Monday, 22 May 2017

Investing in the Church's Growth

 'How is the Ordinariate managing financially?' I was asked the other day. 'Surviving', said I. But then today I read the Church Commissioners' results in their annual report subtitled "Investing in the Church's Growth".[H.T. to 'Thinking Anglicans'] They made returns of 17.1% last year. The Church Commissioners manage, the report tells us, investable assets of some £7.9 billion - yes, billion. If you prefer to see the figures written out, that is £7,900,000,000. Well done the Commissioners. In my little way I helped contribute to that fund, by getting a local Agent to handle the sale of our Parsonage (for about £2.6k more than the Diocese was quite ready to accept) and then getting the same Agent to act for us, rather than the Diocese's man, when we sold off some other small parcel of land. Eventually the diocese profitted from that parish by about half a million pounds - which the diocese persisted in referring to as our 'windfall'. All the clergy who joined the Catholic Church after 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' had done similarly, if not through land deals then by running numerous Planned Giving campaigns.

Now I am very glad still to be in communion with the C of E Pension Fund, if not with the rest of Anglicanism. But I do wonder if the Commissioners might not do some little thing towards assisting at least with life insurance for younger members of the Ordinariate - and perhaps even encouraging the Anglican hierarchy to share some of its church buildings.  Had a clergyman died while still an Anglican his widow and family would have been greatly assisted from the Commissioners' investments. If one of these same former Anglican clergy, now a Catholic priest,  should die (absit omen )  the Ordinariate will have to bear the entire responsibility for those they leave behind. Yet the fund which the Commissioners manage, formerly Queen Anne's Bounty, derives very largely from the Catholic sources which were nationalised at the time of the 'reformation'. Even those little plots of land which I sold when a Vicar had come ultimately from the Religious House which provided a Vicar and Church for that parish. Queen Anne graciously endowed the Church of England with a little of the money which had come to the Crown from such pre-reformation Catholic sources.

I suppose it is too much to expect there will be any such generosity. After all, the Ordinariate seems not to be seen by Anglicans as a generous Catholic gesture towards those Anglicans who really believed what the C of E consistently said, and still says, that the it is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Instead we Ordinarians seem to be thought of as somehow renegades, denying our birthright. Yet many of us found it increasingly impossible to remain in an Ecclesial Community which allowed itself to be blown about by every new wind of doctrine - or of fashion. Surely Christian Mission might very properly be funded from the ancient endowments set up in large part by our Catholic forebears? How good it would be if we separated Anglicans could be drawn into conversation and fellowship with the rest of the Anglican Communion - or at least with the Church of England - while there is a recognisable part of that Church of England yet surviving. For as a commentator in "Thinking Anglicans" has said, in response to the Commissioners' Report, 'many congregations advance towards extinction' and 'we will soon have the paradoxical situation of an impregnably flush fund providing periodic subventions to the tattered remnants of a Church'. Together we could make a future, genuinely 'investing in the Church's growth'. Kept apart our situation in England becomes ever more like that in Ireland - where one church hangs on to ancient buildings, with everyone at least called 'Very Reverend', while Christianity can mostly be found in a quite different part of the vineyard.  

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The tongue holier than the hand?

The Bishop in Wisconsin in the USA has apparently claimed  'The practice of Communion in the hand grew out of a disobedience that can be traced back to Holland. Because of the widespread abuse of receiving in the hand, Pope Paul VI granted an indult for the practice in a 1969 letter from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.' He also asserts that  'Communion on the tongue is more reverent'. Reverence is a cornerstone of Anglican worship, as it was once generally practised by Anglo-Catholics, and still is by a few. It may be though an uphill task, in view of Cardinal Sarah's support for receiving on the tongue, but at least a case should be made for reverent receiving of Commuion in the hand .

