Alan Edwards finds a footballing parallel to the present church circumstances

Although a number of Anglo-Catholic folk seem to show an eager desire to abandon the lumbering (and possibly sinking) tramp steamer 5.5. Ecclesia Anglicana for the inviting Roman galleon ‘The Ordinariate’, the Editor, Fr Turner, preserved the Anglican via media when he introduced me in last month’s Footnotes. He provided words, but fortunately for readers’ nerves, no photo.

I was described as a bookseller. True, or rather part of the truth, as I’m in partnership, marital as well as commercial, with Margaret.

Fr Turner also kindly mentioned my fervent support of AFC Wimbledon, which brings me back to Ordinariates. How come? Those with a long memory may recall that back in April 2005 I suggested that the campaign by Wimbledon Football Club fans to rebuild a team after the owners had moved the club to Milton Keynes and re-franchised it as MK Dons, could be seen as a parable of the sell-out of orthodoxy within the CofE and the fight for a free province.

Reading the Apostolic Constitution took me back to 2002 when the move to Milton Keynes occurred, and the ‘orthodox’ fans of Wimbledon FC -a team known as ‘The Crazy Gang’ (Anglican undertones here?) – said no to the move and began the campaign to rebuild the team and regain entry to the Football League.

The invitation was ‘If you come to Milton Keynes you can have a stadium of your own – no need for ground sharing with Crystal Palace’ (an arrangement which had followed Wimbledon’s owners selling the original ground, Plough Lane).

Yes, ground sharing was awkward – as has been the Anglican sharing of a Church between Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals and Liberals – but a ‘stadium of your own’ (i.e. a Footballing Ordinariate) meant leaving behind many traditions and a unique history.

Sure, we could take some of our patrimony with us – the description ‘Dons’ being tagged onto Milton Keynes as an example. In the same way, a movement to the ecclesiastical Ordinariate will require a surrender of many old ways. However, an equivalent add-on to that of ‘Dons’ will be available for some of them.

Bishops moving over will be allowed to retain their episcopal attire and insignia, though they would have been re-ordained as priests. A comfort no doubt to any thinking he’d have to flog his episcopal clobber on e-Bay. Comfort also for those unkind critics of Anglo-Catholicism who have said that some of its followers are more interested in millinery than mission.

‘Come to Milton Keynes – you’ll be in the big league again, not out in the cold.’ Is some of the enthusiasm for the Ordinariate born of a desire to be in the ecclesiastical Premier League? A handful of Wimbledon fans did accept the Milton Keynes offer but the majority preferred

to seek a return to the league with a reformed team, even if it meant starting at the bottom of the football pyramid.

Seven years on (a good biblical number) the Promised Land is in sight, AFC Wimbledon, the refounded team, has won its way to the National Conference. Next stop Football League. Eventually alongside, but independent of, MK Dons, as it was hoped the free province would stand alongside Canterbury and York .

Was (is) the free province, or similar structural provision, an equally achievable goal? Has the possibly premature enthusiasm for the Ordinariate done a ‘ Milton Keynes ‘ on its chances?