Coming to a Point

On my desk is an old Anglo-Catholic Prayerbook, published sometime in the 1920s by the Church Literature Association, and bearing the signature “Evan R. Williams, Oxford, 1951.” Acquired in a second-hand store, it would not be too surprising to find out that it had belonged to the late Fr. Williams, sometime rector of St. Nicholas, Encino, whom I knew slightly. He had quite a wild background, had known T.S. Eliot while at Oxford, and had the rare ability to use the Missale Romanum at the Anglican Mass, translating from the Latin as he went.

Both the book and the man who may have owned it summon up for me the Anglo-Catholicism of about 1880 to 1960, a time when it looked as though the entirety of the Anglican Communion might one day be Catholicised. This was the era that produced the great Anglican missionary and slum priests, the religious orders and devotional societies, and social and political theorists and writers ranging from Conrad Noel to T.S. Eliot. The Anglo-Catholic Congresses and groups of dioceses from South Africa to the Biretta Belt of the Midwest showed forth the power of the movement which, in America at any rate, had its high noon with the torpedoing of the union discussions with the Presbyterians in 1946. In England it was bound up with all sorts of sorts of exotic things: Young England, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Neo-Jacobitism, Anglo-Catholic Socialism, and the “Merry England” Ideology. For the more esoterically-minded, there were C.G. Harrison’s work, Charles Williams’ Order of the Co-Inherence, and Dom Robert Petitpierre’s work with exorcisms. In, with, and under conventional Anglicanism a whole Anglo-Catholic parallel universe had been carved out; if some of its denizens seemed a trifle bizarre, there could be no arguing with the solid doctrinal foundations of the Advent Papers and the American Congress Booklets, the fervour of apologists like C.S. Lewis and such philosophers as George Grant, or solid architectural masterpieces like Nashdom Abbey (to which went the myrrh offered by the Queen at Epiphany to be mixed with the incense the monks prepared) and the renewed shrine at Walsingham.

To-day, of course, unless one is a part of the Affirming Catholicism crowd, it all seems in retrospect no more solid than a soap-bubble. The implosions of Nashdom Abbey and the formerly world-wide reach of the Cowley and Mirfield Fathers pale in comparison not only to the failure to Catholicise Anglicanism as a whole, but for the latter to retain adherence to any sort of “mere Christianity” at all – at least on the part of its leadership in the British Isles, North America, and Australasia.

Although there was always a certain amount of flummery in Anglo-Catholicism, there was an awful lot of real good in it – indeed, that very “Anglican patrimony” of which Pope Benedict XVI speaks. I believe that Anglo-Catholicism has not failed, for all that its concrete expressions and its influence have withered. Rather, it seems to me that a process is moving, in a way well expressed by C.S. Lewis’ Dr. Dimble in That Hideous Strength: “…if you dip into any college, or school, or parish – anything you like – at a given point in its history, you always find there was a time before that point when there was more elbow-room and contrasts weren’t so sharp; and there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad getting worse: the possibilities of neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.”

In the novel, of course, this referred to there being ever less room for “neutral” magic in the world. For our purposes, however, it is a fine description of what has been happening to Anglo-Catholicism over the past six decades. Again, unless one cares to “Affirm Catholicism,” then bit by bit there has been ever less room within the official structures for the Anglo-Catholic. By the same token, resistance groups within the Canterbury Communion and the Continuum become ever more Evangelical; the ecclesiology of the alphabet soup bodies in the latter becomes progressively more incomprehensible and Episcopi Vagantes-like. In the midst of this dilemma has burst Anglicanorum coetibus.

The birth of the Ordinariates here and in Great Britain has been accompanied with a great deal of pain; Australia’s is just aborning, and South Africa and elsewhere are further off. The attempt to mesh quasi-congregationalist Anglo-Catholics with Roman local hierarchy is often fraught with misunderstandings and missed communications. It seems to have everything, humanly speaking, against it. Yet, in the long-term, the Ordinariates appear to be the only available formula for Anglo-Catholicism to survive – and more than that, to thrive, to return to its once and proper place in evangelisation.

Moreover, on the Roman side, this development comes at a critical time. Sixty years ago, when Anglo-Catholicism was at its most confident – and many Anglo-Catholics were as convinced that they did not need Rome any more than they did their local Broad – or Low-Church Bishop – so too was the Catholic Church. But that same period has been a humiliating one for us as well. It is not merely the growth and flowering of the pedophile scandals, awful as they have been. Far greater has been the near universal “Hermeneutic of Rupture,” denounced by Benedict XVI in his message to the Curia of December 2005. In his letter to the bishops accompanying the 2007 motu proprioSummorum Pontificum which “liberated” the Tridentine Mass, the Pope declared that “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.” But as a practical matter it has been – not only in liturgy, but in catechetics and popular devotions – in the greater part of the Latin Rite. To fight this, he has, among other things, strengthened the motu proprio with a hard-hitting clarification; but documents are not sufficient. This is why he has worked so hard to make a settlement with the Society of S. Pius X – a pre-existing and world-wide network of traditional Catholic communities – and why he sees the Anglican patrimony as so important for English-speaking lands. The current situation against which he and like-minded clergy and laity are struggling is a terrible scandal, to be sure: as I have said, a terrible humiliation. But without humiliation there is no humility, and without humility, no holiness. Six decades ago, both sides would have been too proud to come together.