The Dutch might have used reception in the hand as an act of disobedience. In the Church of England, the very reverse was true. Long before Dutch disobedience, many young confirmation candidates were taught that the correct way to receive was on the palm of the hand, one hand placed on the other, for we understood St Augustine had said that in this way we made "a throne for God". Then we were taught to bow our heads to receive the Host from the palm of the hand. We were also taught to sign ourselves with the cross just before receiving the Host or the Precious Blood. It may be that it is the taking of the Host between finger and thumb that looks irreverent to the Bishop of Madison and other upholders of, as they would claim, 'the tradition'. Well, there are many different traditional ways of receiving Communion - for instance it is administered on a spoon in the Eastern Churches, and that can probably claim at least as long a history as reception on the tongue.

What appears particularly irreverent to many former Anglicans is the way so many Catholics studiously avoid receiving from the Chalice, seemingly deliberately avoiding reception of the Precious Blood when it is offered to them. We are well aware of the assertion that 'the Lord is the same in either kind', but we still find it strange that if that is so He chose to initiate the Communion with both bread and wine. It has come as a great encoragement to us to be able to use again the words (taken by Cranmer originally from a Spanish Cardinal) 'that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood'. What is more the words accompanying Communion are terribly brief, whereas in the Ordinariate when we say AMEN we say it at the end of a prayer with which the Sacrament is given to us - that the Body, the Blood, of Our Lord Jesus Christ might preserve us, body and soul, to everlasting life.  Brevity, haste even, seems to be the prerequisite for some Catholics.  I fancy too that our Anglo-Catholic forefathers would have told communicants that they should not attempt to receive on the tongue; it was rude to poke out your tongue, and the priest did not want to be slobbered over from so many open mouths.

In all this, though, what matters is the interior disposition of the Communicant. If he or she intends to be reverent, then how that reverence is expressed is a matter for them and the Lord, not for any onlooker. The non-conformist who receives Communion from the hands of his neighbour, seated, is not doing so from irreverence, but because that is how he believes he might get nearest to the way it was for the first disciples in the Upper Room.  I seem to recall Our Lord telling us not to judge, least of all to judge another's servant. And certainly the tongue is no holier than the hand.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Welcome to the Ordinariate.

Mgr Andrew Burnham (in the Catholic Herald) had some very helpful comments about Philip North and the options before him, There was one sentence, though, that worries me. He suggests that an Anglican Priest seeking to join the Catholic Church has two routes, If he comes with a group of Anglicans he might join the Ordinariate, but otherwise he must use the Diocesan route.

Now certainly 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' begins by being concerned with groups approaching the Holy See; but it not is and cannot be interpreted as applying only to group submissions. If it were, then the whole Ordinariate project would have no future - yet it was not set up by Pope Benedict as just a temporary measure.  Priests die, and there must be replacements for them. Slowly the Ordinariate might produce its own ordinands. Before then, individual priests (or bishops) seeking union with the See of Peter should look first to the Ordinariate. Just as any lay person with Anglican previous can seek to join the Ordinariate, so can any Anglican minister. There will be no certainty of Catholic Ordination until he has first become a Catholic. Then if he wants to be ordained into the Catholic prieshood he should first approach the Ordinary. In some cases there might not be an obvious opening for him in the Ordinariate, and he will be advised to seek help from a Catholic diocesan bishop. But there are and must surely continue to be many opportunities and needs for new priests within the Ordinariate. Some existing groups are struggling simply because their pastor is single-handed, and has many other responsibilities besides his Ordinariate group.

Not all Anglican clergy wanting to become Catholic priests have any hope, realistically, of bring a congregations with them. There are chaplains to schools, hospitals and other institutions where such group submissions are impossible. There ae parishes where at best only a handful of lay people might agree with their Vicar on this issue. The important thing is that the Ordinariates must become ever more approachable and flexible,  always opening doors  to those outside the Catholic Church - and to some inside it, too.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An Honoured Place

