Bishop Brian Marsh on Portsmouth Petition, the Apostolic Constitution and the Ordinariates

I find myself linking to Fr Anthony Chadwick for the third time today (previous posts here and here). In this post, he questions Bishop Brian Marsh of the Anglican Church in America (TAC) as follows re. the Portsmouth Petition:

It would be very useful for me to be able to publish a testimony in retrospect about what the TAC bishops understood when they (I think you were not among them at the time) when they went up and signed the books and the letter.

The good Bishop replied and emphasised that he is giving his personal reflection, and others may take issue with him.

Well, this is his response, which I simply repost here without comment.

Thank you for your good email; I am pleased that you are attempting to discuss the issues of the Portsmouth Petition, the Apostolic Constitution and the Ordinariates in a reasoned manner. A full understanding of this aspect of the church’s history will need the gift of time. Until then, however, we can – and should – offer our provisional understandings of the events that have unfolded since the Portsmouth Petition of 2007, just over five years ago. I would emphasize that this is a personal reflection and represents my own views on the matter. Many of these thoughts have been published elsewhere.

Portsmouth Petition. Although I was not present at the signing of the Portsmouth Petition, Bishops Langberg and Williams signed for the ACA. The text of the petition was not publicized until months later. I did not know of the contents of that petition until it was delivered orally by Archbishop Falk at a meeting of several ACA bishops in 2008. That meeting was held in Fort Worth. Also present were bishops Iker and Wantland of The Episcopal Church. Upon hearing the text, it was my impression that the petition sought “organic unity” with the Roman Catholic Church on a corporate basis. Indeed, that is what I and others had been led to believe was in fact on the table. Archbishop Hepworth had encouraged the belief that the Traditional Anglican Communion would remain intact and that the various national churches would maintain their corporate identities.

The Portsmouth Petition was just that – a petition. To suggest that it was a contract of any kind would be to misrepresent the intent of the document. The Portsmouth Petition was a request on the part of some members of the College of Bishops, a request for a means whereby the TAC might enter into unity with the RC Church.

The fact that members of the TAC College of Bishops signed the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church has caused many to believe that the bishops present were ready to enter the Church of Rome. This is not the case. The signing of the Roman Catholic Catechism as the most complete statement of the catholic faith was simply a statement of fact. The subsequent statement that the bishops aspired to teach that catechism in no way implied their full acceptance of the catechism nor their intent or desire to become members of the Roman Catholic Church. While there were undoubtedly some bishops present who wished to do just that, the simple signing of the catechism does not imply their wish to become Roman Catholics.

Apostolic Constitution. The issuance of Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009 was greeted initially with great rejoicing on the part of many within the TAC. It seemed that our dream of organic unity would be realized. Indeed, Archbishop Hepworth declared that it was a direct response to the Portsmouth Petition and that the TAC should move immediately to accept it. He lobbied extensively for the acceptance of the Apostolic Constitution.

While there are many threads in this part of the story, it became clear to several of us that the Apostolic Constitution did not offer the kind of organic union we had hoped for. Indeed, the Apostolic Constitution offered individual conversion. The corporate integrity of the TAC would not be a consideration. This was not what the Portsmouth petition had requested in its perhaps naive request for corporate unity.

The College of Bishops of the TAC needed to discuss and debate the matter of the Apostolic Constitution. As the highest legislative body of the TAC, such discussion and debate would be required before the AC could be acted upon. Archbishop Hepworth did not immediately call such a meeting. When he did plan a meeting for 2011, he abruptly cancelled it. Finally, in February, 2012, a majority of members of the College of Bishops met in Johannesburg South Africa. By unanimous vote, the TAC College of Bishops rejected the Apostolic Constitution. A petition had been sent to Rome. Rome responded. The response was not accepted.

Ordinariates. Ordinariates were established in the UK in 2011. On January 1, 2012, an Ordinariate was established in the United States. A few hundred “former Anglicans” have entered the Ordinariate established here, along with some former Episcopalians.

The Anglican Church in America has continued as an orthodox Anglican body. It has developed strong relationships with other continuing church jurisdictions and has entered into an agreement of reconciliation with the Anglican Province of America.

Although individuals are welcome to seek membership in the Ordinariates, until now few have chosen to do so. We certainly wish those who have entered Ordinariates godspeed! We pray that they will be happy with the choices they have made. We believe God has called us to labor in another part of the vineyard and we will attempt to do so as best we can.

Again, please know that this is a personal reflection. Others may well take issue with what I have written.

+Brian Marsh

Bible Archaeology

Judean Temple Discovered Near Jerusalem

The Bible Places Blog has the news:

A Judean temple from the 10th-9th centuries BC has been discovered four miles northwest of ancient Jerusalem. The structure has massive walls, faces east, and contained a cache of sacred vessels. The site of Tel Motza may be the town of Mozah mentioned in the city list of Joshua 18:26 and some believe the Emmaus mentioned in Luke 24 was located nearby.


Location of Moza in relation to Jerusalem.      Map from Google Earth.

