Monday, 30 November 2009

Timing is all

The usual suspects are at it again! With impeccable evangelistic timing a couple of C of E bishops (who else?) announce to anyone out there who might still be listening that Christmas carols are largely nonsense, and that we really shouldn’t wish each other “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Christmas” (if you must!)  in case we upset those who have been affected by family tragedy or who are threatened by the impending catastrophe of climate change ( note: one has to have just the right amount and the right kind of PC puritan guilt to take the edge off any risk we may run of actually enjoying ourselves once in a while.) Thank you for that much needed sensitivity lesson, bishop!
But carols? Yes, many of them are very much “of their time” and none the worse for that, so are the great religious paintings of the middle ages – something to do with the implications of the Christmas story itself perhaps?
But I can understand the irritation in some quarters about Christmas carols. We are used to criticisms that they are not incarnational enough (too much sentimental perfection and glossing over the gritty realities), but I suspect the real underlying objection is exactly the opposite.
Apart from settings of Hardy’s the Oxen ( the only agnostic carol I’m aware of), most of them assume that all this 'The Word was made flesh' stuff is really true and that it matters to us today; it might be a little “in yer face” for the children of ’68 – particularly if they have a book to sell!

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Some thoughts for the last day of the Church’s year

There is a very interesting series of reflections at Civitas Dei on the subject of Anglican identity or patrimony: “Developing reflections on Anglican Identity”

I have nothing much of significance to add to what Fr Chadwick says there, only, in agreement, to say that it is precisely the search for what is distinctively Anglican which has lead us into so much trouble, and it is our very rejection of that quest which has been the main distinguishing mark of the catholic-minded Anglican. What is of most value, and what will endure, is what we hold in common with the universal church, albeit with a local "English" perspective and spirituality (and from a part of Wales which has been Anglo-Norman since about 1067 I make no apology for that adjective.)
Yet there is something distinctive about the gentleness of spirit and essentially pastoral approach which the Anglican ethos possesses at its best.
I am increasingly of the view that what is happening now is, strangely given its immediate causes, a healing of some of the wounds of the sixteenth century and a bringing home of the Catholic-compatible elements of the modern ecclesia anglicana, both those which, by God’s grace, survived among us through and beyond the Reformation period and those which have developed since.
When we make comments about ‘ethos’ and ‘spirit’, it is very easy for the sceptic to say that there is no real Anglican patrimony to speak of among Anglo-Catholics: that what we have is only what was inherited from the mediaeval church or borrowed from the Counter-Reformation and, in some cases, the post-conciliar reform.
Somehow I can’t help thinking that that is the whole point; we have never claimed distinctiveness, only “rootedness,” an identity which is very much of ‘this place’ and has preserved much of the past, and has at least partially transcended the divisions of the sixteenth century. [I admit, pace Duffy or McCulloch, that things may look rather different from either a recusant Catholic perspective or from that of a Protestant, proud of the Reformation.]
One of my hopes is that it will be possible for Anglican Catholics to move on from being an embattled and embittered minority in an increasingly hostile environment to simply being set free to do what the Lord has called us to do. Most of us have loathed the conflicts and divisions of the last twenty years or so; we have hated the necessity of the endless politicking of our long defeat, of having to regard ourselves as being in impaired communion with our diocesan bishops and being cut off theologically from the mainstream of our own Communion (if not, at least in desire, from that of the Universal Church itself). We have detested the disagreements which have divided families and ended friendships. Yet the alternative - accepting and going along with what we (together with the consensus of the “church catholic”) believe in the depths of our hearts to be wrong – was even worse.
As other bloggers have noted, this is something of a bitter-sweet moment for the heirs of the Oxford Movement; if something new is being born, then we also have to say that something which has nourished us and formed us, and which we have loved dearly, is in the process of dying. Things will not be the same again. I have to admit these verses from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’ have been going through my mind of late:
“…were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”
But this is what the following of Christ is about; we can have no complaints about dying in order to live. Only I hope that those looking in at us from the outside will allow a certain wistfulness and introspection on our part during this extended period of discernment.

Yet I hope, too, that the experiment in ecumenism which the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariates represents will be embarked upon positively. If it turns out to be no more than a temporary refuge for the bitter and the disgruntled it will fail and it will deserve to.
But the experiment will succeed if it is concerned with the more perfect following of Christ. It will succeed if is about the preservation and handing on of what is best in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. It will succeed if it is seen to be about the healing of wounds and divisions, and as a bridge which, in God’s good time, others will be encouraged to cross because of the spiritual fruits and genuine holiness that have been produced on the other side of it.
In the meantime, please forgive us a little wintry nostalgia: as another poet said, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

Friday, 27 November 2009

"And he told them a parable:
"Look at the fig tree, and all the trees;
as soon as they come out in leaf,
you see for yourselves
and know that the summer is already near.
So also, when you see these things taking place,
you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Truly, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away till all has taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away."

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Belshazzar’s Feast

After the first reading at mass today, an appropriate piece of music to end the day (from Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast)

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin: a timely warning, at the end of the Church's year, not only to today's “kings of the earth,” but to all of us, tempted as we are by the demands of ego, and the tendency to prefer our own will to that of God..

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Does it run in the family? Probably not!

I have a deep professional suspicion of family “historians” after catching a couple of them attacking our gravestones here with wire brushes - “so we could read the inscriptions better.”

