Thursday, 1 November 2012

Slow Moving Traffic in London

As Ordinariate members who used to be part of the Anglican Diocese of London we were, of course, intrigued by the news that Richard Chartres has at long last persuaded somebody to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Monsignor Broadhurst.  We sometimes wonder about what might have been, and indeed about what could still be, for Anglo-Catholics who live in that great and historic territory.  In spite of this topic being so close to home for our group, it is not something we have yet explored in any detail here.  As so far only an occasional contributor to this blog, I thought it might be appropriate for a new(ish) voice to offer some thoughts on this, and thereby to remedy this oversight.

In an earlier post on the subject of Anglican Patrimony, we highlighted the danger to blood pressure levels that goes with reading comments on news articles, and more particularly on blogposts. Once you go even further and start to read internet forum discussions, then you really are starting to take risks with your health.

Mercifully, comments on this blog (if they make it past censorship) are often complimentary, and are invariably constructive either of themselves, or through allowing an important point to be made in response.

Notwithstanding this health warning, recent perusal of a few internet forums that touched on Ordinariate matters revealed a comment that is worth exploring. The comment asked about the Ordinariate in London, specifically in the area where the Ordinariate's territory overlaps with that of the Archdiocese of Westminster. This area is next to territory covered by the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Diocese of Brentwood, where some of the largest Ordinariate groups in the land can be found: yet where the Ordinariate overlaps with the territory of the Anglican Diocese of London, we are not (yet) present in large numbers.

The comment suggested that, because of this, we should all simply forget about the Ordinariate in this area, and that any Anglican who wants to join the Catholic Church should do so solely through the RCIA process in his or her nearest parish. That option is of course available to any who wish to follow it, and always has been, but we have discussed at very great length (here and here, for example) how that recommendation betrays unfamiliarity with, and severely underestimates the tremendous wisdom of, the Holy Father's personal project. That is not a criticism: more than anything else, the comment reflects the ongoing need for the Ordinariate to continue explaining its origins, its purpose and its status in the Church. We referred to this phenomenon here and here, and we understand that an "awareness" programme (to use trendy language) is being planned.

Still, the observation that generated the comment merits further consideration. Why is it that the Anglican Diocese of London, particularly the Two Cities Area (ie the City of London and the City of Westminster), has, so far, seen fewer moves to the Ordinariate than other regions? First we need some historical perspective, then we might speculate as to some of the other causes of this phenomenon (noting, of course, that no one parish and no one individual will have the full combination of the causes suggested).

In "the old days", London was seen as one of the bastion dioceses of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England. Alongside other Anglican dioceses like Chichester and Blackburn, it was once at the heart of that movement. Names such as Charles Lowder and Alexander Mackonochie still stand out in Anglo-Catholic history. We have talked before on this blog about the Ritualist Riots at St Barnabas Pimlico, and how the Anglo-Catholics of that time maintained their faith in face of the strongest opposition. Why then, should London, and Central London in particular, not yet have shown itself to be keener on the Ordinariate?

There are many factors that have come together to give rise to this situation, and of course each (and others) might be present in any combination in the minds of those who might have been thought likely to join the Ordinariate, but who have not (yet) done so.

First of all, yes, London was indeed one of the bastions of Anglo-Catholicism, but it has never been a wholly Anglo-Catholic diocese, nor anything like it. There has always been a mix of middle-of-the-road and evangelical parishes, and in more recent times there was seemingly a pattern of appointing diocesans from alternating "churchmanships" (this was a practice that ended when Monsignor Graham Leonard was replaced by Dr David Hope, both Anglo-Catholics upon appointment). Yet, this is in no way special: for the last 150 years, most Anglican dioceses have contained an extremely diverse base of "churchmanship".

One can conjecture that having historically been one of the bastion dioceses London has seen proportionally more than its fair share of departures across the Tiber. Before and after the major exodus around 1993, when hundreds of clergy and thousands of laity left the Church of England for the Catholic Church, there has been a constant and steady trickle of people coming into full communion, still continuing today. The turmoil around 1993, which centred around whether the Church of England, by a system of democratic votes among both its clergy and its laity, had the authority to decide on a major change (whatever that change's merits might or might not be) to Holy Order, saw London very well represented in the transfers.

