Our wifely heritage

From Bishop Edwin Barnes

Aidan Nichols’ outline for uniate status for traditionalists in the CofE (ND October) comes as a great encouragement. Certainly many of us are more than ready to find ‘in and as the Word of God the doctrine of the Catholic Church in its entirety,’ and would hope to approach the Holy See as outcasts in need of a home, rather than bringing any special demands of our own.

Just one sentence in his article, though, struck a discordant note for me. ‘I doubt myself that Rome would permit a married episcopate except possibly by way of dispensation for a single sacramental generation.’ If we who have grown up in Anglicanism have anything to offer the wider Church by way of gifts, it is surely the experience of the gift of a married priesthood and episcopate?

What has deterred some of us from seeking reconciliation before now has been the grudging permission for married priests to keep their married status while being re-ordained. It may be that married bishops would be seen as a step too far – an innovation unknown in Orthodoxy or the Latin church. I do not think we would insist that our married bishops should continue as bishops (I speak for myself here) – and I believe it would be better not to be re-consecrated than to have one’s wife thought of as a hindrance or a problem.

What I should certainly welcome, however, is an openness by Rome to consider the possibility of a married priesthood, not as a concession but as a welcome return to ancient tradition. After all, the great English theologian Alcuin was the son and grandson of priests. It was only between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries that priestly celibacy became normative in England.

The language of Cranmer, the King James Bible, the poetry of Donne and Herbert, the spirituality of Jeremy Taylor and Sam Johnson may be gifts the whole Church needs; but all these are insignificant compared with the blessing our CofE has received from its clergy wives.

As to married bishops, perhaps that will need to be put on hold for another time – though I seem to recall that Rome warned us, in the debate over women’s ordination, not to separate the priesthood from the episcopate. And if Benedict is the successor of Peter, was not Peter’s wife’s mother the object of Jesus’ first miracle of healing?

XEdwin Barnes

1 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Lymington SO41 9HN

Praying together

From Mrs Penelope Turing

Bravo Michael Shier! (ND October) What we need more than anything in the present troubled world is fellowship and understanding between ordinary people of different faiths in both West and East. I have been happy in working in and out of the Arab world during the past forty years. As a result I have some very close Muslim friends; when I am in the home of one in Cairo, her young daughter lays down the prayer carpet at the time of prayer. They say their prayers and I say mine. When I leave, my friend ask me to pray for her, and I ask her to pray for me. Between Christians this would not be thought strange. Why can we not develop such friendship here, with Muslims?

But how? say the faint hearted. Well, obviously the first practical step is to pray about it. Then, have a go. Most of us who live in British towns and cities pass the time of day with Asian Muslims in shops, doctors’ surgeries, and the like. Get to know them a little better. Learn more of their lives, their children, their holidays. And if one of the ‘terrorist’ outrages takes place you will be drawn to your Muslims in shared horror and grief. It may be that one or other of you will say, quite spontaneously, we must pray…

Penelope Turing

41 Beatty House, Dolphin Square, London SW1V 3PL

Our heritage

From Miss Juliet Hole

Fr Aidan Nichols suggested (October) that Forward in Faith members tend to be hostile to ‘anything connected with the Prayer Book.’

I am sure that a great many Anglicans – not only those who belong both to FiF and the Prayer Book Society – will be feeling that if they are forced out of the Church of England and yet are resolved to remain Anglicans, the Prayer Book is precisely what they must retain.

The Prayer Book defines Anglicanism: continuous with the early Church, Catholic and Apostolic, strongly biblical and doctrinally authentic, firm against secular imperatives that claw at the Church in modern societies, and possessing the beauty and difference that liturgy must have if it is to be expressive of God. Very importantly, it is memorable, so that it is there for us all the time, not just during service.

It is easy to see why those who want to follow political fashion should dislike the Prayer Book; not easy to see why those ‘seeking to renew the Church in the historic faith’ should. To be Prayer Book is to be orthodox, well brought up in the faith and well armed for the battles to come. It is not something to go back to, but to go forward with.

Juliet Hole

4 The Leasowes, Bayton, Kidderminster DY14 9NA

Only asking

From the Revd Dr Ernest Skublics

I am somewhat encouraged to see Aidan Nichols’ article about the uniate option published (ND Oct 05). Although such an obvious path had apparently already occurred to Archbishop Michael Ramsey – for all of the Anglican Communion at that time – there appears to be a curious reluctance to raise that suggestion now, even on the part of those of our own clergy celebrating the Roman Mass daily, praying for the Pope and using the Roman Office publicly.

If lex orandi est lex credendi, where is the hiatus in our thinking? More Anglican Anglicans have restored their communion with the Primatial See of the Western Church, dragging with them their Anglican liturgical/cultural heritage in the Book of Divine Worship, authorized by Rome for Anglican-Rite Catholics. It would seem those groups had a greater attachment to the Anglican heritage than we do, and yet did not let that cloud their understanding of the absolute, primary and normative dominical imperative of Catholic unity.

What explains this desperate clinging to a national Church – even when we have to be in impaired communion with it, and we no longer use its liturgy? Why do the English have to create an autonomous province that remains part of the CofE, when all other western Catholics seem to be content to be part of the Universal Catholic Church, warts and all?

Ernest Skublics

295 Fernhill Road, Farnborough GU14 9EW