But after a little bit of swine ‘flu inspired research into family history, I have discovered several interesting (and spiritually bloody-minded) forbears of my own, including one William Gollop, Rector of Stoke Abbott in west Dorset who in 1645 was deprived of his living and his lands sequestered for his (royalist) adherence to the Prayer Book and refusal to conform under the Commonwealth (although there is also a suggestion of pluralism - let’s draw a veil over that!). He was restored to his country parishes in 1660 on the return to the throne of King Charles II.

My particular favourite has to be "Giles, or Egedins, Gollop, B.D., Fellow of New College, Oxford," who, one record states, was ejected from his fellowship for refusing the oath of supremacy under Elizabeth I, “retired to the Continent, and joined the Society of Jesus”, (another document simply says “became a priest.”) He died at Rome, seemingly in the year 1623. It would be very interesting to find out the real facts.
Having said that, I have also uncovered several puritans who emigrated across the herring pond (one of whom after a vowel change ended up inventing the opinion poll), a few desperately mistaken parliamentarians during the Civil War (despite another, Thomas, who held the Isle of Portland for the King until its final surrender in April 1646) and at least one nineteenth century Unitarian; so probably, as they say, ‘nuff said!
No, I don't think I'll get addicted to this!


There’s a really good piece at Valle Adurni (from a Roman Catholic perspective) on the somewhat tangled relationship between the ecumenism of ARCIC and “liberal” Christianity, and some very understanding comments about the past and present position of Anglo-Catholics.
Link here:
Biretta tip to Fr Antony Chadwick of the T.A.C. for posting it on his blog Civitas Dei

Monday, 23 November 2009

“In a fortified city.”

"Blessed be the Lord who has shown me the wonders of his love in a fortified city."
Some words from the psalmody in this morning’s Office of Readings which struck home particularly today.

This a quotation from the book, “Martyr of Ritualism” (1965) by Michael Reynolds:
One has the impression that the atmosphere was a good deal livelier, and less inhibited, than in the average officers’ mess. Mackonochie, though not himself much given to levity, evidently enjoyed the jokes of others; his very soberness had the effect of bring out their exuberance. And this effect was not limited to the clergy-house. The practical, matter-of-fact way in which he went about his work in the parish - never shirking a duty, however irksome, taking everything as it came, doing it all calmly and meticulously – raised the spirits, and fired the imagination, of his comrades. Their corporate spirit burned higher and stronger as their leader and their church were increasingly beset with troubles. The clergy of St Albans’s were like a unit of picked assault troops. Their gaiety had something of the proud, carefree quality of laughter under fire….”

Despite the undoubted difficulties and profound anxiety of the last decade or so, we should never forget the good things which have come to us from God as a result: the deepening of our spiritual lives, the renewal of many of our traditions of prayer and devotion, our experience (which those across the border still have) of an unfettered and truly pastoral episcopal ministry, a renewed sense of ecclesial identity and a significant diminution of that perennial contradiction of Anglo-Catholic life, “catholic congregationalism.”
We must add to the list of graces received the rediscovery of the ecumenical imperative, particularly that of our long-held conviction of the necessity of the Petrine ministry for the right ordering of God’s Church.

If we are now at a point where our Christian pilgrimage is about to begin another and more hopeful stage, it is the lost battles of recent years which have lead us here.

Such is the God with whom we have to do. We do not come to God for a little help, a little support to our good intentions. We come to him for resurrection. God will not be asked for a little, he will be asked for all. We reckon ourselves dead, says St Paul, that we may ask God for a resurrection, not of ourselves, but of Christ in us.”

Austin Farrer, “The Crown of the Year”

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Postlude: Jehan Alain:

"The architect is dead, but the temple is finished"

Because it is Christ the King, the last Sunday of the year, there is no mention in the calendar today of St Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

November is a time when we  pray especially for the souls of the departed and, since the end of the Great War of 1914-18, also the month when we remember those killed in conflict.

On what would otherwise be St Cecilia’s Day (and Cecilia is above all the patron of organists and church musicians) here is music composed by a twentieth century composer and organist of genius, Jehan Alain, who met an heroic death in battle in June 1940 during the French defence of Saumur. He was only twenty-nine years old and left behind his wife, Madeleine and their three children.

A devout Catholic, posthumously a significant contributor to the revival of Christian culture in France during the middle years of the last century, he left as his musical legacy compositions considered by many to have been amongst the most original of the 20th century.

On the last page of his diary he had written: "I believe in Christ and in God".

This is the Postlude pour l'office de Complies influenced by the formative time he spent aged 19 at the Cistercian Abbey of Valloires.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

NOW I get it!

The Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in Rome at the Gregorian, clearly suggests that such matters as the ordination of women should be firmly relegated to the status of “second order” issues, and not be capable of derailing the ecumenical process which has been so successful up to this point.

Can the Archbishop really believe this: that the theology of holy order is somehow just a “secondary” matter of “church organisation" and structures  and not directly and intimately related to the nature of the Church herself and her status as the Bride of Christ and, accordingly, our own relationship with Christ in and through his Church?
If so, it certainly explains the vast gulf of understanding which has opened up between traditional Catholics in the Anglican world and the rest of the Communion, happy to ordain women, who regard such matters (presumably including the theology of the sacraments) as somehow of “secondary” importance? For the Catholic, the theology of the Church and, in one form or another, the Petrine ministry, are clearly “first order issues.” Having said that, Catholic theology is a seamless robe and I’m not sure the distinction between “first” and “second” order is a useful one at all.

Is the Archbishop really stating his own developed theological position in this recent address, or is he attempting to speak for a divided Church which has never in nearly five hundred years been able to come to anything approaching a common mind on matters of sacramental theology, ordained ministry and ecclesiology?

