Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, June 03, 2011


Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster stands with the three former Anglican bishops just ordained Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral in London Jan. 15. Pictured from left are Fr. John Broadhurst, Fr. Andrew Burnham, Nichols and Fr. Keith Newton. The priests became part of the Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans. (CNS/Marcin Mazur)
I wish I had a nickel for every former Roman Catholic I personally know who is now an Episcopalian or Anglican.

I'd never have to work another day of my life.

And, those are just the ones I know. There are many, many, many more. Hundreds of thousands, is my guess. We are blessed by their presence in our church.

You don't hear about the numbers because, well, for one thing, we don't keep those kinds of records. I don't ever remember sending a request for a Letter of Transfer to a Roman Catholic Church, the way we do when an Episcopalian leaves one church - for whatever reason - and joins another.

I just talk with the former Roman Catholic about the Episcopal Church, offering classes if s/he prefers, and offer Reception by the Bishop when he did his visitation or when we have diocesan/district Confirmation/Reception.

You'll certainly not see any news articles in Episcopal Life or on the Episcopal News Service about how many former RCs have become members of The Episcopal Church.

So, it's pretty much a silent, albeit massive, exodus from Rome to Canterbury - or The Episcopal Church Center at 815 Second Ave, New York.

You'll forgive me, then, as I sit here, scratching my head at this news article from NCR (National Catholic Reporter), with a headline that screams: "With a thousand Anglican converts, ordinariate gets going."

The article is written by a man who identifies himself as someone who was "an Anglican before becoming a Catholic 45 years ago".

I'm tempted to snark, "Misery loves company" but I'm trying to show some restraint here.

The article claims,
In England, the only country so far where the ordinariate is up and running, almost a thousand ex-Anglicans, composed of groups of laity with 64 of their pastors, of whom 54 have applied to become Catholic priests, have come over in the first wave. The ordination of the former Anglican clergy is being fast-tracked for Pentecost. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is calling the shots, for the local Roman Catholic bishops had wanted these clergy to undergo a year’s preparation.

Three former Anglican bishops, all of them married, all now with the title of monsignor, are the leaders. One, Keith Newton, has been appointed the ordinary, may carry a crosier and wear a miter, and participates in meetings of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales with an equal voice. In an echo of the Anglican synodical tradition, he is required to consult with a governing council of priests and laity, and future holders of his office will be appointed from a list of three candidates drawn up by this council, not by the nuncio.
CNS/Marcin Mazur
Thereafter follows an interview with Msgr. Keith Newton, former Anglican Bishop of Richborough, England, whom the author describes as "a big man with a stubbly beard and quizzical or humorous look".

I'm not exactly sure what to make of that description.

Anyway, the author goes on to say that:
"At present, he and his wife are still living in the capacious Bishop’s House at Dry Sandford just outside Oxford. They are preparing to move out, for the ordinariate in England cannot take any Anglican churches or buildings with it. We talk in his study, where there is an altar, a prie-dieu, candles burning."
Capacious house, eh? Well, hopefully he'll still have room for the prie-dieu and the candles at his new digs, where he'll serve as "Monsignor".

The author also notes that
Newton . . has been appointed the ordinary, may carry a crosier and wear a miter, and participates in meetings of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales with an equal voice. In an echo of the Anglican synodical tradition, he is required to consult with a governing council of priests and laity, and future holders of his office will be appointed from a list of three candidates drawn up by this council, not by the nuncio (diplomatic representative).
So, the bishop gets to keep all of his pretty dresses, use his own prayer book, preside at proper Anglican Eucharists and services of prayer, and have at least some semblance of Anglican tradition in a more democratic election.

And, and, AND.... he's protected from those nasty "women cooties" anywhere near the altar or on the councils or in the corridors of power.

Well, good for him, I say. If that's what makes him happy. I, personally, have never been happy with prejudice or bigotry, but well, in Rome, it's a "man's, man's world."

Here's the last quote from the article:
"Though still tempted to look over their shoulders at the factions in the church they have left, they have no need to worry about that anymore. They are free now, they feel, for mission to everyone, Anglican style. They are determined to make the experiment work: They know they have to mix in, while bringing their particular gifts. They come with humility, they say, and stress their gratitude for the warmth of their welcome."
"Free.... now"? "for mission to everyone"?

