Thinking Anglicans

Giles Fraser's sermon at Westminster Cathedral

The Sunday Telegraph carries a story by Jonathan Wynne-Jones headlined Pope’s offer was an ‘insensitive takeover bid’, say senior Anglicans. Reference is made to remarks by the Bishop of Guildford, the Bishop of Lincoln, and Canon Giles Fraser.

Here is the full text of the sermon that Canon Giles Fraser preached at Westminster Cathedral on 18 January 2011.

The task of preaching for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity presents a very particular sort of challenge – especially for an Anglican priest and especially in this building where, last Saturday, a number of former Anglican Bishops were ordained into what is now to be called the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham.

For some, this venture describes a unique form of unity, a way of folding aspects of the Anglican tradition into the broader Roman Catholic family. For those who have always dreamed of coming together with Rome, the Ordinariate is a generous answer by the Holy Father to generations of prayer and longing from Catholic Anglicans desperate to be recognised as a part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church as Roman Catholicism has traditionally understood it. During his sermon on Saturday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols referred to the Ordinariate as a contribution “to the wider goal of visible unity between our two churches.”

Now I don’t suppose it will be a surprise to anyone to hear that there are some – and indeed in both churches – who do not see it like this at all. For from the Anglican perspective, this new invitation to swim the Tiber can sometimes have a slightly predatory feel; in corporate terms, a little like a take over bid in some broader power play of church politics. And if Anglicans do feel a little like this, I wonder if things really are all that rosy in the ecumenical garden.

But sometimes it’s when things look at their most bleak that the real opportunity presents itself. Why, for instance, does so much of the Christian tradition seem to be nurtured by trips into the desert? Why the continual reference – here in both our readings tonight – to forty days in the wilderness? Because, I suggest, it is in the desert that one can begin to get one’s priorities sorted out. In the desert, we discover what is most important. And that may be just as true of the ecumenical desert that some people now fear is upon us.

I happened to be chatting to the editor of The Tablet yesterday. And she told me something I found terribly interesting. When in the desert, she said, one needs to watch where the birds are flying to, for eventually they will fly towards water, that is, towards the very source of life itself. This got me thinking. For perhaps it is only in the desert that we, as Christians, can rediscover what really holds us together: our common commitment to the source of life itself and our need to share this life with others. And indeed, it is not so much the birds that we need to follow, but that divine dove, the Holy Spirit, that is God’s call to each one of us to seek out the waters of life – both for ourselves and for our world.

During the Pope’s visit last September he spoke at Lambeth Palace of our country’s “deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment.” This, he rightly emphasized, is where we find common cause. Here is our deeper source of unity. For those of us who can’t really understand the Ordinariate or are anxious about its purpose, this is something very much worth holding on to.

It would, of course, be wrong for us simply to ignore many of the big issues that divide us. Like the majority of people in the Church of England, I believe strongly that the ordination of women as bishops, priests and deacons is a part of God’s will for his whole church. And yes, although we cannot set this and other differences aside, what we still need to remember is that, as a church, we are called to respond to the needs of the world – a world that, as the Pope properly reminded us, continually cries out for spiritual nourishment. This is where we stand together, as one. What binds us is that common life that is brought to fruition in the waters of baptism and presided over by the Holy Spirit. And if we can remind ourselves of this, then the desert can become a place of hope and indeed a place of transformation. Amen.

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Raspberry Rabbit
Guest

It’s so unlike a journalist to prune somebody else’s words in a way which goes against their original intent. I wonder if the Telegraph and the Times know that their religion writers do uncharacteristically fall short of the mark sometimes.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Completely and utterly disagree with Canon Fraser’s claim that the Pope’s offer can sometimes have a predatory feel about it. We cannot dismiss the genuine belief that those “crossing the Tiber” hold, that God’s Holy Spirit is moving them to take this step. If that is so, they themselves are responding to what God is asking of them, so the Pope’s offer is entirely incidental to their decision. The truth is that it is the Church of England, by her actions, that is encouraging such people to leave. Members of the General Synod could not find it in their hearts… Read more »

mark wharton
Guest
mark wharton

I accept that the Rev Fraser does not accept much of what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, nor should he have to. Indeed I would defend the right of any protestant to reamain protestant if they have a desire to do so. What I find upsetting about this sermon is simply his lack of tact- you do not go to a Roman Catholic Cathedral and say things he said. He would have been better off if he had promised to pray for his Catholic brothers and sisters and simply stepped down from the ambo.