It may well be that the same can be said for the Polish National and European Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht – the latter proud to reject the supposed “innovations” of Vatican I, only to fall prey to so many liturgical and doctrinal alterations as to become unrecognizable to their 19th century forebears. The PNCC and the small Scandinavian Lutheran and German Old Catholic groups who have joined with her in the Union of Scranton may one day be more amenable to union with Rome in the light of that humiliation – and Rome may thusly be better able to deal with and for them.

So too with the East. To be sure, Communism and the horrors in the Near East (which latter have sent so many Christians – Catholics and Orthodox alike – fleeing west) were and are horrible things. But Constantinople, Moscow, and the rest have begun to see that Rome is their only real ally in the struggle against secularism, and certainly the Holy See is very much aware of this. The humiliations all have suffered may well be a catalyst to becoming aware that it is no longer possible to be separate and yet triumph over the enemies of Christ. We have lost the luxury of indifference that has characterised so much of our joint history. It may be, despite the hurdles that remain, that Benedict’s vision of restoring the kind of unity between East and West that prevailed during the First Millennium may come to pass in a shorter time then could have been imagined 60 years ago.

Those outside the visible communion of Rome who nevertheless love the Sacraments and wish to struggle for the Kingship of Christ are, through the course of events, being forced ever closer to her; those within that visible bond who do not are similarly being leached out. The Anglo-Catholics who enter the Ordinariates will be able to be truly the same sort of Anglicans as were Alfred the Great, S. Bede the Venerable, Julian of Norwich, and indeed, Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, and the English recusants. By the same token, however, the heritage of Charles I and Bishop Ken, Cram and Eliot, Sayers and Lewis and all the rest will be made available to the entire Latin Rite, and indeed the Church as a whole. In this way, the ability of Catholics to re-evangelise the English-speaking world will be immeasurably strengthened. Indeed, all history is coming to a point.



Archbishop John Hepworth: ‘A Bruised Reed Shall He Not Break’

Posted today over on the blog New Goliards – a blog for ‘shipwrecked’ priests:

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he sends forth justice unto victory.

I found these two comments in David Virtue’s most recent posting about Archbishop Hepworth. Whatever his position might be now he is no longer the Primate of the TAC and perhaps may no longer be the legitimate TAC Bishop in Australia, I cannot condone the treatment he is now undergoing…

Then a piece on the St Mary of the Angels (ACA) situation by Fr Robert H Greene (APCK)

My heart goes out to Archbishop Hepworth in his candid admission of his molestation at the hands of an RCC priest. I was raised Roman Catholic and I too was propositioned by an RCC priest. Archbishop Hepworth needs healing the depths of which the average reader here cannot well comprehend…

* * *

Followed by:

Father Greene’s comment that +John Hepworth ‘needs healing…’ is one worthy of note to those who in this “coup” have really treated +John in an very un-christian manner.In my own dealings with + John, I have found him to be a very caring and pastoral priest, faithful to his calling as a priest and bishop in God’s Church and brutally honest in his dealings with me as one of his former ordinands. Admittedly my time within the TAC was not of a long duration, but I believe it should be pointed out that his commitment in working towards healing the divisions within the wider Church has been that of one who worked tirelessly towards this end. Richard Burton’s comment is also worth noting. How much longer is +Hepworth going to be hounded by those who wish to see him totally broken?

Perhaps his critics should heed the words of St Paul:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity…”Col.3:12-14. (NIV)

Again in his letter to the Philippians, Paul urges that “Each of you should not look only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.” Phil.2:4-5 (NIV)

How much longer can we as Christians afford to ignore God’s call to be One? As the season of Pentecost approaches let us all pray and earnestly work towards that visible unity within His Church that our Blessed Lord Jesus lived and died for. Perhaps we should also remind ourselves that “The Church’s One foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord…”

I don’t know who the author of this blog is as yet.

Hat Tip goes to Fr Anthony Chadwick. It is perhaps worth noting at this point, that the only two blogs listed on New Goliards are:


Both belong to Fr Anthony.


Bible Archaeology

$100 Million for Biblical Tourism in Jerusalem

Bible Places Blog has some good news:

On the 45th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the Prime Minister’s cabinet approved spending nearly $100 million to develop sites in the city. The Jerusalem Post has limited details:

Tourism in Jerusalem dominated the agenda at the meeting, where the cabinet approved NIS 350 million over the next seven years to develop sites and infrastructure in the capital, with a focus on biblical tourism. Israel hosted 2.8 million foreign visitors in 2011.

