This article from the Daily Telegraph reports that the members of Foward in Faith Australia have voted unanimously to accept the Holy Father’s offer of full communion as outlined in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
Some voices are heralding this as the beginning of a huge tide of Anglican converts. While this is undoubtedly good news, we should all stop and take a breath. The Anglicans who have accepted the Apostolic Constitution thus far are very few in number. The Traditional Anglican Communion in the UK has only a handful of parishes, and Forward in Faith Australia has 200 members and only three parishes. It’s sad to acknowledge that thus far there are far more Anglicans (both within the formal structure of the Anglican Communion and in breakaway churches) who have either rejected the Pope’s offer or are hedging their bets than those who have accepted.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but my own experience of Anglicanism and Anglicans (I was an Anglican for fifteen years and ten years a CofE priest) leads me to predict that very few Anglicans will take advantage of this offer. They will either be honest and say, “You know, I’ve decided that I am an Anglican through and through and don’t really want to be a Catholic.” or they’ll come up with all sorts of weasly words like, “Of course the Holy Father’s offer is intriguing in its way, but we need to reserve our decision and go forward carefully”…and after a time it will be dropped. Others will say, “We would like to come in with our Anglican patrimony intact, but of course the English cathedrals and parish churches are such an important part of that patrimony. Surely we couldn’t leave those behind???”
I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect I’m not. Instead the Ordinariate will be taken up by a three different groups. There will be a few from the continuing churches like the TAC. There will be a small network of Anglican Use parishes, and there will be groups of Catholics and Anglicans who want to form an Ordinariate parish. I predict that these will be largely former Evangelicals who have found their way to either the Catholic or the Episcopal Churches (or one of the breakaway Anglican Churches). Some may come from branches of the Eastern Orthodox where they have found a temporary home.
With typical Evangelical zeal and entreprenurial spirit they will rally together to form congregations, eventually they will attract a pastor and get going. These new Anglo-Catholic congregations will be Evangelical in spirit, Catholic in doctrine and liturgy and some may have a ‘renewal’ dimension to their pastoral care and devotional spirit.
If this is what happens we should expect this to be a phenomenon of the New World. This type of Ordinariate congregation will blossom in the USA, Canada and Australia. I’m sorry to be pessimistic about the UK, but this sort of entreprenurial religion simply doesn’t exist there, or if it does it is considered to be a dangerous oddity.
UPDATE: Another Anglican bishop has converted to the Catholic faith. Paul Richardson retired as assistant bishop of Newcastle in England, and was received into full communion last month. Read about it here.