Freedom to live with the shackles of the sin of sexism and misogyny on your soul is hardly freedom. Then again, it is they who put on those shackles willingly and, near as I can tell, happily. And, what do you do when one calls a woman into the church and she is called by the power of the Spirit to ordained leadership in the church?

Uh-oh. Better revise that "mission to everyone" statement. It needs a few disclaimers.

Gratitude for the "warmth of their welcome"?

I'll just bet they were welcomed warmly. The Roman Catholic Church sure could use some good press, right about now. Imagine! While thousands and thousands are swimming the other way on the Tiber because of the abuse of institutional power concerning the abuse of millions of children,  or the archaic pre-Neanderthal attitudes and policies about the status of women, a mere thousand want to join them.

And, this is news. Big news. Imagine!

I can't. I simply can't imagine it. You'll forgive me, but I just can't get my head wrapped around that.

All that being said, what really sets my teeth on edge is the whole tone of the article. I know that poor Mother Church in Rome needs a bit of a lift these days, but, as you read the article, you can't miss the gloating.

: "To feel or express great, often malicious, pleasure or self-satisfaction: Don't gloat over your rival's misfortune".

It's so . . . um. . . well, here's a good Anglican word for it: "unseemly".

It's bad form, is what it is. Flat out. Bad form.

There's a part of me that wants to "Fight fire with fire" - even though I've learned, over the years, that this only leads to both sides getting burned.

I want to write a resolution for General Convention next year that, henceforth and furthermore, we begin keeping track of how many Roman Catholics convert to The Episcopal Church; and, furthermore, be it resolved that those statistics are reported by each and every congregation in The Episcopal Church in the Annual Parochial Report; and furthermore, be it resolved that those statistics are reported in the Episcopal Annual Report for wide distribution in the Episcopal News Service.

That's my wicked fantasy, anyway. Truth be told, it's just gloating in return for gloating, and I don't think Jesus would be at all pleased.

So, I'll do my little rant in the safety of my little blog and be done with it. At least, that's the hope.

The truth of it is that I really don't care where it is one finds one's spiritual nourishment. I'm just delighted that the institutional church in whatever shape or form continues to provide some semblance of spiritual sustenance for God's people - even if the nutrients in some of those institutions are not of the highest gospel quality.

I'm thinking about that passage in the 9th Chapter of Luke's Gospel where John tells Jesus that “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

Jesus responded, “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50).

So, fine. You want to be a Roman Catholic? Terrific. Godspeed.

Don't let the red church door hit you from behind as you walk out.  And, thank you ever so much for leaving the furniture and "capacious" buildings intact. That was good of you. Then again, it was good of the CofE to allow you to live there this past year, after you had left Canterbury and were busy swimming the Tiber. Well done, boys. Well done.

Just please, don't gloat. It makes me think that you're not so much for Jesus as you are against the ordination of women.

Have you already forgotten your proper Anglican manners?

It's bad form, gentlemen. Bad form, indeed.


Tracie H said...

I wonder if they gloat like this when Baptists or Methodists or Lutherans or Swedenborgians, etc etc, convert - or do they reserve this only for former Anglicans?

IT said...

In our parish, we've heard the staff estimate that up to 2/3 of the congregants are ex-Roman. So that's (conservatively) a few hundred right there. In one parish.

The best recruiter, of course, is my wife talking to her RC friends. I think we've earned a toaster AND a microwave.


Seriously, though I think there would be more. Many RC just do not understand how close the doctrines and liturgy are and how easy it is to move over. Instead, they live don't ask don't tell under the authoritarian thumb of the magisterium. If they only knew....

Jim said...

I agree gloating is wrong. But then every time something goes ill for TEC the joy expressed on one Virtue-less board at least is appalling.

As to RC converts into TEC I have no idea what the number is but it is almost certainly higher than the "ordinariate." I suspect that we have more in orders than they in total.

I do know that our parish has had a majority of converts on its vestry. That is not why. They are elected because they contribute.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, the folks at Virtuless and Viagraland also gloat when things go wrong for TEC. Shame on them. Gloating is gloating. It's bad form.

Someone on FB wrote that he once read that the estimated ration was 5:1 - Five RC to TEC for every 1 TEC to RC. I don't know where to find that figure but it does ring a bell.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Tracie - I could be wrong but I think Anglicans get 'special treatment'.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - I'll call 815 and see about your toaster and microwave oven.