What possible right does a Roman Catholic priest of the Ordinariate have to make any comment on events over the fence in the Church of England?  I think I have two pretty good reasons for writing just now; first, because I was there when the Church of England said that catholic Anglicans held and would continue to hold an honoured place within it. That was one of the reasons I felt it right back in 1995 to try to make that promise a reality, and accepted the post of Bishop of Richborough. Then we were told that the Church of England could not determine finally what was right concerning women's ordination. We were in a time of discernment, until all the Churches, Eastern and Western, came to a common mind. Today the inability or unwillingness of the Church of England to allow an Anglican with doubts about the rightness of women's ordination to become a diocesan bishop seems to be a breach of those promises, one more nail in the Anglo-Catholic coffin.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Philip North
That would be reason enough for me to express an opinion; but there is another reason I presume to write now. When Philip North trained for the ministry at St Stephen's House, I was its Principal. In his year the academic achievements of that small college were outstanding. Of a handful of candidates who entered for degrees in Oxford University's Honours School of Theology, four were awarded Firsts. One of them is Philip North. There are few Bishops, Anglican or Catholic, with a more impressive academic grounding. There are even fewer with Philip's generous pastoral heart.
As he withdraws from the post of Bishop of Sheffield, to which he was recently nominated, I simply want to express my sadness for Philip, and for the Church of England. It is no joy to any Christians when fellow Christians are hurt - when one member suffers, every member suffers. If the Church of England is diminished by the activities of a so called 'liberal' group, intent on driving out any who disagree with them, then all the Churches are wounded too. Worse still, it is a wound in the Body of Christ Himself.

Then pray for the Church of England, and for Bishop Philip. He wants a place where he can minister to the poor and the neglected for whom he has an especial care. Pray that he may find that place.  Pray for the women in ministry in the Church of England, many of whom have tried to support and encourage Philip, and have valued his pastoral care - even while others have refused his ministry. Pray too for the whole Church of God, all baptized Christians, for a spirit of penitence and reconciliation in this holy season of Lent.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Attachment to Buildings

Torbay Mission
Why is it that the American Ordinariate seems so far ahead of us in England?  Part of the reason I suggest has to do with buildings. Whereas in the States it is sometimes possible for the Ordinariate to purchase a former Episcopal church, this never happens here. Indeed there are some Anglican bishops who have said they would be more ready to let a church go to the Islam than to the Ordinariate. It is very rare indeed (I only know of the Torbay Mission) where a church building has been bought by the Ordinariate - and that was formerly a Methodist, not an Anglican, church,

It all stems, I think, from history. Until the 1530's every church in England was Catholic. After Henry VIII - and once his bastard daughter Elizabeth I was on the throne - every church was nationalised for the 'Church of England'. At different times, churches have  occasionally been handed over to other Christian bodies. French Protestants, for instance, were given the use of some churches when the Huguenots were exiled to England. In the 20th Century, some churches have been given to Orthodox communities, or they have been permitted to buy or share them.
Sikh Gurdwara: once St Luke's
Also in the 20th Century there have been instances where other religions have bought or been given church buildings - the former St Luke's in Southampton is now a Sikh Temple. The occasions when Catholics have been able to take over or use an Anglican building are very few indeed. In 19th Century Arundel there was a great legal battle when the catholic Duke of Norfolk presumed to rebuild the ruins of the Chancel of the Anglican Parish Church where his ancestors were buried for a Catholic Chapel.
Slipper Chapel
In Walsingham, the equally ruinous Slipper Chapel was rescued from its use as a barn and brought back into Catholic worship. There is the former chapel of Ely House, London home at one time of  the Bishops of Ely which had been sold and laicised long before. And that is about the sum of it.
Ely Chapel as it once was

In London, though, where Catholic congregations customarily fill their churches to bursting, the good old Church of England hangs on to its buildings even when congregations are down to a mere handful - in the hope perhaps of realising a good sum from a developer.

Italianate Wilton
I was reminded of all this on visiting Wilton. There the old church was pulled down in the 19th Century and only the chancel left standing. In its place a sumptuous Italianate church was bult by the local grandee, the Earl of Pembroke; and it was fitted out with stained glass, carved woodwork and stone from all over Europe - the aftermath of the French Revolution and other upheavals. It must have seemed perfectly reasonable to the noble Lord that these Catholic artefacts should become decorations in an Anglican building.

