Saturday 20 November 2010

The Church of my Baptism

An old priest friend sent me a very moving card today, in which he wishes me well but said that, for himself, he would "remain in the Church of my Baptism". That sentiment is echoed by many who at present feel unable to join the Ordinariate. We all owe so much to the Church of England; she taught us the catholic faith, she supported us when we sought Ordination, she has been, for many, a good Mother.

Yet things have changed. As I have confirmed Candidates in recent years, I have wondered where they would end. Would they always be able, as some of us have done, to find a good catholic church in their neighbourhood? Would it be a place where the Eucharist was regularly and faithfully celebrated, the daily Offices prayed for the whole parish, the people visited when they were sick or dying? Such churches seemed to be the rule forty years ago; now they are exceptional, and their priests reckoned oddities. Yet when Forward in Faith said "A Code of Practice Will Not Do" it was because we wanted a secure catholic future for our children and grandchildren.

When the parish where we live was last vacant, I wrote to the bishop and said that since it was likely that the new incumbent would see me out, I hoped he would be a priest who would have a care for the dying. We have, I think, done pretty well in that regard; our parish priest is a dear and loving man, who cares for the people in his cure. That the question had to be raised though, indicates how the Church of England has lost its catholic moorings.

Those who are committed to SSWSH are no doubt going to try to reverse this, and bring the C of E back to her roots - they believe that the newly elected Synod will make this possible. Those who are committed to the Ordinariate are sure that this is a lost cause, and that the only hope for a catholic future is within the Roman obedience - the best any Synod could achieve is a stay of execution. We all, though, have a duty to respect one another, pray for one another, and continue to work for the Unity which Our Lord wills.

Oh, and about my Baptism - it was at Holy Innocents, South Norwood, which at that time was in the detached part of Canterbury Diocese. GF Bodley was its architect, who also built St John's, Iffley Road in Oxford, the last church for which I had direct responsibility. Holy Innocents always seemed to me a good dedication for a church welcoming one into the Church of God. Now it is in Southwark Diocese, Nicola has been its incumbent for the past five years, and Anna is her curate. One day, it will be easier for me to relate to them ecumenically than, as at present, within the same ecclesial body.


  1. Bishop Edwin, thank you for this eirenic contribution to your Blog. Behind the heat of harsh things said to and about friends, those staying for a while longer (and who knows in the providence of the good God, perhaps permanently) and those going immediately, the reality is it is a great encouragemnt to know that deep down there is real goodwill for one another. You have been a good bishop and a great company of fellow Christians accompany you with their love and their prayers even if they cannot yet give up on the Church that nutured us in the catholic Faith. God speed. Sam

  2. You know, with the greatest respect to the comment above, you really cannot claim that the CofE nurtured anyone in the Catholic faith. It's just not true. It may have, in a few places, loojed, tasted and felt like it but, if it was the Xatholic faith there would be no need for PEV's and Ordinariates. The PEV's actually contributed to the chaos by fooling people into thinking that you could stay and be a 'catholic'. The Ordinariates reveal another emphasis: ergo, to be Catholic is to be in communion with the Holy See. End of.

    If you haven't gone over yet. Do. Or accept that the CofE may be many wonderful things, thank God, but Catholic she ain't.

  3. I don't accept that Maurice. +Edwin's priest friend said he will "remain in the Church of my Baptism". As the body of Christ, His Church, we are all in the church of our baptism.
    As Pope Benedict strives to implement Christ's prayer for unity claims to exclusivity are unhelpful.

  4. AncientBriton, I was responding to Sam's concluding comment.

    I have no desire to be exclusive. Just honest.

    The CofE is wonderful, but let's get real - nurturing people in the Catholic faith is neither her calling nor her reality. Sorry.

    Pope Benedict's response to that reality is the Ordinariates: thus exposing the truth of the non-catholic nature of CofE. She's lovely and has given many people much but, surely, it's time we all stopped playing games?

  5. Yes I understand that Maurice but I prefer Fr Sam's earlier sentiment "the reality is it is a great encouragemnt to know that deep down there is real goodwill for one another." God knows the CofE is in trouble but there are still many who believe themselves to be good catholics despite the difficulties WATCH and their supporters impose on them. It is no game for them as they look to SSWSH to offer some comfort in the church of their baptism.

  6. And I have goodwill for Maurice too. The unity for which the Lord prayed is best served by charity not by sniping at one another. I have many good friends within the Roman Catholic Church, two archbishops among them, and they have shown me nothing but kindness. During this time of upheaval when none can be absolutely certain what the Lord is about, one thing is clear - the devil is quick to see and sieze every opportunity to do the Lord's cause harm. We should be on our guard.

    Bishop Edwin is a good friend and I wish him and so many other good friends well. I know he and they wish me well too.

    Pope Benedict quotes St Augustine: "Where you see charity you see the Trinity". Let us all make sure that we do not not hide the face of the Lord from others wherever their futures may lie.