Again, if these questions really are second order issues, why are traditional Catholics now being excluded from his Church for holding what has become (very recently and only in some provinces) a minority view? How can a Christian communion, which has hitherto prided itself on bridging the Catholic / Protestant divide, hope to pursue ecumenism on the global stage when it has so spectacularly failed in its own “internal” ecumenism?

And (this is where accusations of being disingenuous really hit their target),  if these really are second order issues, why do many of the advocates of women’s ordination constantly stress that, in ordaining women to the sacred ministry of the Church, our view of the Godhead (himself?) is radically changed as a result?

Friday, 20 November 2009


Whatever one could say about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address at the Gregorian University (and, given time, one could say a great deal) the fact remains that it is on his watch that doctrinally orthodox anglo-catholics are being driven inexorably out of his Church, and that he seems constitutionally (read that as you will) unable to do a thing about it.

His words in Rome are somewhat akin to a leper saying to a healthy man, “if only you could be more like me everything would be fine!”
Overstated? In bad taste? Put it down to a splitting headache and the ‘flu!
But it’s only in bad taste if one is able to disregard the doctrinal and ethical chaos and disintegration of the Communion he leads and of which we, at present, like it or not, are a part. And it’s only overstated if one disregards the souls who are being lost as a result.

As we have said all along, women’s ordination (originally presented to the Anglican Communion as a fait accompli by a group of arrogant and lawless Americans) is just a presenting symptom of the disease from which we as Anglicans are suffering, but I can only say that I would be a little more hesitant about recommending that the Catholic Church should follow our example in not trying to preserve itself from even the lesser indications of a potentially fatal malady.

I have a profound admiration and liking for Archbishop Rowan Williams, for his great learning, his holiness of life, and for his kindness and pastoral sensitivity (including to me, personally, in the past)  which puts many of us to shame. He is one of those people who has the ability to make God a reality for those who encounter him.
Having said that, it now pains me to think that maybe he was always just the most intelligent, understanding, patient, and compassionate of our enemies.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Don't believe everything you read: the myth of archiepiscopal ignorance?

Sitting around feeling sorry for myself with a cold bug incubating quite nicely, I read that The Times has this story today:

The Archbishop of Westminster has blamed Church of England bishops for keeping their leader in the dark about the Pope’s attempts to entice Anglicans to Rome………………
……..In an interview with The Tablet, Archbishop Nichols declined to comment on the accusation from the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Dr Tom Butler, who accused the Holy See of discourtesy in failing to consult Dr Williams.
Archbishop Nichols said: “While approaches had been made to the Holy See, I don’t think that had been conveyed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Frankly it was the duty of the Anglicans to do that.”

It will be interesting to read the full interview to see if the Times is just playing its usual troublemaking role here and reporting, how shall we say, somewhat selectively. The only problem I have is that I don’t really want to be seen buying the Tablet (an organ not above a bit of mischief-making of its own) in order to find out.

But surely the real question is not that at all, but concerns the myth of archiepiscopal ignorance. Put simply, the meetings of Anglican bishops and the CDF was the worst kept secret in the Church. If I had heard about them here, I simply cannot believe the Archbishop of Canterbury was completely in the dark. Someone, somewhere, would have made it their business to let him know. He may have not been officially informed or consulted, or have been handed a power of veto, but that’s another issue altogether.
In any case, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet had made an open, public appeal for the Holy Father's help in the pages of the national press. What more notice was he expected to give?


This is the relevant extract from today's (Friday) Tablet - the interview, by Catherine Pepinster,  is free to read online:

“The leader of the Anglican Communion is here and that is a difficulty. While approaches had been made to the Holy See, I don’t think that had been conveyed to the Archbishop of Canterbury,” he said, intimating that it was the Anglicans interested in crossing to Rome who should have kept Canterbury informed. Asked if the CDF could have been more courteous to Dr Williams, he says: “I can’t answer that.”

That's it.  That's all. It answers the above questions about mischief making. Another gratuitously sly comment from The Tablet; another journalistic coup by The Times! Journals of record both.........

There is also a much more balanced, sensitive and sympathetic article (not free online) by Mark Woodruff which is well worth reading, particularly on the subject of patrimony.

Innuendo and sheer nastiness

There has been a lot of patronising comment and misrepresentation, and attempts from all quarters (largely from Anglicans in pointy hats, but also from a few Catholics wearing sandals) to downplay what the Holy Father has done in the Apostolic Constitution.
But it would be foolish in the extreme for those who seem incapable of keeping a solemn promise, and for whom “honour” is simply another weapon in the day to day political armoury, to pretend that nothing has changed as a result of it.
Those who have nothing to fear don’t usually tend to invest in the time and trouble to splash around such huge amounts of cold water.
The same would seem to apply to those of greater integrity who, in genuine hope but against all the evidence, still think that traditional forms of inter-church dialogue can be productive when engaging with those whose ecclesiology makes it impossible for them to be ecumenically honest.

For a sane view of the situation one could do worse than follow this link to a recent editorial from the Cause for the Canonisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman:
It’s refreshing, with so much disinformation in the air, to be understood.

