With the appointment of Sarah Mullally as the new Anglican Bishop of London, England’s Anglo Catholics are once again in turmoil.
For those who are not in the know, London was one of the Anglo Catholic strongholds. Outgoing Bishop Richard Charters held out against ordaining women priests and priests and laypeople who were opposed to this innovation in historic church order were assured of a respected place in the London Diocese.
Now, with the appointment of a female bishop to the third highest ranking ecclesial office in the land, Anglo Catholics are feeling even more marginalized.
For anyone who knows the history of the Church of England such crises are nothing new. Ever since Bl. John Henry Newman rocked the Anglican boat by becoming a Catholic, the Anglo Catholic wing of the Anglican Church has been nervous.
Every decade or so some sort of crisis would hit–in which the Church of England establishment clearly stated their identity as a Protestant Church who would do whatever they thought best–no matter what their “ecumenical partners” in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches might say.
There is a whole list of controversies: the Church of South India crisis, then the question of artificial contraception, then the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, then the ordination of women in the Church of England, then same sex marriage, re-marriage after divorce etc. etc.
At each juncture some Anglo Catholics would gather their courage, resign their livings and join the Catholic Church. I was part of the largest historic exodus of clergy in the mid-1990s, when nearly 800 Anglican priests walked out over the ordination of women.
What was interesting at that point, was how both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales handled the mass exodus of priests. Inside sources say that bishops from both sides agreed that there should be as little publicity about the huge number of priests and laypeople who left to become Catholics as possible.
I myself committed the social error of publishing a book called The Path to Rome which chronicled a few of the conversion stories. For the rest of my time in England I was persona non grata–never in any obvious way. The English are too well mannered for that. Instead it was a quiet marginalization and a hefty helping of ice from anyone on either side who was an establishment figure.
That, in itself, is no big deal. It’s what one should expect if one rocks the boat at all, and it is really what one should expect if one does not sign on to the happy, smiling agenda of the progressive elite.
I personally have no regrets leaving the Church of England, and at this point, if my witness carried any weight at all, I would advise as many Anglo Catholic clergy and laypeople who are left in the Church of England to get out and to get out as soon as possible.
Don’t hang on for your pretty churches and comfortable rectories. Don’t hang on believing yourselves to be latter day Athanasius’. Don’t hang on for your so called friends in the establishment thinking that you will be given an honorable place at their diversity table. You won’t. You will continue to be marginalized and undermined and stabbed in the back.
If you believe their smiles and warm words of “dual integrities” and “respectful diversity” you will be fooled. All of that is a smoke screen and the only people who believe it are the ones propagating the facade to bolster their own sense of self righteousness.
If you are an Anglican with a Catholic understanding of the church, stop pretending you can be “Catholic just not Roman Catholic.”
That’s a pretty fib and always has been.
Instead become a Catholic and join either your local parish or the ordinariate, roll up your sleeves, get on your knees and get to work.
Have faith. Take courage. Step out of the boat. Walk on the water.
God will provide.
Come home to Rome.
We need you.