This was all happening at the zenith of London having Anglo-Catholicism as almost its very own established religion, and as such the fall out was bound to be considerable.

Monsignor Graham Leonard, the then recently retired diocesan bishop, joined the Catholic Church, the most senior Anglican cleric ever to do so, and soon became a very high profile example of ordination sub conditione. One of the London suffragan bishops (in Anglican parlance, this means an assistant bishop to the diocesan) also became a Catholic priest: now Monsignor John Klyberg, he had been a very vocal and visible presence in the Anglo-Catholic world. The present Rector of St James's Spanish Place, where our Ordinariate group attends Mass, was at that time the Vicar of the Anglican Parish of St Stephen's Gloucester Road: over the years since he left, somewhere between 70-100 people have followed him to Rome. If we think of our own former Anglican home, St Mary's Bourne St, some 30-40 left for Rome in the early to mid 90s (the tales of the empty rows at the front of the epistle side of church are still fresh), with a small trickle that has never completely dried up continuing thereafter.

Given that attendances in Anglican parishes in Central London are typically around the 80-120 level, these are significant numbers. Just as we have seen with the Ordinariate, the people who leave are often among some of the most committed, not merely those with the most knowledge of the Faith, but also those who give the most of their time (and sometimes of their money) to the running of the parish. How could the impact of these departures have been anything other than significant on the forceful drive for Catholic Unity that was once the proud boast of many an Anglo-Catholic parish?

How was this dealt with? In many parishes, the solution adopted was (and still is) quite simply not to talk about it. A number of people had gone, that was sad but there it was: life went on. One can understand, up to a point. By not talking about what had happened, by putting away considerations of why it had happened, a false sense of calm and tranquility could prevail. The divided opinions were there, but opportunities for them ever to come to a clash were carefully avoided. This despite the fact that a PCC of such a parish might contain any combination of (1) those worried by Anglican developments and on the impacts on Unity; (2) those in agreement with developments in principle, but not with the way they were being introduced; (3) those vehemently in favour of the developments; (4) a fierce anti-Roman or two; and (5) a healthy sprinkling of people who had no knowledge of or interest in what was going on in the Church of England more widely.

The last group often has much in common with a significant proportion of many a congregation, who quite simply like what they see before them every Sunday morning, and are not in the least bit worried if somewhere else, someone they have never heard of is causing difficulties for other people they have never heard of on a subject for which they care little.  One can understand: church politics are rarely appealing.

The Fawlty Towers style solution "Don't mention Catholic Unity, I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it" was and still is the best way of keeping calm and carrying on, even if it also recalls the childlike response to any overbearing problem "Don't think about it and it will go away."

To be fair to those involved, even at the best of times, the situation would have been extremely difficult to manage. Through years where many leaders of one's constituency had gone, and where holding together existing congregations was tough, leading a parish, politically, theologically and ecclesiologically was a task that few would choose to tackle head on. The conspiracy of silence that resulted did indeed hold many congregations together, papering over cracks whenever necessary, but it also had a rather deleterious side effect, from all perspectives.

In the 1990s, there was a certain amount of flow between many of the Anglo-Catholic parishes in London. Some would move to somewhere more in favour of what was going, others would move to somewhere less in favour, but there was little net change in numbers overall. However, a trend emerged for those from a more mainstream Anglican tradition to start attending what had been Anglo-Catholic strongholds (perhaps because of the music, the language - both real and faux Cranmerian - the architecture, or even the aesthetic appeal of a respectfully executed liturgy with vestments), at first this seemed like a wonderful opportunity for bringing new people into the Anglo-Catholic fold, but in an atmosphere where robustly pro-Catholic teaching had to be handled delicately, the result was in fact of dilution of previously resolutely Anglo-Catholic practice. If you want proof of this, just take a look at how many entering an Anglo-Catholic church now lustrate themselves upon entering the building, ask the Vicar about numbers for confession, consider how many of the congregation at a service marking the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption are from the regular Sunday congregation, and if they are, how well they understand the feast of the day.