Patrimony: a note out of season

Advent is just around the corner; Christmas is on the horizon. A few days ago my wife was casting a professional eye (ear?) over the musical programme for the Nine Lessons and Carols here and, as one now does, for a source of inspiration, had a quick look at the recordings from Kings Cambridge on You Tube.
Listening to the beauty of the music, set off by the soaring architecture and the colours of the stained glass, the choir robes, the gold cope of the officiant, one was struck by the fact that in its origins this is Catholic Anglican patrimony, too.
Yes, we know that, with a few notable exceptions, over the last thirty years or so those who were deeply unfashionable enough (unintelligent enough, the slander goes) to espouse an orthodox Catholic theology in the Anglican Provinces in these islands have been pretty ruthlessly marginalised and excluded from influence.
Yet without the Oxford Movement and its inheritance none of what are now regarded as the glories of mainstream Anglicanism would exist at all, and the public liturgies in most of our churches (those that would exist at all) would be performed by someone slouching around in a black gown. Remember, the original ecclesiastical “riots” of the 1840s in London, Devon and elsewhere were triggered, not by eucharistic vestments, smells and bells and injudicious use of the Roman Canon, but by those who objected to the clergy donning the humble surplice in the pulpit.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

An irreverent (and irrelevant) aside

Every time I have ventured into print on church-related matters, mainly in writing letters to the press, ecclesiastical or secular, almost by return of post comes a letter containing quotations from one J.C. Ryle, who I understand was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool and, appropriately enough from that address, despite his firm commitment to evangelisation, a vocal evangelical scourge of Ritualists and Anglo-Catholics wherever they were found. What he would have made of the alliance between Conservative Evangelicals and Catholics in recent years one can only imagine!
I did have the thought that should it become possible to take up the generous offer of the Holy Father in Anglicanorum Coetibus, I may be spared the good bishop’s views about how exactly I have gone wrong! Hope springs eternal!
Interestingly, Bishops Ryle’s more fanatical followers seem not to monitor the internet.
Something tells me I should not have written that!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Does this make our decision clearer?

The BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news reports that the Church of England General Synod's Revision Committee has backpedalled from its recent proposals offering provision to traditionalists in the form of complementary bishops not answerable to female diocesans and backed by statute.
Those who are part of the Church of England will be able to analyse this extremely complicated situation far better than I can, but does this news mark a hardening of attitudes towards Anglican Catholics similar to that now seen in Wales? And please remember that in Wales this refusal to accede to the requests of traditionalists predates the Apostolic Constitution by many months and is completely unrelated to it.

Whatever the answer to this question may be, the options for those striving to live out the Catholic faith within the ecclesial structures of Anglicanism seen to be getting fewer.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A few photos (and prayers) from France

These are a few photos from the Vendee a few weeks ago of the hermitage in the Mervent Forest used by St Louis Grignon de Monfort in the 18th Century.
It is still very much a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Other pictures are of the pilgrimage chapel and holy well.

Prayers were said there and candles were lit for many Anglican Catholics as they seek God's guidance and the prayers of the Saints in discerning their future.

The Chapel and Holy Well close to the lake

Candles burning at the Grotto

Through the cross all things are possible!

And some appropriate music!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Martinmas. In the meantime….life goes on.

No “St Martin’s Summer” in the Wye valley today as a rather chilly, thick fog shrouds the landscape, reducing visibility to a few hundred yards and muffling all the sounds of the natural world and of human activity as well. Appropriate weather, as we seem to be moving forward in a fog of uncertainty and hesitation, groping our way towards an understanding of what is taking place and, we pray, towards a brighter and sunnier future.

Parish life goes on. Yesterday, after the office and early mass (for St Leo the Great) an hour's drive down the M4 to SSC Chapter in Port Talbot, a stop for coffee at the end of the Mothers’ Union Meeting back in the village, some necessary ‘phone calls, Evening Prayer, then a wedding interview and a P.C.C. meeting until about 9.30 p.m.

Yesterday’s St Dyfrig Chapter of SSC (for South & West Wales) took place at St Theodore’s Port Talbot (pictured left) The Chapter's programme is planned well in advance and, after the requiem mass for the souls of the departed brethren of the Society, we heard a fascinating talk (with chanted musical illustrations) from Fr Luke Holden of the Orthodox Church, and a brother priest who accompanied him, on the subject of prayer for the departed in the Orthodox tradition.
It was interesting to make mental comparisons between the memorial of the departed in the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy and the commemoration of the dead in the Roman Canon, one of the oldest liturgical texts and part of our common patrimony, West and East.

After lunch the business meeting was the first chance to discuss together the extraordinary developments of the last few weeks.
The reality of the situation in Wales, after over a year without a Provincial Assistant Bishop and now no realistic chance of further “official” episcopal provision, is beginning to hit home. As for the other and directly related “issue of the moment,” the process of prayer and reflection in Wales is only just beginning!
My own thoughts are increasingly that the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, marks the logical end, and in many ways the fulfilment, of the Catholic Movement in Anglicanism (at least that mainstream part of the movement which traces its origins directly from the Oriel Common Room of Keble, Froude, Pusey and Newman to the “ritualists” and beyond: and here I make no apologies for my view that modern “Anglo-Papalism,” rather than being an extreme and aberrant deviation from the tradition, is only the legitimate and logical development of the ecumenical thrust of the Oxford Movement itself.)
The implications of that ending or consummation will take years to become fully apparent both for Canterbury and Rome, but one thing is very clear: when the dust settles the situation will never be the same again.
For those who make a decsion to remain within the structures of Anglicanism, certainly in the Welsh province, the future would seem at the moment to be a rather bleak one of at best “toleration up to a point” or “terminal care” until the present generation of clergy and laity dies out – as someone remarked yesterday, a future similar in some ways to that of the Non Jurors.
For those who are able to join the new ordinariates, the future will be very much brighter, although, of course, not without its initial uncertainties and struggles as new structures and patterns of priestly ministry are developed and we see exactly how the Anglican liturgical, theological and pastoral patrimony can be reclaimed and developed within the Catholic Church.
We are beginning what will be an intense period of prayerful reflection and discernment over the next few months and even years, and it is already becoming clear that, as we guessed all along, not all catholic-minded Anglicans (in Wales, England or throughout the world) will be heading in the same direction. But that being the case, it is even more important in the meantime to pray and work together and cement continuing ties of friendship among us, as, whatever individual plans turn out to be, we all make what will inevitably be painful, costly, and far reaching decisions about the future.

