Society of Catholic Priests PRESS RELEASE – for immediate release
12th February 2007
An open letter has been sent today to the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, Wales and Armagh on behalf of an Anglican clergy organisation (The Society of Catholic Priests), which represents over 500 priests, calling on them to refrain from action against The Episcopal Church of the USA at their meeting in Tanzania this week. The letter warns the leaders of the Anglican Communion gathering in Dar es Salaam not to treat the Episcopal Church in the USA as the source of all the problems in the Communion. Instead, the Rev’d Jonathan Clark, who heads up SCP, asks the Primates to recognise that:
fractures within the Communion run not between but through provinces, dioceses and parishes.
Action against the Episcopal Church would only delay a discussion that needs to take place across the whole Anglican Communion. The letter points out that members of SCP would experience action against The Episcopal Church also as a rejection of their belief that issues of sexuality should not be used as doctrinal tests.
The Society of Catholic Priests represents anglo-catholic clergy working in Britain and Ireland as well as other parts of the Communion. The Society focuses on providing mutual support to priests in their spirituality and work of mission. Its position is that ‘the church should ordain to serve as deacons, priests and bishops in the church of God all those whom the church discerns as being called by God to such offices regardless of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation’. This is the first public statement on behalf of the Society on the issues which threaten to divide the Communion.
The Rev’d Richard Jenkins, Director of sister Anglican organisation Affirming Catholicism said:
This letter reflects a real and concern among ordinary clergy that the Anglican leadership isn’t doing enough to value those who in conscience feel that the Church should take a more open attitude to lesbian and gays. Staying together with integrity means learning to value all shades of opinion.
For further information please contact Rev’d Jonathan Clark
/ +44 20 7254 6072 / 07968 845698
1.In 1994 a group of priests from the Southwark Diocese, who felt they could no longer belong the traditional catholic societies for priests, met over a period of six months. The meetings allowed them to reflect on thier theological position and find a way of providing priestly support and formation as well as encouraging Catholic evangelism. From those meetings the Society of Catholic Priests was born.
2.The Society has at the last count 547 members, organized in chapters across England, Wales and Ireland. The Council of SCP is headed by the Rector General, elected by the membership for a three year term. See www.scp.org.uk for more information.
3.The present Rector General, Jonathan Clark, is Rector of St Mary Stoke Newington and St John Brownswood Park in the diocese of London and the London Borough of Hackney (see www.stmaryn16.org for more information on St Mary’s). He also represents the diocese of London on the Church of England’s General Synod.
An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Archbishop of Wales and the Archbishop of Armagh
Stoke Newington Church St
London. N16 9ES
12th February 2007
Dear Fathers in God
I am writing to you in my capacity as Rector General of the Society of Catholic Priests, a society which has over 500 members, men and women priests, across the provinces that you lead. We are not a campaigning organisation: our aims are the formation and support of priestly spirituality, and catholic evangelism. But I feel obliged, on behalf of the members of the Society, to write to you on the eve of your meeting in Tanzania.
The impression is being created in some quarters, and notably I fear in the Bishop of Winchester’s contribution to the Church of England Newspaper this week, that The Episcopal Church of the USA is the sole cause of the problems in the Communion, and that suitable action against it will lead to some sort of resolution. As you know, but may I remind you, that is not the case. The fractures within the Communion run not between but through provinces, dioceses and parishes.
Were the Primates’ Meeting to follow through the Bishop of Winchester’s suggestions in creating structures of official recognition for an ‘orthodox’ body within The Episcopal Church, not merely the vast majority of The Episcopal Church, but hundreds of clergy and thousands of lay people across your own provinces would feel that they were being judged, excluded and condemned. Members of SCP would feel that such an act by implication judged them, along with The Episcopal Church, as ‘unorthodox’ – not merely those who happen to be gay or lesbian, but all of us who believe that issues of sexuality should not be used as doctrinal tests.
I do not envy you your task of maintaining the Church’s unity at this time, and along with the whole Society I pray for you in it. But I am sure that any scapegoating of one branch of the Communion will only temporarily, if at all, put off the real work we will have to do in every part of the Church. As members of SCP we commit ourselves ‘to seek the peace and unity of Christ’s church, aspiring to live in full communion with all of the baptized’. I hope that you will find a way forward which enables us to remain, along with our brothers and sisters who see things differently, valued members of the Church.
Yours in Christ
Rev’d Jonathan Clark, Rector General