Hannah
Guest

Benedict, It isn’t dismissing the genuine beliefs that those ‘crossing the Tiber’ hold to view the establishment of the Ordinariate in the terms outlined by Dr Fraser: I think anyone who watched that press conference with Vincent Nichols and Rowan Williams when the Ordinariate plans were first announced might reasonably reach a similar conclusion. For myself, I have no doubt whatever that there are those whose consciences lead them to head to Rome (and indeed many whose consciences lead them out of the RC Church, and many whose consciences make the C of E an uncomfortable place to be but… Read more »

anchorhold
Guest
anchorhold

Benedict, whether you like it or not, that is how some people feel, and GF’s remarks are simply articulating that feeling – in the cause of trying to move past it, which is the only way to stop the hurt feelings, whether justified or not, from becoming a block to dialogue and to getting on with the mission of the church. “If that is so, they themselves are responding to what God is asking of them, so the Pope’s offer is entirely incidental to their decision.” If the Pope’s offer is irrelevant, then why aren’t they going the whole way… Read more »

Roger Antell
Guest
Roger Antell

I agree with Benedict that those who have moved into the Ordinariate genuinely believe in the guidance of God’s Spirit in taking this step, and we should respect them in all Christian love for that. However, there have been some bitter words and not-so-upright actions during this process which can not so clearly be called Spirit-inspired. There is now a deeper vein of suspicion running through Anglican – RC relationships, and it is this that Giles Fraser is referring to. Benedict is in danger of confusing “ought” with “is”. He thinks the action by the Pope was not predatory and… Read more »

david rowett
Guest

Mark Wharton, “What I find upsetting about this sermon is simply his lack of tact- you do not go to a Roman Catholic Cathedral and say things he said. “

Trouble with that is that it can be turned on its head – had Giles Fraser preached the same thing at a Unity Service in St Paul’s he could have been charged with being ‘inhospitable to guests’. The logical extension of Mark’s argument is that no-one may say anything unpalatable to anyone because it’s ‘rude’ to do so. Is that really the way to unity?

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

I remain puzzled as to the identity of the senior Anglican who described the Pope’s offer as an ‘insensitive takeover bid’. If the phrase had not been in quotation marks, I might have understood. Benedict, please could you clarify what you meant when you stated that ‘Members of the General Synod could not find it in their hearts to be as generous as his holiness’? Though for decades Synod has affirmed that, in the majority view, there is no theological obstacle to women’s ordination, and few C of E members now object to women bishops, congregations can still be ministered… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Sometimes it is necessary to say it as it is and I am glad that Giles Fraser has gone into the lion’s den and said it.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“The logical extension of Mark’s argument is that no-one may say anything unpalatable to anyone because it’s ‘rude’ to do so. Is that really the way to unity?”

I vote “no.” Any unity that precludes the possibility of being honest one with another isn’t really a unity worth having, is it?

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

Well at least Giles Fraser speaks from the heart…although I beliveie he is in serious error. This shows a total lack of discernment on the part of the Westminster Cathedral authorities.

Malcolm French+
Guest

Mark might do well to go and read Giles Fraser’s recent article where he describes the dilemma. Should he mention the issue of the Ordinariate and appear an uncomfortable guest? Or should he rather ignore the Ordinariate and appear a hypocrite?

Jesus was, as I recall, generally more critical of hypocrisy than of plain speaking.

John
Guest
John

I’m not a great admirer of Giles Fraser, but why on earth shouldn’t he say the things he said in Westminster Cathedral? We are all free. That is one of the blessings of the Reformation. I happen to agree with the sentiments – as most C of E people do, I am sure. Furthermore, many establishment RCs – as opposed to ordinary, sane RCs – generally don’t understand that such sentiments can be sincerely held and vigorously defended. It’s good to give them a dose of reality. It usually makes them pleasanter and more cooperative.

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

Surely, this is a fine example of ‘speaking the truth in love’. Giles is very careful (he will admit that this is not always the case) and very positive – but he is not pretending nor is he ducking issues.

It is a curious view of truth that would have expected an Anglican to have preached in Westminster Cathedral the week after the fast-track ordinations of three ex-Anglicans and to have failed to mention how he feels in that context. No-one would have been served by that and certainly not the cause of Christian unity.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Completely and utterly disagree with Canon Fraser’s claim that the Pope’s offer can sometimes have a predatory feel about it.”

How charitable of you, Benedict, to do everyone’s *feeling* for them! {sarcasm/Off}

For those who think that Fraser lacked “tact”, I think his key phrase is “indeed in both churches”. If you think there are not faithful Roman Catholics who do not believe exactly as Fraser does about the Ordinariate (indeed, about OOW, too), you’re SRSLY kidding yourselves!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

When I do something I believe to be positive but that other people receive as hostile and unfriendly, I’d rather be told that this is the perception so I can begin to explain why I did what I did. After all, I’m happier if people don’t misunderstand me, especially if my aim is to be friends with them.

