Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Nothing to be smug about

An Anglo-Catholic friend in a recent e-mail added his thanks to me "for not being smug in your blog about our current difficulties;most unlike some converts we could mention..." I'm not sure who he had in mind there, but indeed I see nothing to be smug about.

I recognise that long before I left the Church of England I was in a sub-section, those who sought the Catholic faith and life within the national church. When it was time for me to move on I did so, and have never reproached those who stayed. Not being a member of the Church of England anymore I am probably less acerbic about those who do not belong to that sub-section than when I was still a member. I do, however, feel genuinely concerned for those faithful, traditional Anglo-Catholics who have been so shamefully treated by the General Synod. I understand the hurt they must feel at, in effect, being told to "get lost".

They face making hard decisions. I hope and pray they make the right ones. I hope I am not being smug if I say I hope their decision is for the Roman option - either individually, or through the proposed Ordinariates. For clergy and their families it needs courage and resolve, but I am sure help is available and there are those who have gone before them to help and advise.

For many laity the really difficult question may be leaving a particular place of worship. That I understand - in 2004 -5 that was a real concern to me, and on my behalf for others, as I prepared to leave St Thomas' and Pusey House here in Oxford. If, and it is a big if indeed, if Anglican dioceses have any charity or decency they should be prepared to come to arrangements. In some cases they would be rid of buildings they don't want, and reminders of people and ways of doing things they clearly don't want. But, of course, they may be dog in the mangerish. Very likely will be, I fear, but there may be some interesting test cases as to who owns a parish church - the answer may not always be the same.

I hope many will see the recent votes, after proper, but not protracted, reflection and discussion, as something from which a positive choice can be made. The Roman option is to re-enter historic unity, to be able to live out the Catholic faith in its fulness, to be free of the tedious constraints of bishops and archdeacons who have no sympathy for what that tradition is. Rome is also a living tradition - if liturgy is a barrier, i.e. Anglicans preserved a tradition that Rome appeared to throw overboard in the 1960s (and there is some truth in that), well, now with Summorum Pontificum and the general trend in liturgical practice, things are improving on this bank of the Tiber. The Ordinariates and 'Anglican Patrimony' can not only carry that tradition forward, they can share it with the wider Church. Did I hear a few Tabletista Bishops and their allies muttering under their breath? Never mind - their day is increasingly done.

So yes, I hope I am not smug. Hurt for friends who have been hurt, prayerful for them, hopeful for them, yes, I am that. As the psalmist might have put it,

Put not your trust in General Synods or any son of man..... From whence cometh my help? my help cometh from the Lord (or in this case, His Vicar)

These are topics on which I shall be commenting again, so watch this space...

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