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Anglican Conversions? - Fr Gregory - 14-07-2008 10:13 PM

At the risk (?) of provoking controversy, some comment seems appropriate on reactions to the decision by the Church of England to allow the ordination of women. This is a comment on the reactions to the decision, not to the decision. I don?t see it as the role of other churches to criticize decision of the Church of England, an autonomous body following its own decision-making processes.

An apparently large number of bishops and priests have announced that they will convert to the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the decision. This is surely a very odd reaction. Presumably the day before the decision they were committed, at least minimally, to the faith and order of the Church of England. Presumably they were also happily receiving stipends from that Church. If they really held to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church they were engaged in fraud. They were also fundamentally in error as far as Rome is concerned. Roman Catholic doctrine is perfectly clear: it is necessary to submit to the Roman Pontiff. It is not possible, except in the strange fantasies of some Anglo-Catholics or Anglo-Papalists, to hold to the Roman Catholic faith while being out of communion with the Pope.

Apparently for the soon-to-be-converted Anglican bishops and priests some ?Road to Damascus? experience occurred after the final vote in Synod. Having been Anglican bishops and priests (and paid as such), they seem now to acknowledge that they are or ought to be Roman Catholic laymen, and are not now nor have they ever been bishops and priests (in Roman Catholic terms). Having undergone this dramatic change of heart and mind they seem not to have resigned, reverted to lay status and declined to accept any longer payments from the Church of England, but appear to be holding out for an acceptable offer from Rome. Can supposed conversion be based on negotiating a deal?

This is truly bizarre behaviour. Are these bishops and priests continuing to exercise the orders that Rome (and presumably now they) say they do not hold? How are their positions to be explained to those to whom they (apparently) continue to minister? ?I am your bishop/priest but I no longer believe in the validity of the church within which I am a bishop/priest and have converted, at least in anticipation, to a church which denies that I am a bishop/priest??

I can only imagine the response from my Bishop if I said: ?I?m thinking about becoming a Roman Catholic, but I?m waiting to see what deal the Vatican will offer me. If I don?t like the offer, I?ll stay with you. Meanwhile, I?ll just continue as a Priest in the British Orthodox Church.?

Just why Rome would accept converts on the basis that they reject the ordination of women as bishops remains a mystery. Either these men have always held to the faith as defined by Rome (in which case, what were they doing in the Church of England?) or they are simply Anglicans who reject the ordination of women. To what have they been converted?

There must be a warning here to the Orthodox. Some Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women have converted the Orthodoxy, particularly in the USA. Some have sought, as have some who converted to Roman Catholicism, to maintain their Anglican liturgy and ethos. Conversion to the Orthodox Faith ought to be a cause for joy and thanksgiving. However, it is conversion TO Orthodoxy, not conversion FROM something else. I am not Orthodox because I reject the Methodism of my childhood. I am Orthodox because I positively accept the Orthodox Faith.

I recently received an e-mail from a Church of England clergyman seeking advice on how to convert to Orthodoxy IF the ordination of women bishops proceeded. Objection to the ordination of women is not a basis upon which to become Orthodox. The Faith of Orthodoxy is not a single item: ?I do not believe in the ordination of women.? Conversion cannot be conditional: ?If the ordination of women goes ahead, I?ll convert; if not, I?ll stay? is hardly suggestive of a true conversion of heart and mind to the Orthodox Faith.

Those who are unhappy within the Church of England (or other churches of the Anglican Communion) may well seek homes elsewhere. They may, through the Grace of God, be drawn to Orthodoxy. However, true conversion to Orthodoxy cannot be negative. Orthodoxy cannot be some sort of refuge for disgruntled members of other churches.

Fr Gregory


anglican conversions? - kirk yacoub - 15-07-2008 05:12 PM

Dear Father Gregory,
The way that you explain the "conversion" of Anglican clergy to Roman Catholicism is very apt, and it makes them seem like Premiership footballers.
I converted to the Syriac Orthodox Church not from Anglicanism, but from nothing, although, at school, I had experienced enough of what Anglicanism is to know that it did not and does not speak to me. My wife is a Roman Catholic and I know that not only is Anglicanism different to Roman Catholicism,but that Orthodoxy is even more different to both. In dealing with Anglicans I find that they haven't the faintest idea of what we are, and that often I am looked upon as an odd archaelogical specimen.Of course, if an Anglican truly wants to convert it cannot be on one issue, but on everything.

Kirk Yacoub


- John Charmley - 17-07-2008 06:15 PM

Dear Fr. Gregory,

As a converted Anglican I can see where some of those who say they are thinking of converting are coming from; but I have not yet seen many of them go there!

Anglicanism is such a capacious Gladstone bag that it contains everyone from those who see that Church as the English version of Orthodoxy to those who would make Zwingli seem an Anglo-Catholic; indeed, one of my last few vicars held the view that there was much to be said for Buddhism and used to preach regularly on the subject. Now I'm all for a bit of understanding others, but four weeks running seemed a little much!

The pull of tradition and circumstance for those who do feel that Anglicanism is the English version of orthodoxy is a great one; as is the desire to be obedient to those set in authority above them. The fight to prevent their Church from being taken over by those who see it as purely Protestant is one of the things that has kept such people in the Anglican Church.

These things said, I would have to agree that the timing and the methodology which seems in evidence are both dubious. Why Rome should be more attractive this morning than yesterday is a puzzle. Two of my best friends went to Rome after the decision to ordain women. They had both been Anglo-Catholics of long-standing, and from my own discussions with them, it was clear that only the issue of Papal Infallibility had stood in their way for years; there was no Old Catholic grouping they could join, so Rome it was. These many years on they are more like Manning than Newman - but it is often the way.

I suspect many of these Anglicans are hoping for an English uniate Church, which Archbishop Nicolls has certainly discussed in print; they may even get it from this Pope, whose recent moves in relation to the canonisation of John Henry Newman certainly raise hopes in that direction.

For myself, there was never any temptation to Rome; the differences between what it teaches and what the early Church held are too great. For me, it was a case of having been left by my own Church a long time ago, but being in the wilderness. Eastern Orthodoxy, although more in evidence in the UK than Oriental Orthodoxy, seemed too riven by ethnic considerations and too narrow in its attitude towards other Orthodox. despite contacts with it, I was never moved in its direction.

That is why I thank the Lord for the British Orthodox Church, where I have been fortunate and blessed in finding an Orthodox home in which I can learn - and experience - the True Faith once given. I remain grateful to the Anglican Church, which brought me a long way along the road; but I am a member of the BOC because it is where I encounter the Risen Christ.

In Christ,

John