But, sooner rather than later, we will experience the final Anglo-Catholic “parting of friends” - a time, despite insecurity, of great joy and hope in the future for some, and yet more prolonged anxiety and a different kind of insecurity for others; but for all of us it will be tinged with a certain sadness for the “might have beens” of our past.

The photograph at the top of this post was taken by Dr Bob Osborne, and was a winning entry in this year's Photo Competition organised by St Mary's, Penterry (one of the five churches in the parish grouping)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Compare and contrast.

Here is the link to the Archbishop of Wales' response to today's news.

As so often, words fail me.

As a correspondent on this blog has pointed out, we have a continuing place within the Church in Wales only on the establishment's terms, and only so long as we are prepared to accept that we can't have what we actually need in order to stay.

Again in this statement we see the consistent episcopal "spin" being applied to the situation - this is just one in a range of disagreements we have within the Church and not deserving of specific provision. Again, though, please tell me what other issue dividing Anglicans in Wales deals a death-blow to the mutual recognition of orders and the interchangeability of clergy and any hope of sacramental certainty? Of course, one has to believe in such things for that argument to have any weight.

It's strange, too, that the Archbishop of Canterbury merits a sympathetic mention for his efforts in trying to keep the Anglican Communion together, even while his legacy in trying to keep the Church in Wales together is being repudiated by the Bench - one of life's little ironies, I guess!

A first response from Forward in Faith

The Bishop of Fulham has published the following highly positive response to today's publication of Anglicanorum Coetibus

His last comment is a very important one - as far as possible what we are going to do we should do together: that is the point of being an ecclesial body.

"The Chairman of Forward in Faith, Bishop John Broadhurst, has issued the following interim statement to those clergy who look to him, as Bishop of Fulham, for episcopal care at the present time and he is happy to share it with the membership of Forward in Faith worldwide.

I had thought the original notice from Rome was extremely generous. Today all the accompanying papers have been published and they are extremely impressive. I have been horrified that the Church of England while trying to accommodate us has consistently said we cannot have the jurisdiction and independent life that most of us feel we need to continue on our Christian pilgrimage.

What Rome has done is offer exactly what the Church of England has refused. Indeed it has offered the requests of Consecrated Women? with the completion of its ecumenical hopes. We all need now to ask the question 'is this what we want?' For some of us I suspect our bluff is called! This is both an exciting and dangerous time for Christianity in this country. Those who take up this offer will need to enter into negotiation with the Church of England about access to parish churches and many other matters. This situation must not be used to damage the Church of England but I do believe we have a valid claim on our own heritage in history.

The doctrinal standard demanded by Rome is the New Catechism which most of us use any way. We would be allowed to use Anglican or Roman rites and our ordinaries would have jurisdiction. We will all need to meet and talk. I would hope that this could take place in collaboration with the PEVs and other Catholic bishops. It is not my style to give a expansive analysis of a document that I have only received today nor will I answer the question 'What are you going to do?' That is something we need to work out together.

Every Blessing,

+John Fulham "

Text of the Apostolic Constitution published this morning.

The detailed provisions and norms of the Apostolic Constitution were published on the Vatican Website at 11 a.m. this morning.
Links here

It seems on a first reading very positive indeed in terms both of the possibility of preserving a large element of Anglican patrimony and in its description of the powers and responsibilities of the future ordinaries themselves. It looks as if this ship will sail for those able and willing to climb on board.
My own feeling is that this will be the only realistic chance of preserving the orthodox and catholic elements in anglicanism in the face of the overwhelming winds of revisionism now blowing through the official structures of the Anglican Communion. It is also the answer (God's answer?) to many of our prayers and hopes for reunion, to which as members of Forward in Faith and SSC many of us are committed. I would be interested in hearing from those who disagree exactly what other viable future they see for Anglican Catholics. I can't see one.

But there is plenty of much more informed comment than I can give being posted on other blogs and websites - see blog list on the right.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Let's have a break from controversy: Our Lady on Saturday / The Saints of Wales

As we are on the border here, perhaps we can be forgiven for observing both today!

The above photo is of the Statue of the Virgin just outside the village of St Sulpice en Pareds in the Vendee - with the harvest moon in the background.

A Hymn to the Virgin

Of on that is so fayr and bright
Velut maris stella,
Brighter than the day is light,
Parens et puella:
Ic crie to the, thou see to me,
Levedy, preye thi Sone for me,
Tam pia,
That ic mote come to thee

Al this world was for-lore
Eva peccatrice,
Tyl our Lord was y-bore
De te genetrice.
With ave it went away
Thuster nyth and comz the day
The welle springeth ut of the,

Levedy, flour of alle thing,
Rose sine spina,
Thu bere Jhesu, hevene king,
Gratia divina:
Of alle thu ber'st the pris,
Levedy, quene of paradys
Mayde milde, moder es

Hymn for the Saints of Wales

Bishop Timothy Rees C.R. (1874 – 1939) Bishop of Llandaff (1931- 1939)

Lord, who in thy perfect wisdom
Times and seasons dost arrange
Working out thy changeless purpose
In a world of ceaseless change:
Thou didst form our ancient nation
In remote barbaric days,
To unfold in it a purpose
To thy glory and thy praise.