We are very wedded to our buildings and our history, in a way which it must be hard for others - especially Americans I think - to understand. Perhaps the time is coming when Parliament will recognise that the Church of England is no longer the religion of the country, and that it would be sensible to find other bodies to take over some of the buildings which it struggles to maintain - but don't pray for it too hard. St Paul's erstwhile Cathedral would make such a good Mosque.

Saturday, 31 December 2016


Soon after the walls came down in Europe there began convoys of aid to many former Eastern Bloc countries. At St Stephen's House in Oxford we wondered what we might contribute; and decided that since education was our goal, we ought to give opportunites to come to study with us. Many people chipped in, and we had a succession of visitors. Perhaps the most memorable was Nicolai Moȿoiu. He came from Braȿov, in Romania, where his father was a parish priest. His wife was an oncologist, and Nicolai was destined for the priesthood. After a year in Oxford, during which time his wife also was able to go to the John Radcliffe hospital and see something of cancer treatment in Britain, they returned home. A few months later I was invited along with one of our students to Romania to witness Nicolai's Ordination.

It took place in a remote village in the foothills of the mountains of Transylvania. We set off soon after 7am in the dark. Snow became deeper as the cars climbed to Poiana Mereu. We passed many on foot making their way towards the church. This was not simply an Ordination; it was also the Consecration of a newly built church, and alongside Nicolai was another man who had been made Deacon with him a week earlier They were now both to be ordained Priests. The Church was to become not just a parish church, but also the church of a restored Monastic Community.

Welcoming the Bishop - his Deacon at his side. Nicolai the tall figure on the left, the young p-p in pink on the Bishop's left
A little after 9am the Bishop came, to be greeted with bread and salt a Crucifix and the Gospels, while the snow fell round us. The Deacons took him into the church. Stay close to me the bishop told me; not easy in such a throng, but there behind the Ikonostasis he was duly Vested for the Liturgy by the Deacons.  We circled the outside of the Church and the Bishop signed it on all sides with a brush loaded with oil on a long pole. When it came to preparing the altar, this was no prissy western performnce. The mensa was thoroughly scrubbed by assistant priests with their sleeves rolled up using water from plastic bowls. The oiling was no mere dribble but a thorough basting. When the whole Liturgy seemed to be drawing to a conclusion around 1pm the Bishop decided this was the opportunity to tell people their duties; which he did for another forty minutes.

 Then he was taken to rest for a while, until late in the afternoon we all met in the Village Hall for a feast. This was in pre-Advent, so fish was the main part of the meal. On the table were bottles of Whisky, containers of very good local wine, and teapots of what looked like very weak tea. It is water, said the Bishop to me: Water indeed! Firewater, rather - Tzvika, the local plum brandy.

Nicolai,  me and the Bishop as the Feast began

I was reminded if all this by a couple of photos (above) which I came across in preparing to move house: and in view of recent correspondence elsewhere about Consecration Rites thought it might be interesting. The three most imortant things I learned from Romanian Orthodoxy? That the liturgy was put into the vernacular in 1662 and no one seems to hanker after Slavonic; that it is perfectly normal for priests to be married: and that  Deacons are far more important for the functioning of the Liturgy than are priests.

Monday, 19 December 2016


If there are no posts here for a while it is because we are moving; from Lymington where we have been happily for the past fifteen year.  We shall have to leave many friends, and the Ordinariate Mission in Bournemouth. And at least this post should not annoy or embarrass anyone.

St Thomas More, Iford: Bournemouth Ordinariate Mission's shared home
We have to downsize though - in particular we shall have a much smaller garden - and  we should have better transport links to at least some of our family. So Salisbury will be our new setting.

We had a very happy farewell after Mass on Sunday in Lymington, then further goodbyes over lunch at Brockenhurst - though in fact I hope still to help out locally until we depart - particularly with two Christmas masses in Lymington, and a few weekday celebrations until the removal vans come on January 10th.

Downsizing: our Edwardian Terrace
We look forward to getting to know the Salisbury Ordinariate Group rather better, and also the parishes in and around Salisbury - in the Catholic Diocese of Clifton.