Jonathan Beswick on his passion for the Church of England and why he believes the Anglicanorum Coetibus proposals should not be accepted
I have always lived as a member of the Church of England, and have served in her parishes for the last fifteen years: she has been the particular space in the Catholic Church that has been home for me.
Many attempts have been made to change it, to challenge it or even to finish it off: but, thank God, she has prevailed. As a teenager, I remember my parish priest standing outside church and being approached by someone who asked him for directions to the nearest Catholic church. He pointed to our church and said ‘It’s here’. No dissembling, no teasing.
It might have been said of him, as it was of W.H. Frere by his biographer, that he was one for whom ‘the Church of Rome cast her spells in vain’. It is an honourable sobriquet. process. We would become Roman Catholics.
It is also suggested that some of the humiliation and frustration that has been experienced hitherto by individual converts might be avoided: but there is no escaping the fact that we would be submitting to Rome, and clergy would need to be ordained, and lay-people confirmed. Not re-ordained or re-confirmed.
No conditionality offered
To suggest that there might be a ‘conditionality in the intention, if not in the words’ of the ordaining or confirming minister is absurd. I have no doubt that we can only embrace the Ordinariate if we have a vocation to become a Roman Catholic.
I have a deep admiration for Roman Catholic friends, both lay and ordained. I do not envy them the burden they bear, by dint of being part of a body that has put so
If this is the case, then we should get on with it swiftly and without disruption. If it is not the case, then we must get on with the task that God has given us in our own church and life: the Ordinariate is no more
many stumbling blocks before her faithful. I admire them partly because they keep going in the face of it all: it is their home and they love it, even if it isn’t always a comfortable place to be.
I also rejoice in the heritage, liturgical, sacramental and devotional, that we continue to enjoy in our own church, much of which is hewn from the venerable rock of the Western Rite.
We must also remember that the Church was active and witnessing in these islands for over five hundred years before Gregory’s mission arrived in the year 597: this heritage was absorbed into the church of the next thousand years. It is an important part of our character and story. English Christians have not always been Roman.
As we have considered the possibility of the Ordinariate over these last six months, two particular conclusions have begun to take shape for me. I offer them here, in brief, as the reflections of an ordinary parish priest. I am passionate about the Church of England and I have engaged in many grass-roots conversations about the underlying issues over the last months and years.
Firstly: the proposals set out in Anglicanorum Coetibus are profoundly anti-ecumenical. They are as anti-ecumenical as some of the unilateral actions recently taken by individual provinces in the Anglican Communion. This is no reconciliation between estranged siblings, no aspiration to a reunion of Christendom.
We would be required to become Roman Catholics. This is no rapprochement, with mutual respect and acceptance; this is not a fulfilment of the aspirations of the ARCIC than a distracting sideshow.
Secondly, the Catholic Church is much bigger than the Roman Catholic Church. The Church is the ‘blessed company of all faithful people’. In the Church of England the Catholic faith is taught, and we uphold the sacramental and apostolic character of the Church. We do this together with many other Christians around the world, who are Catholics, but not Roman. The Catholic Church includes Rome, but Rome alone is not it. It includes the Orthodox churches, it includes the Anglican Church, and others too.
A compassionate home
There is a destructive and terrible arrogance to some of the claims that are made by Rome (particularly when it comes to defining who is or is not in ‘the Church’): it is a cause of great sadness to hear those claims being repeated and commended by ecclesial Quislings within the Church of England itself.
The Church of England may seem muddled, she may seem uncertain, but she is home to those who call themselves Catholic, Protestant and many other things besides and she is, so very often, humane and compassionate in her dealings with God’s people.
She is a living, inspiring and fascinating conversation of faith and faithfulness. The richly textured and hospitable life of our Church frustrates those who cannot see beyond the perceived ideal of a monolithic ecclesial polity. Yet, ironically, it is precisely this richly textured and hospitable life that has allowed them (and all of us) to prosper and flourish.
Long may it continue to do so. ND