proposals.

    Speaking for no one apart from myself, I think this is a chance for us to do something new and different, rather than just going back to the PAB or PEV idea. My own preference would be for something not dissimilar to the Ordinariate, with priestly leadership (so clearly not an alternative episcopal provision, which doesn’t seem Catholic enough in its theology – at least to me); and a constitutional commitment that at all times there should be at least one diocesan bishop who either came from that group or was prepared to safeguard the theological sensitivities of that group (e.g. not ordaining women or having a woman involved in his consecration), that bishop being available for sacramental oversight of laity, clergy and parishes which requested it. This would, of course, require an overt act of collegiality on behalf of the Bench of Bishops. I could also envisage similar provision being offered to those who might prefer the sacramental oversight of a woman.

    I am sure that people could have great fun shooting holes in this proposal, but as I say I am not too happy theologically with the idea of extra bishops (especially since we are being constantly told with some reason that we have too many), and there is no harm at all in making bishops and parishes aware that a diocese is not a hermetically sealed kingdom.

    Fr William: I am not sure why you think from my posts that I am suggesting it is only one ‘side’ that is being polemical in this; indeed I have given an example from the other ‘side’ too. I have nowhere advocated soothing platitudes. My response to these two blog posts has been just that. My wider response is that vituperation and distrust are not ways in which Christians should respond to each other (however provoked).


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