Archaeologists have dated the building to the Iron Age IIA, a period dated by most scholars to 980–830 BC, contemporary with the reigns of Solomon, Rehoboam, Asa, and Jehoshaphat. Each of these kings was faulted for not “destroying the high places” (1 Kgs 11:7; 14:23; 15:14; 22:43). Few such illicit worship sites are known from the land of Israel; the best preserved ones were excavated at Dan and Arad.

According to Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea at the time of the First Temple. The uniqueness of the structure is even more remarkable because of the vicinity of the site’s proximity to the capital city of Jerusalem, which acted as the Kingdom’s main sacred center at the time.”

The site was excavated as part of road construction works on Highway 1, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road.

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority is here and six high-resolution photos are available from this link. The story is reported by the Jerusalem Post, Arutz-7, and other sites.


Aerial view of excavation site. Photograph: Skyview, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Figurines of bearded men. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Figurine of horse. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


The TAC Presence on the Internet

Fr Anthony Chadwick has been working hard on the .net today! Earlier he made mention of his plans to undertaken a general survey of the Traditional Anglican Communion, globally. If you can help in this regard, do contact him (anthony.chadwick AT

Now, he has just posted, The Regrouped TAC and its presence on the Internet:

I am approaching a tender subject, and some of the communications I am receiving suggest that I need to handle this with kid gloves. Some have paid a high price for following Archbishop Hepworth’s ordinariate scheme…

It seems best not to go over the past, but rather to take stock and look at what can be of value in the future. One thing impeding progress for some of us is the lack of computer literacy, basic technology or awareness of the use of the Internet to communicate beyond one’s own diocesan and parochial boundaries. The admissibility of using the Internet to get the TAC’s message out seems to be acquired. The most computer-savvy are the Americans, and the Canadians give monthly news of what is going on there. The English are presently working on The Traditional Anglican Church, though there still are a few frustrating things to clear up. I have the impression that the site is a standard model designed for business and commercial applications, and the person running the site is learning how to use it.

Very few of us are blogging. It’s really just Fr Smuts and myself. There used to be Christian Campbell of The Anglo-Catholic, but he went off at a tangent and has put the blog into hiatus. Deborah Gyapong posts in support of the Ordinariate movement, which is understandable. The South African website seems to be another standard business template job run by a kind soul with love in his heart but little experience with Internet work. I don’t know that much about html design, so I find the blog format most convenient, and have used the ultra-simple format of Civitas Dei for years. Old-fashioned websites take a lot of will and dedication to keep them up to date and relevant. My site usually gets about one major overhaul a year. This blog updates itself, and its template formula is user-friendly and adaptable for church work as business templates are not. For someone who has not been trained in web design, I don’t think I do too badly. The other thing is enjoying writing.

It’s going to be difficult to evaluate numbers in the TAC….

For the moment, there seems to be no way of getting accurate figures, though I’m open to new information. Perhaps a little less than half the number of clergy and laity in the USA, Canada, England and Australia have remained in the TAC, the others having gone to the Ordinariates or disappeared off the map. South Africa, Torres Strait and India would not have changed substantially in terms of numbers between the pre-ordinariate era and now. For anything like a reliable estimate of numbers, I will have to find informed persons I can trust, and that won’t be easy, especially in the local Churches where the Internet is not used.

Personally, I would like to see Bishop Michael Gill emerge as Primate, as his location in South Africa puts him midway between the western and English-speaking world and the mission territories of Africa, Latin America and India. Above all, we need modern communication and reactivity of the kind one finds in modern business. Another very positive omen is the desire of the Americans to grow into unity with the other Continuers. I have heard nothing but the highest praise for Bishop Paul Hewitt of the Diocese of the Holy Cross. If all those serious churches can be brought together without being dogged by unwise moves or excessive numbers of episcopal consecrations, then Continuing Anglicanism has a future.

It is of paramount importance to let go of the ghosts of the past, try to stay together and perhaps recover some of the “crumbs” that didn’t go to the Ordinariate. My information tells me that the TAC is not in ruins. Far from it! But, damage has been done, and the lack of modern communication is partly to blame.

The most useful sites presently available are (in all modesty), this blog and Fr Smuts. Among the official TAC sites, the most updated are that of the ACA and the American diocesan pages. As mentioned, the Canadians are giving regular and relevant news. Efforts are being made by the Brits, and Fr Gray’s new Advent Pastoral Letter is most uplifting and appreciated. The centralised site, The Traditional Anglican Communion is not bad, giving fairly regular news bulletins and official documents. But, we do need more blogging and interaction, more interpretation and more encouragement to foster a positive and optimistic vision of the future.

You readers can help Fr Smuts and I, and anyone else who decides to launch out into the exciting world of the blogosphere.

I hear what Fr Chadwick is saying, and his efforts appear to be both noble and admirable. Again, if you can contribute positively, then please do.

It all reminds me of a something Deacon Chris F once said in a comment on this blog:

Dear Fr Stephen…

There have been attempts by the remnants of the (non-Hepworth) TAC hierarchy to get in touch with clergy in the Eastern states, but for those of us in WA, we remain scattered and shepherdless.