Eighty percent of them visited Jerusalem and 30% stayed at least one night in the city.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, every million tourists add NIS 5.5 billion to the economy and create 30,500 jobs.

Approximately NIS 20m. of the tourism funding will be directed toward the Mount of Olives Cemetery.

The plan is to renovate 15,000 graves and install 150 security cameras to stop desecration and stoning attacks.

Part of the money will also go to improve the “green lung” of Jerusalem’s parks and open spaces.

The money will be used to develop the Slopes of Mount Scopus national park, next to the Arab neighborhood of Isawiya, which residents oppose because it will stop their neighborhood from expanding.

Netanyahu tasked the Jerusalem Development Authority with overseeing the development of biblical tourism sites. “[The money] will enable us to build biblical sites in the city that will enhance and explain our link to the land of the Bible, to Zion, and also allow millions of people, no less, millions of people to have a direct appreciation of Israel’s heritage as it finds expression in the Bible,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

The full story is here.

Cemetery on Mount of Olives (source)


Diocese of Pretoria South Africa Sells Anglican Church

Anglican Mainstream:


According to an email circular, St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Brits, has suddenly and without any warning, been sold right from under the noses of the priest and the congregation for an amount of R850 000. ( £65,000).

The history of St Matthew’s Anglican Church dates back to 1933. An exchange was made with the church and the owners of the Overberg Hotel, which later became the Medi Clinic, for them to build a church on the property that was occupied, and for the hotel to have the remaining church property.

A meeting, held by the Acting Archdeacon of the Madibeng Archdeaconry at St Matthew’s, informed the Church Wardens of the selling of the property and hastily announced the date of the final service, followed by the formal handing over of the property just a mere two days afterwards. In the words of a concerned parishioner, the Diocese of Pretoria has “left the congregation of St Matthew’s shocked, dazed and in complete disbelief. The members of St Matthew’s have been dealt a devastating blow; it was found that all furniture was removed including service books, Bibles, hymn books and priest vestments.”

Apparently the St Matthew’s members have reason to believe that the selling of the property may have something to do with the cash flow of the Diocese of Pretoria, as other congregations have also had similar problems. In a letter submitted to JOY! Magazine, a parishioner expressed the following: “the congregation is shocked at the action of the Diocese of Pretoria, and saddened by all that has occurred. It seems that the Diocese of Pretoria truly is determined to prevent the expansion of the Kingdom of God, but this will not stop our congregation from getting back on its feet by the grace and mercy of God!” JOY! prays that the situation will be resolved quickly.

Read the full letter here. Shocking!

In any event, the news follows quickly on Saturday’s report of the Anglican Cathedral Parish in Pretoria closing after death threats allegedly made by the Bishop! See that here.



Australia: Anglican and Catholic Churches Sign Historic Covenant

Western Advocate:

Bathurst will become the sixth diocese in Australia to formalise the relationship between its Anglican and Catholic churches when Bishops Richard Hurford and Bishop Michael McKenna sign a covenant of friendship next week.

Representatives will travel from across the state on Thursday to witness the historic event, which will consolidate the connection between the two Christian denominations.

Catholic Bishop McKenna said the covenant was a celebration of a “long-standing friendship and cooperation”.

“It is a chance to let everyone know the Anglicans and the Catholics are good friends, with a common belief in Jesus Christ,” Bishop McKenna said.

“We’re making public a reality that is already there and encouraging people to celebrate all that we have in common, rather than our differences.”

The signing of the covenant will feature in a three-stage liturgy, which will begin at the Catholic Cathedral of St Michael and St John at noon.

The congregation will then walk through Machattie Park to All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral for the signing and the exchange of two icons, which will hang in each cathedral as a “permanent and visual reminder” of the bond between the two.

Anglican Bishop Hurford emphasised the importance of modelling and encouraging a positive relationship between denominations.

“For the community of the Central West of this state, we would like our cathedrals, churches, bishops, clergies and lay people to be encouraged to walk together,” Bishop Hurford said. “The Catholic and Anglican denominations are within one faith – Christianity.

“My own family has an interfaith dimension and I really value that we have Roman Catholic members of our family.

“It think it is important for the rising generation to observe there is one Christian faith and various traditions. The late Pope John Paul II reminded us that as Christians we share a common baptism.

“I hope confidence can be drawn from the leadership of both churches to allow us to walk together more intentionally.”

The signing of the covenant has been scheduled to take place before Bishop Hurford’s retirement at the end of this year.

Bishop McKenna said the timing of the signing was, in part, a tribute to the work of his colleague.

“It will recognise all Richard has done for relations between our two communities,” he said. “And, to use an old quote: if not us, who; if not now, when.”

Oh, and lest they forget, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross is soon coming. Yes. Now that’s truly historic.