To our shores, remote, benighted
Washed by distant western waves,
Tidings in thy love thou sentest
Tidings of the Cross that saves.
Men of courage strove and suffered
Here thy holy Church to plant;
Glorious in the roll of heroes
Shines the name of Dewi Sant.

Lord, we hold in veneration
All the saints our land has known.
Bishops, priests, confessors, martyrs,
Standing now around thy throne.
Dewi, Dyfrig, Deiniol, Teilo,
All the gallant saintly band.
Who, of old, by prayer and labour
Hallowed all our fatherland.

Still thine ancient purpose standeth
Every change and chance above:
Still thine ancient Church remaineth
Witness to thy changeless love.
Vision grant us, Lord, and courage
To fulfil thy work begun
In the Church and in the nation
Lord of Lords, thy will be done.

Yet more bad news from Wales

Go to the Credo Cymru website for the now published correspondence concerning the bishops' latest and highly predictable refusal to grant episcopal provision to traditional Anglicans in Wales:

It's particularly important that the observations of the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff are not left unchallenged. In claiming as he does a special insight into the intentions of Archbishop John Habgood in helping to frame the Act of Synod in the Church of England, his comments have implications far beyond the confines of the Church in Wales. The Act of Synod itself, if memory serves me rightly, was a matter of discussion and debate in the C of E, even if behind closed doors, and not simply something which was handed down from on high on a 'take it or leave it' basis. That being so, it is vital that the views of traditionalists taking part in that process in the early 1990s are now heard in terms of the temporary nature or otherwise of the provision negotiated.
It's curious, though, how liberals instinctively fall back on a quasi-traditional authoritarian, de haut en bas view of Church polity even whilst claiming to despise it and certainly doing their very best to undermine it. Personally, I prefer authority to have a more sound historical and doctrinal basis.

One other question: given the fact that we all recognise that alternative or additional episcopal care is indeed an anomaly in terms of the theology of holy order, albeit in the service of preserving that delicate balance needed to maintain traditional Anglican "inclusiveness" (although the Welsh Bishops seem to think alternative episcopal oversight less acceptable than either the Eames Commission or the present Archbishop of Canterbury), in what sense can it be regarded as more of an anomaly than unilateral decisions by Anglican provinces purporting to ordain women to the priesthood without having first secured any kind of catholic consensus on the issue and against the repeated advice, requests and warnings from both our Roman Catholic and Orthodox ecumenical partners?

The recent decisions of the Welsh Bench are really nothing more than an exercise in a kind of liberal managerial control (a power grab) over a Church which they themselves are responsible for having divided. A few years ago I made the prediction that soon the bishops of the Church in Wales would have nothing much left in which to believe except the exercise of episcopacy itself. It's not always a pleasant feeling when one is proved to have been right.
Still, “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
May Our Lady and the Saints of Wales pray for us.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The smell of gunpowder in the air.

I still think one of the most evocative things about Bonfire Night in Britain is the smell in the air the morning after: it still transports me back to childhood at the first breath of it. Smoke and the reek of stale gunpowder – did battlefields once smell like that when the fighting was over?

Incidentally, November 5th in living memory in this country has been entirely secular and has never had the slightest whiff of contemporary anti-catholicism about it (unless one lived in Lewes or Northern Ireland, I imagine.)
Here it was always a hugely enjoyable event organised, if one can call it that, on a family by family basis regardless of religious tradition and not only enjoyed by the children! First the fire, carefully assembled for a few weeks leading up to the event, then the fireworks – a collaborative venture in terms of expenditure and always set off by the adults, lastly the hot cocoa and the food, mostly hotdogs, and potatoes cooked in the embers of the fire.

Still, most of this has now disappeared into nostalgic memory, such is the influence of the risk-averse acolytes of “Health and Safety” (three words which should never be uttered in polite society), not to mention the underlying fear of litigation if something should go wrong. Ambulance chasing lawyers have a lot to answer for, along with their victim-culture mantra of “there’s no such thing as an accident.”
It’s all a great pity; late autumn in this part of the world is dark and damp and pretty miserable; we need all the light and laughter we can get!
The alternative large-scale, planned civic events involving lavishly coordinated displays of fireworks seem to have taken much of the spontaneous fun out of things, which is often the way.

I did go through a period of thinking one shouldn’t celebrate 5th November because of its historical connotations, but now think that was just an strangely aberrant form of PC-ism too.: we can’t alter our country’s often tragic religious history, or in any meaningful way apologise for the events of the distant past, but perhaps we do now have an opportunity to change its trajectory – what can I be thinking of now!

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.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ban on religious images in public?

Yesterday's European Court of Human Rights ruling seeming to ban crucifixes and other religious symbols in Italian schools and public buildings seems to hinge largely around the (theoretical) separation of Church and state under the Italian Constitution. Yet political and public opinion in Italy seems more outraged at the ban than at the presence of the Christian symbolism. Which should take precedence?

Whatever the legal technicalities of this particular case, it is symptomatic of an increasing intolerance in Western Europe towards public expressions of faith, and it would be a matter for great concern for all of us if the Court itself were to be used either now or in the future as a tool in the service of aggressive secularisation. Our concern seems to be borne out by the fact that the Court in its ruling said that state schools had to "observe confessional neutrality".
When even some churchmen speak of the need for the disestablishment of the Church of England, (and remember here there is no legal separation of Church and state, quite the reverse) they should be very careful what they wish for.

A Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, said the crucifix was a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture, and was a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity, not one of exclusion.
A European court had no right to intervene in such a profoundly Italian matter, and added that, "It seems as if the court wanted to ignore the role of Christianity in forming Europe's identity, which was and remains essential."
Reports say the Vatican is considering the ruling carefully before making a detailed, official response. That response will make interesting reading indeed.

The tragedy of "civil wars"

The great tragedy of all civil wars is the division and separation they cause among those who were once friends, those who were bound together by ties of family or affection, with common experiences and shared education, bound together by common vows and promises. “Wars" of words and theological principle are no different, and the Anglican civil wars of the last few years have caused a great deal of heartache and too much bitterness and have in the main generated more heat than light, more cynicism than charity.
But having said that, the crucible of conflict and insecurity can also have the effect of aiding the growth and development of understanding. I think this has been the effect on Catholic Anglicans of the struggles of the last few years, certainly in terms of the growth in our understanding of the theology of the Church, both as regards the nature of episcopacy and the nature of communion itself, not to mention our rediscovery of the centrality of the . Petrine ministry, not only for the bene esse of the Church but as part of the Church’s esse itself. Ironically, this has also served to emphasise even more the very deep fault lines within Anglicanism which no amount of shared history and common life can now disguise and no amount of dialogue can repair.

Much has been made of the Bishop of Fulham’s recent statement that “the Anglican experiment has failed,” yet it is quite clear that Anglicanism has indeed failed in its attempt to hold together the reformed, liberal and catholic traditions (at least in their historically recognisable form) in creative tension in one ecclesial body. The Anglican boast used to be that this tension and synthesis (not that a synthesis was ever really apparent in any theologically productive way or, despite some brave attempts, has resulted in an enduring common theological method) was in some way our gift to a future re-united Church; it would appear that the lesson the Christian world has now learned from us is that the Anglican way of doing things in terms of ecclesiology is the one to be avoided at all costs. The “bridge Church” seems now to be a road leading nowhere.

We are fast approaching the denouement of the present crisis which is leading us all in different and perhaps previously unexpected directions. Our divisions remain and I suspect that, despite our best intentions, attitudes will harden and divisions will deepen even further before this story is fully told.
But our response could be worse than this:

“Certainly my affections to you are so unchangeable, that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship to your person. But I must be true to the cause wherein I serve. The old limitation, usque ad aras, holds still, and where my conscience is interested, all other obligations are swallowed up. I should most gladly wait on you according to your desire, but that I look upon you as you are engaged in that party beyond a possibility of retreat, and consequently uncapable of being wrought upon by any persuasion. And I know the conference could never be so close between us, but that it would take wind and receive a construction to my dishonour. That great God which is the searcher of my heart knows with what a sad sense I go upon this service and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy; but I look upon it as Opus Domini, which is enough to silence all passion in me. The God of peace in his good time send us peace, and in the meantime fit us to receive it. We are both upon the stage and must act those parts that are assigned to us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honour and without personal animosities.”

From a letter of Sir William Waller to Sir Ralph Hopton during the English Civil War (1643)

And also this, from a sermon of Saint Charles Borromeo, (part of the second reading at the Office of Readings this morning) whose feast day it is today:

“My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love.
This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.”

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


In response to a few comments (published and unpublished) on the last post here - I know we will not be given another PAB: far too many people in the Church in Wales would lose face for that to happen now. But it is one thing to recognise the evidence of one's opponents' bad faith, another thing simply to accept the injustice without protest and allow something no better than a downright lie to become the accepted narrative. O.K.?

The myth of temporary episcopal provision in Wales

I understand that there has been an assertion in some quarters that the provision of a Provincial Assistant Bishop for the Church in Wales was only ever intended to be a temporary, very short term, arrangement.

It’s odd then that nothing was said about that at the time, either to the Governing Body meeting where the provision was first unveiled (after – so we were led to believe – a somewhat acrimonious lunchtime meeting of the Bench of Bishops), or to Bishop David Thomas himself, the first and only Provincial Assistant, who left office last year clearly hoping to be replaced and deeply outraged when he was not.
Nothing was said in the official announcement of the creation of the PAB.
Nothing along those lines was communicated to those clergy who determined their future and that of their families on the strength of that provision, and resolved to remain in the Church in Wales only because they had been given a bishop to provide them with the (clearly recognised to be so at the time) pastoral and sacramental care they needed.

Human memory can be a very fallible thing, but surely after only thirteen years there must be someone capable of setting the record straight about what was originally intended - perhaps the bishop (later Archbishop, and now Archbishop in another province) who – despite being himself theologically committed to the ordination of women - so generously championed and then piloted the provision through against, so it is said, the opposition of some of his colleagues? Until we receive an authoritative and disinterested answer to that question, the suspicion has to be that – for what reason I can’t imagine – some people are now being 'economical with the actualité.’

Quo Vadis?

A typically incisive and thought provoking (and also highly entertaining, by all accounts) sermon from Canon Robin Ward, the Principal of St Stephen’s House, was preached on Saturday at the 125th anniversary mass at Pusey House, Oxford.
Pusey House will always have fond memories for me; when I was an undergraduate at Keble, reading law, my occasional visits there (only occasional, to my lasting regret) were, in retrospect, instrumental in the recovery of the faith which I had lost in adolescence.
Fr Ward’s address should be read in full by all Anglican Catholics
- link here to the Pusey House website

Here are two short extracts from the homily – but, if you haven’t already, read it all!