None of what is described above is necessarily a bad thing, none of the paragraph above is a criticism. Nurturing faith is a good thing. Blessed John Henry Newman himself, hardly an apologist for Anglicanism, made reference to God's grace existing in the Church of England "through the overflowings of His dispensation". Catering for all, not just for its dedicated constituency or even just for its churchgoers, has historically been a huge strength of the Church of England, and it is an element of Anglican Patrimony of which everyone should be extremely proud.

One could say that if you visit many a Catholic parish, the parish priest might comment on some of the same things. However, for the Anglo-Catholic movement, the inessentials of the Faith, such as lustration and making the sign of the cross have been vitally important. “Vitally” in both senses, both in terms of the "inessentials" being, in fact, essential parts of the movement, and in terms of their being a sign of life in the movement. Members of the Catholic Church never had to prove that they were Catholic, whereas Anglo-Catholicism sought to prove that its members were, sometimes by being "more catholic than the Pope" in adherence even to these small signs and gestures.

This shift in balance bears witness to a certain degree of de-catholicisation of the once entrenched catholic practices of Anglo-Catholicism. When there are so many in a congregation who like the way the "worship" looks, sounds or feels, but would never dream of genuflecting or of asking for the intercession of Our Lady themselves, why should one expect there to be a rush to join a body designed to welcome Anglicans into the universal fold of the Catholic Church?

David Hope, Monsignor Leonard's successor as Anglican Bishop of London, maintained the diocese on a steady course, and held it together as it was. Nothing new of a dramatic nature happened, to the diocese at least, during his tenor.

Then we come to Richard Chartres, whose complex relationship with Anglo-Catholicism was described in our most popular post so far, More Than Words.  Going beyond what was said in that post, there are perhaps two points to highlight.

First, the recent history of the Anglican Bishopric of Fulham. The person who held that post until December 2010 was the Ordinariate's Monsignor John Broadhurst and his predecessor was Monsignor John Klyberg. Before Monsignor Klyberg, there was Brian Masters, who after three years at Fulham was translated to take on what had arguably become the London area bishopric most associated with Anglo-Catholicism, Edmonton. Brian Masters died a little over a decade later in 1998, at the young age of 65, and had a funeral service in St Paul's Cathedral that by all accounts did not leave a dry eye in the house, perhaps because of the ecclesiology disappearing from sight as much as for the loss of great man. Having run the Edmonton area in as Anglo-Catholic a way he could, he was replaced by Peter Wheatley, who, like his boss Dr Chartres, is rather less pro-Roman. Now Dr Baker is to pack up his cappa magna and forsake Pusey House for Fulham, presumably never having discovered the whereabouts of Ebbsfleet, so brief was his tenure there.  One should, perhaps, not be surprised that he has elected to leave the home of lost causes in order to join another, for the ever-diminishing band of Anglo-Catholic clergy are thought better together.

The Church of England heading in a new direction?
Second, the wider history of Provincial Episcopal Visitors, the “PEVs”, and their involvement with London.  Outside London, alternative episcopal oversight was provided by PEVs, the famous "flying bishops", which roles our own Monsignor Newton, Monsignor Burnham and indeed Monsignor Barnes have each held. In London (and in the neighbouring Anglican dioceses of Rochester and Southwark), this role was carried out by the Anglican Bishop of Fulham, except in the Two Cities Area of the diocese. In the Two Cities Area, alternative oversight to the diocesan bishop is provided by another Anglican bishop called......Dr Richard Chartres. Will those central-London Anglo-Catholic parishes presently under the direct rule of Dr Chartres now seek the alternative oversight of Dr Baker?  We will watch with interest.

As mentioned in our post More than Words, whether acting in his capacity as diocesan or in his capacity as provider of alternative episcopal oversight, Dr Chartres let Anglo-Catholic parishes get on with things, allowing the temptation for individual parishes to think that all was well in their world to continue, allowing them to think that all was safe in their comfortable bubble, that the publicity surrounding troubles in the Church of England at large was nothing to do with them.  After all, did not their diocesan bishop still come along, vest properly (more or less) and do pretty much everything that was asked of him liturgically?  Outwardly, all was well.

