Allow me to comment frankly about the Anglican Ordinariate in England. Damien Thompson comments here about what might happen amongst the traditionalist Anglo Catholics in England. He rightly observes that the response from Forward in Faith (the leading Anglo Catholic traditionalist group) has been ambiguous to say the least. Forward in Faith North America (led by breakaway Texas Episcopal bishop Jack Iker) has said clearly that they don’t want to be Catholics. They’ve only said what most of the Forward in Faith crowd also feel. They don’t want to be Catholics. They want to be grumpy Anglicans. Did you think they might walk out on their gorgeous churches, their beautiful Victorian tat, their rectories, their tea parties, and their little Anglo Catholic enclave in the Church of England?
Do we really think they will set out (like Fr Phillips at Church of the Atonement) to set up a new church in a rented shop front with a handful of the faithful to live on whatever money they faithful few might donate? That they and their wives would get a job to support their family, and that after ten years of hard work might eventually have a viable parish using the Anglican Use liturgy in full communion with the Holy Father? Don’t hold your breath.
I want to be fair. A few courageous souls in England may very well step out and take the opportunity and do something new and brave. I wish them well and I hope it succeeds and that I will be seen to be a pessimistic old poop. However, my real assessment is that the Anglicans in England need to get over the idea that the Anglican Ordinariate is about them. I don’t think it is. I think is primarily a response to the Traditional Anglican Communion.
The one good thing we can say about the ‘continuing’ Anglican movement is that is is entrepreneurial. These people have the faith to act on their convictions. They have the guts to step out and do something new. They have the gumption to take risks and get things done. The Anglican Ordinariate is aimed at the New World. It is aimed at the Australians and Canadians and Americans and Africans who are willing to start a church on their own and get on with it.
Here in America, for instance, a traditionalist Episcopalian priest could very well leave the Episcopal Church with a dozen families. They would meet for liturgy in a borrowed building or a rented space somewhere. They would make do. The priest would get a job. His wife would get a job. They’d work hard and attract more people and eventually buy a church abandoned and put up for sale by some denomination or another or they would buy some land and build their own church.
In some cases the continuing Anglican Churches have already done this. Here in Greenville we have three such congregations. One occupies a lovely little stone church, another has bought land and built their own church, a third meets in a hotel conference room each week for liturgy. It is this kind of hard work, spirited generosity and genuine ‘church building’ which looks to the future with hope and grit and faith and a positive outlook.
These are the people Benedict is reaching out to. If a few old style Anglo Catholics in England want to be part of the experiment so be it, but I don’t think many of them will bother. After all, they will say, “The Anglican Church is so quintessentially English, and I am, after all, an Englishman first of all…”