Edwin Barnes, former Bishop of Richborough:
The latest move from the Roman Catholic Church to extend an American experiment comes not a moment too soon. … The offer to extend the Apostolic Constitution to England and elsewhere is very welcome. In America a similar constitution allows Episcopalian priests, some married men with families, to become Catholic priests. They have been given a prayer book, the Book of Divine Worship, that takes a great deal from the Book of Common Prayer but makes it entirely Catholic. Clearly Rome now sees the need to extend this provision to England.
The Holy See has come to realise that the Church of England is so divided that it must speak to separate groups within it. As Cardinal Levada says, these are Anglicans who have declared that “they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church”. For many Catholic Anglicans, that is exactly where we stand.
Those of us compelled by conscience to leave will expect generous provision, not just financial, but also in the way of the transfer of churches and vicarages. The Archbishop of Canterbury has often berated the American Church for its meanness towards those who have left over issues such as the consecration of gay men and the ordination of women.
Barnes begins with a point that many on this side of the Atlantic have missed: Rome created “pastoral provision” from disaffected Episcopalians 25 years ago. What he does not say is that in terms of numbers who have taken advantage of that provision the results are underwhelming.
Barnes’ second point strongly echoes Rowan Williams’ concern that the Anglican Communion’s “ecclesial deficit” makes ecumenical discussion with other denominations difficult. Out of this comes Williams’ desire for an Anglican Covenant.
Barnes’ scores a telling jab in his point over the transfer of churches and vicarages. It is not clear that Williams has ever understood why a moratorium on law suits over property undercuts the ecclesiology of the church. Barnes goes on his op-ed to say the General Synod of the C of E is “forcing” conservatives to leave. Will Williams counter that people are free to leave, but churches are not?
Finally, what does Barnes mean by financial generous provision? That’s ambiguous. Endowments? The right of clergy to stay in the CoE pension system?