Look both ways before you leap

In his last article written from within the Church of England, Ed Tomlinson has some advice for those who are yet to make a decision about the Ordinariate

It was possibly the worst kept secret on the Christian blogosphere and came as little surprise when the parish of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells announced that the majority of its congregation, led by both priests, are to accept the invitation of the Holy Father by establishing one of the first Ordinariate congregations in this country. Which makes this the last article I shall write from within the Church of England. What is there to say?

A heartfelt plea

Those determined to join the Ordinariate need no words from me. They have made a principled decision and I look forward to working with them on the other side of the Tiber. This they share in common with those determined to remain Church of England ‘come what may.’ What use does this group have for my little Romish heart? It simply remains to wish them well and assure them of prayers as they take a dignified stand like nonjurors of old.

So if your decision regarding the Ordinariate is made turn the page. This article will be of little use to you. Be done with me and my outspoken Popish views! Turn the page immediately! For this article is a heartfelt plea to those who remain uncertain of which way to turn. I want to speak to the countless thousands yet to decide where the future lies. And the advice I offer is simple. Keep an open mind and look both ways before you leap!

Firstly look at the Ordinariate. Day by day momentum is building, groups are forming (yes, even in the north!) and structures are being established to provide for your future (at least we ‘first wavers’ hope so!). Are those establishing this Ordinariate incredibly brave or stupid? You wise virgins, who understand the benefit of patience, can watch and wait for that answer with hindsight. Let us be honest. The first wave might be exciting but it is equally frightening and crazy. We who join now are having to be fools for Christ as we leap into the unknown trusting only in providence. The more cautious should rejoice that they are not numbered amongst those called to reckless pioneering. But as they wait where should they be watching?

I have already suggested you look to the Ordinariate. Now I urge you to observe the institution you remain with. Are there really signs of optimism that Synod may relent or only a stubborn agenda that will never go away? Having seen promises broken once can you even trust what is said in the present? Or is it time to look beyond Synod for hope? What does the behaviour of the wider establishment actually suggest regarding your future?

Personal experience

It is out of concern that I urge you to be wise as serpents and not simply innocent as doves. I say this because my personal experience in recent months makes me fear more than ever for your future. Allow me to explain.

Wanting to give people freedom to make informed decisions, the Ordinariate option was presented to my parish a year ago. Papers were produced, theology offered and every effort made to ensure people understood the choices before them. We then entered a period of discernment before final decisions were made. In the end over three-quarters took the Ordinariate option whilst a minority opted for the Anglican path. What happened next speaks volumes for the true agenda within the modern Church of England…

The first sign of skulduggery came via whispers of meetings taking place behind my back, a suspicion that was confirmed when I discovered that a group calling themselves ‘the Anglican friends of S. Barnabas’ had been formed, most of whose members had not worshipped here before or who had left due to doctrinal objections to the Catholic faith. When the group displayed intimate knowledge of terriers and faculties one suspected the involvement of an unseen hierarchy!

A worrying lesson

From the earliest moment this group has been encouraged to abandon those departing and forge a true ‘Anglican’ presence. Buoyed by diocesan forces they are being encouraged to drop resolutions, seek suspension of living and radically overhaul the tradition of this church.

Wanting to be helpful I had approached Forward in Faith colleagues to supply cover in my absence. This help was not needed because Affirming Catholicism had been approached in advance. The Solemn Mass now becomes the Sung Eucharist, Daily Mass is axed, Benediction too and we can add the rosary, Marian devotions (on three Sundays out of four!?) and much more besides.

They claimed we were being precipitous. They told us Synod had not finished its business. But at the earliest opportunity the Catholic tradition, which nurtured this church since its foundation was laid, has been gutted with little compassion. Ordinariate seekers must now leave with nothing whilst their fabric and legacy is delivered to the hands of those who opposed them so vehemently on the floor of the Synod. And this from one of the more orthodox dioceses, or so we are told.

So look before you leap. Not only at the evolving Ordinariate but at the loss of one more doctrinally AngloCatholic parish from the State church in this land. One by one we are picked off and expunged by bishops who assure us a Code of Practice will do. Your future is yours to decide. Whose hands will you place it in as you seek to move Forward in Faith? ND