Five Church of England bishops to cross the Tiber

I've arrived back in London to find that five Anglican bishops -- three serving and two retired -- have announced that they will be joining the Catholic Church next year via the ordinariate scheme - and presumably bringing priests and lay people in their tow. The Daily Telegraph estimates that around 500 people are planning to follow suit.

None of the five bishops has a diocese; one had already announced his intention to be received through the Ordinariate.


The Archbishop of Canterbury said today he was accepting "with regret" the resignations of two of the bishops under his control,  Andrew Bunham and Keith Newton, after they decided "that their future in Christian ministry lies in the new structures proposed by the Vatican".

Their departure will leave in place just one of the four "flying bishops" tasked by the Church of England in 1992 with overseeing Anglo-Catholics who rejected the ordination of women. And it leaves the remaining "Anglo-papists" in a far weaker position within the Church of England.

The fact that the five bishops co-ordinated their announcement suggests they want to encourage others to take the step.

The bishops will continue to serve in the Church of England until the New Year, by which time the Ordinariate of England and Wales will have been announced -- although it probably won't receive canonical recognition until at least Easter next year.  

The Church of England "is going off in its own way and making up its own rules and we therefore need to belong to the older body," Bishop Burnham of Ebbsfleet (pictured) told BBC television.

Another of the exiles, the leader of Forward in Faith, Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham, had already announced last month his intention to join the ordinariate. 

The other two bishops are Edwin Barnes, former bishop of Richborough, and David Silk, former Bishop of Ballarat in Australia.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have issued a statement saying they welcomed the decision, and will next week be "exploring the establishment of the ordinariate".

The Vatican is expected to issue a statement on 12 November, when the English and Welsh bishops are expected to make a more detailed announcement about the timing of the future ordinariate, expected to be named after the Blessed John Henry Newman.

[UIPDATE] The five bishops have issued the following statement:

Like many in the catholic tradition of Anglicanism, we have followed the dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics, the ARCIC process, with prayer and longing.  We have been dismayed, over the last thirty years, to see Anglicans and Catholics move further apart on some of the issues of the day, and particularly we have been distressed by developments in Faith and Order in Anglicanism which we believe to be incompatible with the historic vocation of Anglicanism and the tradition of the Church for nearly two thousand years.

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus, given in Rome on 4th November 2009, was a response to Anglicans seeking unity with the Holy See.  With the Ordinariates, canonical structures are being established through which we will bring our own experience of Christian discipleship into full communion with the Catholic Church throughout the world and throughout the ages.  This is both a generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians, the unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death.  It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter.

As bishops, we have even-handedly cared for those who have shared our understanding and those who have taken a different view.  We have now reached the point, however, where we must formally declare our position and invite others who share it to join us on our journey.  We shall be ceasing, therefore, from public episcopal ministry forthwith, resigning from our pastoral responsibilities in the Church of England with effect from 31st December 2010, and seeking to join an Ordinariate once one is created.

We remain very grateful for all that the Church of England has meant for us and given to us all these years and we hope to maintain close and warm relationships, praying and working together for the coming of God’s Kingdom.

For those wanting more of this story, there is huge number of links to statements and reports here.

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Eugene Pagano
8 years 2 months ago
The Church of England is showing great forbearance in allowing these bishops to retain their positions until the end of the year, because their conversions to the Roman Catholic Church will require them to accept that their own Anglican ordinations are null and void, and (by implication at least) all the Eucharists, confirmations and ordinations that they have performed as Anglican clergy.  How can they possibly function as Anglican prelates between now and the end of the year?  (Full disclosure: i have gone the other direction, from the Roman Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church.)
Martin Gallagher
8 years 2 months ago

Are you asking whether the sacraments they conferred while C of E clergy are valid?  Assuming they were not ordained by a bishop with apostolic succession (some Anglican bishops & priests, I understand, choose to be ordained by Orthodox bishops in order to maintain valid Orders), the C of E clergy, like all Protestants, can only baptize and witness marriages.  I am assuming that when they join the Catholic Church, they will need to be (conditionally) ordained. 


Why do you call the ordinariate process the "Ordinariate scheme?"  It word scheme makes it sound a bit devious.

Austen Ivereigh
8 years 2 months ago
Martin, point taken - I'll try and avoid "scheme". But "process" isn't quite right; it's a juridical structure which does not yet exist in England; once it does, it can be referred to as the ordinariate. Until then it's a plan or an idea, which goes through stages of negotiation until it is formally, canonically instituted. I'll try and use "plan".
Jim McCrea
8 years 2 months ago
Martin:  to the British, Irish, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, etc.  (all sons and daughters of the Empire) "scheme" has a much different connotation that in the US.  For instance, the Brits talk of pension schemes.  Nothing devious about the us at all.

Of course, Austin should know by now that the Yanks aren't as conversant in forms of English outside of what we claim to be using here in the US.

I lived in the UK for 5 years and had a new language to learn!  FYI, "rubber" in the UK has a very different meaning than it would to one's teenage kids here.
8 years 2 months ago
I'm not thrilled to have these guys join my church - there are already enough conservatives within it as it is.

To get an Anglican point of view, read some of the posts on this subject at Thinking Anglicans ....
8 years 2 months ago

As someone born and raised across the pond, I would say that scheme can indeed be used to describe a process or plan, but these days it is more often used in the negative, as in plot or scam, which I am sure was not Austen's intention.

But you have me curious with your "rubber" reference, why would you need to talk about condoms and teenagers in a blog about bishops changing lanes? 

Jim McCrea
8 years 2 months ago
Ann:  if you were indeed born across the pond then you know that a "rubber" is what we Yanks call an eraser, not that other thing which tended to go by its commercial name when I was there.

The point of the reference was, of course, to show that many words in English (scheme, rubber) have vastly different meanings in the US and the UK.


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