Fr Stephen Smuts

More on the Future of the Traditional Anglican Communion

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UPDATE:   TAC House of Bishops Calls for Archbishop John Hepworth’s Immediate Removal here.

Writes Fr Anthony Chadwick who has been in contact with the Traditional Anglican Communion Primate Archbishop John Hepworth:

What I write here is entirely of my own initiative and in the light of recent elements which I have carefully studied and considered in the light of experience over the past four years. It is not to be considered as an indirect public statement by Archbishop Hepworth…

It is my belief that the Bishops Brian R. Marsh, Stephen D. Strawn and Daren K. Williams of the ACA, and Bishop Michael Gill of South Africa dissented from the ordinariate-bound “line” because it involved institutional dissolution and the individual reception of physical persons only. Archbishop Hepworth gave assurances that provision would be made for those not ready at a given time to go over to the ordinariate once it was founded. This fact of the possibility of a Plan B for all has been forgotten. Maybe some of these bishops had doctrinal issues, which seems specious since they signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Portsmouth (October 2007) or agreed to be in communion of faith with bishops having made such a commitment when they were consecrated. The commitment was not that of accepting all and any conditions from Rome, but simply that those who signed believe the doctrines of the Catholic Church…

Several things have come to light in two letters written by Archbishop Hepworth – to his clergy (to which I belong as a priest) and to the College of Bishops. He firstly announces his intention to resign as Primate of the TAC when it is known which bishops will resign and become Roman Catholics and which will remain to constitute the TAC College of Bishops. Those who will resign and become Roman Catholics do so with the Archbishop’s blessing and encouragement. Secondly, Archbishop Hepworth recognises, in the absence of dispensations of his canonical irregularities, that he cannot even become a lay member of the future Australian Ordinariate. His only avenue to becoming a Roman Catholic layman is through the Archdiocese of Adelaide. He might as well wear a cassock and pectoral cross in Saudi Arabia!

He informs us that he intends to remain the Bishop Ordinary of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia. He will also assume the small Nippon Kirisuto Sei Ko Kai in Japan under his jurisdiction. We have as yet little idea of the number of Australian clergy and faithful wishing to follow him. “I remain the Bishop Ordinary in Australia and Japan, and under legislation of the Canadian General Synod, Primate of the ACCC. Those positions will be untouched by the forthcoming resignation”. He has told me personally that I would remain licensed as a priest under his jurisdiction. Whether that would be the Patrimony of the Primate or some kind of new “personal” jurisdiction, I do not know.

What about the future? I am no prophet, so I can only make a few conjectures. There seem to be three main groupings of the present TAC which have the potential of renewing their unity or dividing from each other.

  1. To be headed by Archbishop (Bishop) Hepworth as Bishop Ordinary of the ACCA and with “personal jurisdiction” over the “diaspora” in Japan, Canada, perhaps England and other countries where the priests and laity are not under any other jurisdiction.
  2. Headed by Bishops Marsh, Strawn and Williams of the ACA in intercommunion with other American Continuing Anglican bodies.
  3. Archbishop Prakash of India, Bishop Gill of South Africa (other local African communities) and Bishop Rodriguez in Guatemala representing communities in Latin America.

We therefore have three centres, assuming that the Church of Torres Strait and those following the other two Australian bishops who have received nulla ostas are ordinariate-bound. One is a kind of tutti-frutti of communities and individuals in western countries, the second is a part of the American Continuing Anglican scene and the third is Third World. The third is by far the largest, and would seem to have the potential for being preponderant in a future election of a Primate and possible reforms to the TAC’s foundational document, the Concordat. I fear that those representing these three “poles” would have to backpedal or show a considerable degree of forgiveness in regard to those who were judging them for not being ordinariate-bound…

Whatever happens, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire these three groups with a capacity for forgiveness and looking each other in the eye. It is possible. There are serious problems like Bishop Marsh being a high-ranking Freemason, which is generally considered as incompatible with Catholicism. Would there be a viable TAC composed of the Third World and Australia-Diaspora groups? Would Archbishop Hepworth, having retired or resigned as Primate, have a basis for being accepted as a local TAC bishop by the other bishops in the TAC who never were ordinariate-bound. To what extent is this going to be seen as hypocrisy and backpedalling?

There is no need to point fingers, or cry over spilt milk, but rather to face the fact squarely and learn from the past and present to prepare the future.

Read it all here.

Prognostic indeed. How split and divided is the TAC not! Asunder.

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Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 6, 2011 at 18:47

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