Rorate Caeli

"On the Gathering of Anglicans"

Archbishop John Hepworth, primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, has released an important pastoral letter, "On the Gathering of Anglicans," dated 20 Jan. 2010 and addressed to the bishops, clergy and lay faithful of the TAC, regarding the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and the TAC's request for full, corporate communion with the Catholic Church. The pastoral letter is published in its entirety at The Angl0-Catholic, and includes the petition the TAC had sent to the Holy See, requesting the Pope's fatherly guidance in bringing the members of the TAC into unambiguous unity with the Catholic Church in a way that would preserve that which is good in Anglican tradition. Below are just a few excerpts, including reflections of Archbishop Hepworth in which he gently calls on the TAC's bishops, priests, and deacons to submit to re-ordination, since that is what Rome will requires:

Our Petition

. . . It is fundamental to the life of the church that its bishops and the churches they lead be in Eucharistic Communion with the See of Rome to which bishops of the ancient church looked as the instrument of unity and Catholic authenticity.

. . . The fullest statement of contemporary Christian belief, the bishops [of the TAC] believe, is to be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is deeply biblical and patristic, and addresses matters that puzzle and confront Christians at the present moment. The bishops understand that not everything in the Catechism is of equal authority, and also understand that the faith must be proclaimed to every generation in language that accurately portrays what the Church has received. Therefore they acknowledge that the Catechism is the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time, and that they signed a copy on the altar as attesting to the faith they aspire to teach and hold. None of the bishops would claim to understand every aspect of the faith with perfection, and none would claim to teach perfectly at all times. But they do claim to aspire to teach and to hold the faith that is set forth in the Catechism. . . .

The Standard of Belief

. . . Many members of our community have been using the Catechism as a reference and a sourcebook for years. Its language is contemporary and its methodology, based on the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the liturgical Creeds, is already familiar to Anglicans.

Many of the things being denied at this moment in the world have been taken for granted for centuries. The nature of God, the revelation of God in Christ, the nature of holy scripture, the authority of Christian moral teaching about life and sexuality, the attack on the nature of marriage, and the widespread abandonment of holiness of life (especially among some of those consecrated to religious and priestly life), have all posed enormous problems for those who seek to teach and understand the Christian faith. The Catechism is a contemporary document addressing contemporary problems of contemporary unbelief.

What of the re-ordination of clergy?

. . . Not only the ordination of women to all three sacred orders, but the redefining of the Anglican understanding of itself as part of the “Church Catholic” that the ordination of women has necessitated, has introduced more than grave doubt about the validity of any Anglican Communion ordinations. It is now difficult to determine whether any particular Anglican Bishop has any intention to do as the Church has always done, when he (or she) specifically intends to do that which the Church has never done. The almost complete elimination of what was once a dominant Anglo-Catholicism from many provinces of the Anglican Communion has removed the clearest statement of Catholic belief about Holy Orders from the Anglican consciousness.

. . . It is my wish, and I believe the wishes of my fellow bishops, that every deacon and priest in our Communion has a certainty of validity that rests, not on the winning of a theological argument, not on the best that was available at the time, but on the indisputable certainty of Catholic practice. I have said to a number of priests that when they are saying Mass in the crypt of St Peter’s on the tombs of the Apostles, I want them to be able to look to one side and the other and to know with absolute certainty that their priesthood has the same objective reality as the priesthood of those on either side.

Finally, I commend this development to your prayers and the deepest parts of your conscience. I believe with all my heart that this is a work of God and an act of great generosity by Pope Benedict. The Anglican tradition that we treasure will only survive, I believe, across the generations yet to come if it discovers the protection of apostolic authority. It is my cherished wish that each of us can stand at the altar with our fellow Christians and receive the same Eucharistic Christ. That is the ultimate test of unity. In the centuries since the church in the West became fractured there has been no offer such as the one that is now before us. For Anglicans, Unity has been a dream beyond reach. Now it is a dream that can be fulfilled. I understood when I became a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion (in a dark period of my life when it became impossible to practice my priesthood in a diocese about to ordain women) that this was a Communion heading towards a goal. It had separated from the Anglican Communion. Instead of drifting at the whim of wave and wind, it had chosen to head towards the only realistic destination, that from which Anglicans had separated centuries before. I was grasped by that vision of those who founded this Communion. We are now in the waves just beyond the harbour entrance. Pray God that we have the courage to enter and make our homes there.