I think it largely comes down to communication. Information within the TAC was very strictly policed under the previous regime – when I tried to make my fellow worshippers aware of positive or alternative sources of information about continuing Anglicanism outside our little circle, I was described as “negative” and “disruptive”. The vast majority of TACers here were not tech-savvy or users of the Internet – they relied on their clergy – all very pro-Ordinariate. I found my own affirmation through blogs such as this one – while I might not agree with everything they said, at least I got some balance…

The Internet is there. Yes, we should make good use of it (together with other forms of social media). In a digital age, it is all about information. People crave information and it must be at their fingertips (i.e. speed).  This is unavoidable and in order to be in any way relevant, we must keep abreast of technological developments.

The other thing that I have come to appreciate, being a blogging priest (or rather, a priest who blogs), is that the Internet is able to hold people accountable. You don’t get to do things in the dark and simply think that you’re going to snowball  (or ‘police’) people with clandestine motives/activities. Again, it’s the age of information. People are becoming tech savvy. People are searching. People watching. So propaganda, which otherwise could readily be spread, can now in fact be countered. Even within the Church. While a taxing, time-consuming and often unappreciated work, the results are always worthwhile – especially when people are helped and the work done, is done in the name of the Lord, for the furtherment of His Kingdom.


A Survey of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC)

A survey of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) is to be undertaken by a seemingly (and hopefully) reinvigorated Fr Anthony Chadwick. Here’s the gist:

… The history of the TAC over the past five years is of Byzantine complexity, but whatever went wrong with the aftermath of the bishops’ meeting in Portsmouth in October 2007, one thing that lacked was solidarity in the body of the clergy. I had many conversations with Archbishop Hepworth about what would happen to the irregulars in view of the complementary norms of November 2009 that clearly stated the categories of me would not be considered for the priesthood in the Ordinariates. I think he believed what he said to me – he was expecting special rules from Rome to cover the irregulars. There were none, not even for himself. By the time the Archbishop thought of setting up a Fraternity of Saint Benedict to create a pastoral provision for irregulars for the years it would take to make canonical appeals to the Roman canonical law courts, it was too late.

All that is left of the TAC, poo-pooed by the new converts, is what was regrouped in March 2012 under Archbishop Prakash and the organisational skills and energy of Bishop Michael Gill of South Africa, together with input from the American bishops and Bishop Botterill. What is more or less affiliated to this regrouping is difficult to fathom, in particular the TAC in Australia, Torres Strait and many local Churches in Africa and South / Central America.

There are ongoing attempts to define the regrouped TAC. Some are far from being impartial or laced with bitter reflections…

I am not going to go on with the blood feud or seek guilty persons to settle scores with. There may be some despicable clergy in the TAC, as there are in all churches and ecclesial communities. We either reject the faith or ecclesial life, stick our heads in the sand, or come to terms with the human reality. Alongside the sin, there is also ecclesial communion in Christ and a sense of solidarity, loyalty and obedience to those we believe are more likely to be right than ourselves.

So, what do I propose? I am going to try to make a survey of the TAC and find out what we have and how many we are – bishops, dioceses, parishes, priests, laity, religious communities. In places, there may be pitifully few as our critics underline in their writings. Where two or three are gathered together in my name… In other places, there may be entirely intact communities judging by pre-Portsmouth 2007 standards like in South Africa, and – as far as I can tell – in Torres Strait. One thing is sure, we are not 400,000! We may well not be a hundredth of that number.

Some information is available on the various official sites of TAC local Churches. There are the names of the bishops and local parishes, and in many cases the names of the priests and parish websites. I plan to write an article about each local Church of the TAC once I can find reliable information. It’s likely to be a tough job, and the recent events have driven heads into the sand and made the weak of heart retreat into silence and fear.

I intend writing articles on the present state of the local member Churches of the TAC in the United Kingdom, Australia, Torres Strait, Canada, the USA, the African continent, the Central and Southern American continent and India. I expect there will be a small and scattered diaspora in other countries, like myself in France. I will look for official communications, information bishops and vicars general are prepared to share with me for publication and other information from private persons if I am convinced of its reliability. I intend to perform this task in the spirit of casting the TAC in the most favourable light possible. I believe this would be of service to the TAC and would help complete and close the painful separation process between it and the Ordinariates.

I would appreciate all the help I can get for the preparation of each of these articles. You can write by way of comments or privately by e-mail (anthony.chadwick AT Thank you in advance, and wishing you a happy Christmas Octave, celebration of the New Year and a holy Epiphany.

So, if you can help, do drop Fr Chadwick an e-mail or pop over to his blog here.



St Stephen

Today is the Feast of my namesake Saint, Saint Stephen.

Found in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapters Six and Seven, these particular verses, at the end of his speech, really stand out:

… “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

– Acts 7:51-60

The Bible says that St Stephen was a man filled with power and grace. He is a great example for us on the need to be courageous in the witnesses of our Christian faith, even if it means that our witness may end in ridiculed, persecution or, yes, even death.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.