Why does the Anglican Catholic Church have a Diocese in the United Kingdom?
Fr Jonathan Munn, Dean of our Northern Deanery, has provided an answer to this very important question on his Blog
( https://warwickensis.blogspot.com/ ) . With his permission we reproduce the text below:
The Anglican Catholic Diocese of the United Kingdom has existed for thirty years now. For such a small church which has seen much upheaval in those thirty years, it is an example of God’s grace that we are still here. But why are we here?
There have been several occasions now in which I have been asked why the Anglican Catholic Church needs a Diocese in the United Kingdom. I am often pointed to the existence of the Free Church of England, the Anglican Ordinariate and the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda (hereafter known as The Society) within the Church of England.
With the greatest respect to the Free Church of England, their original existence came about as a protest against the growing Ritualism within the Church of England which developed into the Anglo-Catholic Movement. Since the Anglican Catholic Church shares its heritage with the Anglo-Catholics of the nineteenth century to the extent that, through following the Affirmation of St Louis, we hold to the authority of the Early Church of the First Millennium over the Protestant doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer, it would be somewhat of a discourtesy for us Anglican Catholics to insist that the FCE do the same. This obviously does not prevent any respect and openness to discussion between the ACC and the FCE but such a discussion would have to be mindful of the differences between the classical Anglican Formularies and the Affirmation of St Louis.
With the greatest respect to the members of the Anglican Ordinariate, the fact of the matter is that, insofar as they accept the doctrines of the Universal Jurisdiction of the Pope, his infallibility and the invalidity of Anglican Orders, they are de facto Roman Catholics who use a version of the Anglican Liturgy conformed to the Roman Catholic standards. While this may preserve the ethos of being Anglican, we believe that this hides the actual Romanism which, in the same way as the Eastern Orthodox Church, we cannot share. This is not to say that we cannot be congenial and respectful of our brothers and sisters who have taken advantage of the late Pope Benedict’s generous offer.
With the greatest respect to the Society, we simply cannot be in communion with the Church of England. First, in administering the sacraments, every priest must intend to do what the Church has always intended to do. Given that the Society is part of the Church of England and the Church of England intends to equate male and female priests contrary to Catholic teaching, by being in communion with the Church of England, any clergyman is accepting the intention of that Church as his own. Crossing his fingers and saying, “I’m intending to do what the Catholic Church has always done” isn’t enough because by remaining in communion with the CofE is tacitly affirming the CofE’s intention which is not Catholic. Until the Society does indeed leave the communion of the CofE, we cannot be in communion for then we would be suffering from the same defect of intention. Further, it is also important to know that in the recent vote in General Synod to approve the form of blessing of a couple of the same sex, Bishop Warner of Chichester voted for the approval while Bishop North abstained. The Bishops of the Society have issued the statement here. While the Synod stated clearly that marriage is between one man and one woman, the approval of blessing that which cannot be blessed again raises the question of whether the Society intends to do what the Catholic Church has always done or whether it intends to do what the CofE authorises. Of course, we aim to be on good terms with the Society and its members and wish them to have the space to flourish in the direction that the feel called. Given that we have been personae non gratae at the Shrine of Walsingham , it is clear that we need to learn to understand each other better.
Our Diocese has formed, like the rest of the ACC, in response to the alteration to the sacraments by the Church of England. Since then, we have discovered that we do have a robust expression of truly Catholic theology that has come about throughout our history and association with the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. I hope soon to be publishing further material which demonstrates that theology, why we hold it, and why it is a natural expression of proper Anglican Catholicism in the British Isle. Do please check out The Meaning of Anglican Catholicism in which I begin charting this theology.
Nonetheless, the FCE, the Ordinariate and the Society have my prayers, fraternal greetings and good wishes as they follow the Way, Truth and Life.