Beyond this reasoning, why so little movement?

There are those who very properly feel that they should not disrupt their family life or who are understandably reluctant to give up homes and financial security. Some will argue that they do not want to surrender their role as "parish priest" ministering to all within their territory even though such a role has long ceased to have any real meaning in central London. Yet others will be reluctant to abandon a lifestyle that would be less readily tolerated in the Catholic Church. And then there are those who enjoy being a part of the Establishment, even, we suspect, those who covet the opportunity to wear scarlet cassocks, whether given in Anglican shape by HM the Queen or tailored into multi-buttoned catholicity for the more particular clerics.

Perhaps, though, we delude ourselves if we think there are vast numbers of Anglo-Catholics (whatever that term now means, that arguably being exactly the point) who are in some way languishing in the CofE, feeling that they should be elsewhere, who accept what Rome teaches and who are not among those who convince themselves that they ought to be contented with their lot.

Clearly, there are some in that position, perhaps even a good many. However, there are not thousands upon thousands of them. There are many who would describe themselves as Anglo-Catholic who are extremely happy with where the Church of England is going. We might not share their view, but nor do they see themselves as ignoring a call that they ought to answer.  We might challenge their self-definition as any kind of Catholic, but they might challenge the Catholic Church’s claim to hold the monopoly on the use of that term.

They are Anglicans, and happy to be so. There is absolutely nothing wrong, of course, about being a happy Anglican. These are good and honest people who stand by genuinely held positions.

Perhaps, then, what William Oddie foresaw in The Roman Option has come to pass, a positive conclusion where people have a clearer idea of where they stand and of where they want to stand. Perhaps we will now see a Church of England happier in what it is, less divided, more confident in itself and in its interpretation of Christianity, not feeling the need to follow Rome or the Orthodox. Those who wanted to be Catholics have mostly moved on, those who have a different vision are in a place where they are free to proclaim and share that vision without what they might see as being "held back" by those of a more Catholic leaning.

As the Vicar of St Peter's London Docks has written on his own blog :

Whatever the House of Bishops offer, whatever Synod decides, Anglo-Catholics in 2013 will need a new way to see and understand their identity, mission and long term role within Anglicanism. A simple overwhelming 'I'm a Roman Catholic paid by the Church of England' will no longer do, not morally, not spiritually, not liturgically, not theologically and not practically.

Perhaps, therefore, this article's premise is entirely wrong, perhaps it is incorrect to wonder why there hasn't been more traffic moving at speed towards the Ordinariate in London. Perhaps Dr Oddie was right all those years ago, and that a happy and more defined, even if rather strange and, for many, largely unexpected result has been attained.

Whether anything will change once Dr Chartres has either retired or been translated elsewhere, who knows, but for now, it seems that most people are where they want to be. Whether it is where they should be and what they may think they are doing there is the subject for another post. 

The Catholic Church: heri et hodie ipse et in saecula  


  1. I can see absolutely no reason for the portrait of Cardinal Burke, and thus congratulate the author on the ability to seamlessly end with several feet of scarlet watered silk when any normal person would have simply signed off. Excellent.

    On Richard Chartres, two points:
    - his doctorates are honorary (see D. Thompson's rants on this);
    - he incorrectly and ungraciously described "John Broadhurst's retirement" in the Press Release announcing not-Dr Baker's appointment.

    Whosoever (patrimony, there) translates to Ebbsfleet. Let him be anathema.

  2. joseph Golightly1 November 2012 at 20:53

    I understand that Dr Baker uses the Roman Missal. Will he be following what his boss said about the new translation and start using one of the approved rites of the Church of England?

    1. A Bishop will normally use whatever liturgy is presented to him in the parish he is visiting. Dr Chartres stated last year that all London area bishops must celebrate only according to Anglican-approved rites, which +Fulham will surely comply with. What is more interesting is whether +London will lean on Dr Baker to purge the Roman rite from London parishes.

    2. joseph Golightly6 November 2012 at 08:27

      So Anglican Papists will die out? I cannot believe that +Fulham has a snowball's hope in hell of eradicating the Roman Rite but if he does there are other churches who I understand use it!