Inviting Giles Fraser to speak was a grown up thing to do, as was what he said.

Catholicism is a very mature denomination and much much deeper and more flexible than some of its converts seem to realise.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” The truth is that it is the Church of England, by her actions, that is encouraging such people to leave. Members of the General Synod could not find it in their hearts to be as generous as his holiness. We reap what we sow!” – Benedict – This is not a matter of General Synod being hard-hearted. Rather it was avoiding the sin of hypcrisy – in pretending it didn’t really matter whether the Church of England was systematically affirming the call of baptised women of the Church to obey God’s calling into Holy Orders. To allow a fifth… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Savi Hensman. Synod members has repeatedly dictated to Catholics and Evangelicals what they should have in the way of provision without listening to what they actually need. That is where the lack of generosity comes in. For years, the mantra has been “A code of practice will not do”, so what do we get? A code of practice. Time after time both Cathoics and Evangelicals sought episcopal jurisdiction rather than episcopal delegation. So what do we get? Episcopal delegation. Please don’t try to dress that up as generosity. Insensitivity, maybe, and most certainly an unwillingness to listen.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I suspect that the listening process in synod is rather like God’s listening process in prayer. You may ask for many things…but sometimes the answer is “no”–for your own good and the good of the church, though you may not realize it at the time.

Ecclesia Anglicana
Guest

Giles Fraser must be congratulated for merely expressing how many Anglicans feel. It is a nonsense to suggest, as Rome does, that the Ordinariate is somehow a great ecumenical gesture. Those in England accepting the offer have, on the whole, very little in the way of ‘Anglican patrimony’ to bring with them – they have largely been formed by post-Reformation Roman Catholicism in liturgy, spirituality, theology, etc. What residue of Anglicanism that may exist in the Ordinariate will be a pale imitation, a surface veneer, of what constitutes the Anglican tradition – they will be, to put it bluntly, Rome’s… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Giles’ remarks might be off-putting to some Catholics, but I am sure that many of those open-minded enough to take part in ecumenical services of this kind will agree with them or at least appreciate them as legitimate comment. Archbishop Williams made some tart comments about Anglicorum Coetibus in a speech at the Gregorian University (though of course with that angelic mildness that is not Canon Fraser’s forte), and Cardinal Kasper seems to be nodding enthusiastically.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Sad though it is for those implacably opposed to women bishops, General Synod has concluded that anything beyond a Code of Practice either undermines the Church of England and its episcopal government too drastically or creates second class women bishops. After all considerable effort has gone into looking at the options; this is where we are and it is not yet certain things will necessarily go ahead…though I can’t see that in say 5 years time thinking is likely to be any different. I have read accounts of Fr Andrew Burnham’s first mass as an RC priest with Aidan Nicholls… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Benedict would you explain why a code of practice will not do? The general synod has discussed for years, and through the revision committee, ways of trying to appease those few people who oppose. But nothing will do other than a separate grouping that will be a church within a church. It is increasingly seen to be the behaviour of spoilt children. They are offered a male bishop if a woman is appointed and yet any male bishop will not do as an alternative but one who has not ordained a woman as if that will make them tainted. Where… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

It had to be said.

The venue was spot-on.

Josef Ratzinger has a lot more than this for which to answer.

(But he does not think he need give them.Recall : he has a very long track-record within the Vatican).

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

So Pat O’Neill, you presume to have the mind of God on this one do you? We’ve not even reached the final decision yet, and many like yourself are preempting what could prove to be a major upset, given the change in Synod membership. What, I wonder, would be your claim on God then? And Kate, a code of practice will simply not do, because if you are a traditionalist and believe that the ordination of women is not consonant with either Scripture or Tradition, then you cannot accept the authority or receive the sacraments of anyone, male or female,… Read more »

Francesco
Guest
Francesco

I simply think and would say to Canon Giles Fraser – and maybe to some Catholics – that christian conscience of Anglicans who have joined the Personal Ordinariate deserve respect.
Is Pope Benedict the cause of deep division in the Anglican Church?

JCF
Guest
JCF

Benedict, the problem is that YOUR side has been euphemizing. You want to SPLIT the CofE into two (or possibly more, via the ConEvs) incongruous and mutually-exclusive parts. No, THAT “will not do.”