“Secondly, fullness of worship: has the mission of this House ever seemed more prophetic than in its fidelity to the vision of the Ritualist Movment? This Movement was conceived from the start as having a pastoral purpose: to restore in our Church the dignity of the sacraments and in particular that of the sacrament of the Altar, a re-sacralization of gesture and vesture and setting which was and is a core component in authentic Catholic evangelization. And the fidelity of Pusey House to the classical fullness of this vision, hard won in times of persecution and the object of modish and myopic condescension in more recent times, has been amply vindicated by the Benedictine revival of liturgical tradition, which has placed us at the height of fashion as well as orthodoxy once again. It is not faithful to tradition to assert that the identification of the Eucharist as a meal means that its sacrificial character is best exemplified by a celebration in which the meal-like aspect occludes all others.”

“You do not need me to tell you that Catholic Anglicans are in a place of acute perplexity at this time. Our mission, the mission of this House and of all those who have served the Movement since its inception, is founded on a confidence that we have an authentic ecclesial mandate grounded in Scripture and Tradition, and sacramental assurance in the ministrations which arise from that mandate. We must be frank when we admit that the great majority of the Churches who name themselves catholic in faith, order and practice have always seen this in us as more a matter of assertion than fact. But for us it has not seemed to be a house built on sand. S. Gregory tells us that if we are hemmed in and held captive, then the best rule is to jump off where the wall is lowest – the shortest fall makes for the softest landing. If we are not to be entirely strangled by our perplexity we are going to have to learn to jump, because the basis on which we have carried out our mission in recent years – the doctrine of a Church of England with two integrities - is coming to an end. Blessed Pius IX told Dr Pusey that he was like a bell summoning people to church but never entering it himself; might we not hope for a better future in a larger room for Pusey House?”

A brief response

Having been quoted on the BBC over the weekend (albeit anonymously) and having received the following response to what I wrote on this blog from one of the contributors on the "All Things Considered" programme : “I suppose there comes a point when if a person feels they can’t give their loyalty any longer to their own tradition, then it’s probably better that they’re able to find a home elsewhere…,” I suppose I should make at least some attempt at a reply.
Here goes…

It’s not that we, as Anglican Catholics, can’t give our loyalty to our “own tradition.” The Bishops of the Church in Wales individually and collectively by their repeated refusal to honour their previous promises to us have obstinately refused to acknowledge that there is, in fact, more than one valid tradition within Anglicanism and that, as a contributor to the Church Times has written only last week, Anglicanism “depends upon a very delicate balance, a balance that has been created by the oddness and accidents of history, which we tamper with at our peril.”
It’s not that I can’t give my loyalty; what I can’t do is to bring myself to sign a blank cheque to those currently running the show, whether bishops or synodical processes, to change that tradition, to tamper with that “delicate balance,” at will. I’ll say it again: loyalty is not a one way street, and hints about disloyalty to the tradition or traditions of Anglicanism are among the very last accusations the present Welsh Bench or Governing Body should make about others.
Perhaps, then, it is becoming clearer that our particular tradition within the Anglican patrimony does need to be in safer hands than it is at present - if only to ensure its continued existence.
It's late; that will have to do - for now.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Wait and see!

There has been a lot of somewhat sour and sinously patronising comment from establishment quarters (even on some Welsh diocesan websites!) predicting that the take up by Catholic-minded Anglicans of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution will be insignificant, so small as to be almost unnoticed. And – watch out – look at all the dreadful things you will be expected to sign up to!
I wonder.
Of course, the details of the provision have yet to be published, but I suspect that the numbers of those prepared at least to give serious consideration to the move will surprise the sceptics. When a house is on fire – deliberately set alight by some of its occupants - jumping into a fireman’s blanket may be seen as preferable to suffocating or burning to death. For many of us the air of the modern Anglican world has become too toxic to breathe.
Time scales will differ, some of us may take longer to make the journey than others, but we should be in no doubt that something very significant indeed has taken place in terms of the future trajectory of the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism.
“Affirming Catholics” will remain, but they do so at the price of redefining the concept of Catholicism to such an degree that it becomes meaninglessly elastic, or at least synonymous with whatever theological fashion holds sway among Anglicans at any given time – gin, lace and relativism.
There will be those, too, who will continue to hope that the path of “official” ecumenism will ultimately bear fruit; but with the advent of women bishops and a further “liberalisation” of attitudes towards human sexuality, that day will recede further and further into an almost unimaginable future.
The options for Catholic Anglicans are narrowing by the day; staying put and taking refuge in a no doubt sincerely held non-papal form of Catholicism will involve having to swallow far more in the way of innovation than anything the Latin Church has been accused of coming up with. Unless, of course, those who continue to find the papal claims impossible to accept are hoping to head in the direction of Orthodoxy.
Now, a parallel offer of refuge from that source would really set alarm bells ringing in Anglican episcopal palaces throughout England and Wales.

I should probably have entitled this blog “Confessions of a Recovering Liberal” as I, too, at one time found the claims to universal Petrine oversight hard to justify.
What converted me? In a word, Anglicanism. The experience of the last twenty years has convinced me that the almost complete absence of doctrinal authority is far worse than its occasional misuse.
To put things simply; I cannot believe that the Lord has left his Church rudderless and adrift in a sea of conflicting opinions, or that He intended it to become little more than “an ethical debating society.”
In contemporary western Anglican circles to be seen to be in search of “authority” or, even worse, “certainty” is too often regarded as the worst possible kind of character defect. Yet I’ve come to the conclusion with advancing years that where the salvation of my soul is at stake (and, yes, I’m old fashioned enough to believe in all that) I need as much authority and certainty as are available this side of the beatific vision.


The Introit & Kyrie from the Durufle Requiem: one of the most moving settings of the liturgy ever written.