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

We just can’t win can we… Some Anglo-Catholic Anglicans ask to become Ctholics..we comply and now we are accused of being predatory!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” Time after time both Catholics and Evangelicals sought episcopal jurisdiction rather than episcopal delegation. So what do we get? Episcopal delegation. Please don’t try to dress that up as generosity. Insensitivity, maybe, and most certainly an unwillingness to listen.” – Benedict – Catholic theology demands jurisdiction for the diocesan bishop – not ‘delegation’. The Church of England tried that experiment to the detriment of her catholic heritage. The only ‘Flying Bishops’ are those of the Global South who keep amassing Air Points in attending global meetings with GAFCON and ACNA. What really is needed is the restoration of the… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I thought Giles was not frank enough, but there you are ……

Derek Gagne
Guest
Derek Gagne

The Anglo-Catholics who have “asked” to become ECs could have become RCs at any time. The special circumstances offered by Rome (Anglican “patrimony”, Anglican liturgy, married clergy, fast-track conversions and ordinations) are definitely enticements and have only one intention-to gain Anglicans who might otherwise have not gone. Predatory? Probably.

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

“We just can’t win can we… Some Anglo-Catholic Anglicans ask to become Ctholics..we comply and now we are accused of being predatory!”

No, just opportunistic and enabling. And they didn’t become “Catholics” in the traditional sense. They were expedited into positions of leadership and pandered to. That’s the problem.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“For years, the mantra has been “A code of practice will not do”, so what do we get? A code of practice. Time after time both Cathoics and Evangelicals sought episcopal jurisdiction rather than episcopal delegation. So what do we get? Episcopal delegation.Insensitivity, maybe, and most certainly an unwillingness to listen.”

It doesn’t really follow that people aren’t listening to you when they don’t give you what you demand.

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

Evensongjunkie..you are upset by a tiny Anglo-Catholic theme park defecting to Rome. Please show a little compassion.I agree the ordinations were swift, and I hold some resrvations, but at the end of the day , this is what the Anglo-Catholic remnant wanted and Rome bent over to be generous.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” if you are a traditionalist and believe that the ordination of women is not consonant with either Scripture or Tradition, then you cannot accept the authority or receive the sacraments of anyone, male or female, delegated by a woman bishop, let alone ordained by her, hence the need for alternative oversight with jurisdiction – – Benedict – This is the sort of rhetoric that one might expect from the Magisterium – at the heart of the Vatican. My question is: “Why do you still think of yourself as an ‘Anglican’?” What you here are advocating is not authentically Anglican… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Rome has indeed been generous. But I wonder what some of the RC Bishops of England and Wales really think. They have enough on their plate I would have thought without this distraction ( and the incidental financial cost). As the Ordinary is not a bishop the diocesan bishops will have to ordain clergy they haven’t selected and then have no jurisdiction over them. A bit rum I think.I can’t see the Ordinariate ever becoming inculturated into English Roman Catholicism. I suspect it will be something of a oddity and probably “more Roman than Rome”. Perhaps that is why the… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“” if you are a traditionalist and believe that the ordination of women is not consonant with either Scripture or Tradition, then you cannot accept the authority or receive the sacraments of anyone, male or female, delegated by a woman bishop”

This simply does not follow, assuming that a male priest wasn’t contaminated by girl cooties when he got ordained (by wisely choosing an XY priest). Either he’s a priest, or he isn’t.

Adam Armstrong
Guest
Adam Armstrong

RIW said “Rome bent over to be generous”. Generous is really a euphemism for manipulative and enabling. They abandoned nearly every principle that had previously made it difficult for Anglicans to defect, almost overnight. Please be careful about who bent over for whom. Not a good thought.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Rome bent over to be generous.”

Nooooooooo comment! ;-X

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“by wisely choosing an XY bishop,” I should have written.

I think it’s been interesting seeing how the word “generous” has become linked with an offer that really gives very little to those accepting it (except for Anglican bishops re-ordained as priests by the RCC, who will be allowed to continue dressing up like bishops). Otherwise, what’s so generous about it?

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

It means they are priests forever after the Order of Melchizedek, with the privilege of serving in Christ’s one true Church amnd having the ordinary and more secure means to salvation.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“It means they are priests forever after the Order of Melchizedek, with the privilege of serving in Christ’s one true Church…”

Oh – just like before, then.

James
Guest
James

I am a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and of a congregation which welcomes homosexual men and women and will bless their unions, should that be their wish. With the arrival of civil partnerships, the whole war of words regarding “gay marriage” seems to smack more of semantics than theology. “Ut unam sit”. I don’t think Archbishop Nichols is heading in that direction. If members of the Anglican Church, whether lay or ordained, are not able to follow the way the Anglican Church may be heading, but acknowledge one holy, catholic and apostolic church, and wish to head for… Read more »