I remember reading a report that more RC's just drift away into never-never land than join any denomination. That's a pretty big mission field.

whiteycat said...

Count me in as a former RC who couldn't be happier than I am in TEC. Most RCs that I know do not attend any church as they have drunk deeply of the "one true church" cool-aid.

Dom said...

Add another nickel! I was raised Roman Catholic, but after not attending church for several years (I couldn't tolerate the RC hypocrisy and misogyny, among may other things), I finally saw the light and became Episcopalian.

The turning point was when I heard Gregg Rickel (then an Episcopal priest from Austin, TX, but now the bishop of Washington) interviewed by Bill Moyers. I was so impressed by his ideas that I investigated the Episcopal church and decided to join.

The best priest I ever knew personally was a woman who served as an assistant rector at a church here in Austin. I can't imagine why anyone would have an issue with women priests/rectors/bishops, but then again, I don't think I'll ever understand how the RC church thinks...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Whiteycat - Me, too, honey. Me, too. Which is why I never go into the whole "one true faith" thang.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dom - Your note reminds me that we often get the brightest and best from Rome. I'm so glad you are with us

Muthah+ said...

I'm another one too. Before I retired, and throughout my career about 1/3 of my congregations were former RC's.

Yes, I have heard of some Episcopalians leaving for Rome. Fine. If that is where they find Jesus, I am all for it because they aren't going to be happy as Episcopalians.

I do know that the RC priests here where several 'anglicans' have jumped ship to Rome, are none too happy to have arrogant, urbane, disobedient, and exclusive priests in their midst. It is causing some real discontent among the RC clergy. I have a suspicion that Rome will be hoisted upon their own gloat in the near future.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, another brightest and best from Rome. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Rome. I'm leaving them to God

JCF said...

I don't ever remember sending a request for a Letter of Transfer to a Roman Catholic Church, the way we do when an Episcopalian leaves one church - for whatever reason - and joins another

A Tiber-swimming Episcopalian wouldn't be likely to ask, because they no longer (if they ever did) respect your priestly authority.

I sincerely doubt a Thames-swimming RC would be granted one, if they asked (then again, I'm not certain the Romans do Letters-of-Transfer at all. Is Fr Michael around to answer?).

David and John said...

In my parish, the largest segment of members are former Roman Catholics (as Episcopalians, they're still Catholic...just not of the Roman variety). As our Bishop reminds them, they have not left behind their roots, they have simply chosen a different branch of the same tree.

The second largest segment is former Protestants (Methodist, Presbyterian, etc). The third group (and the smallest) are about equally divided between cradle Episcopalians and those who never attended church prior to becoming an Episcopalian.

The flow of people between the banks of the Tiber certainly favors Anglicans.

As far as the three CofE Bishops who went to Rome, I would guess "Pope Catholicism" is more suited to their tastes. I hope they find peace there.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - You know, about 12 years ago, I went to the RC church where I was baptized. I got my birth certificate, but do you know they still had me listed as a member? I laughed out loud. The priest didn't. "You will always be a member here. We'll wait for as long as it takes for you to come home. We won't abandon you."

Can you believe the logic?


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good insight on the part of your bishops.

I wish those former Anglican bishops (now RC monsignors) well, too.

Daniel Weir said...

I think gloating is such a temptation - on both sides of the Tiber. I once decided that it would be good for me to identify some of the great things about other ecclesial bodies. What, e.g., is something great about the RC Church, or the Lutherans, or the UCC that is really a blessing to all of us. However right are the criticisms that can be made about the Church of Rome, it has still contributed much that is good to our common life. That said, I welcome those who have swum the Tiber in our direction, and I pray that God will bless those who have swum to Rome.

Anonymous said...

When I was received in the Episcopal Church I was asked in which church I was baptized. I was told that RC comprise the biggest converts. So, perhaps numbers are being kept at least in MD.
Let these guys go. They have made their bed. They will quickly learn that they are nothing but second class citizens in a RCC after the hoopla dies down.

Anonymous said...

When transferring from one RCC to another RCC (parish) you merely tell your current parish that you are moving and when you find a new parish you call the church office and add your name to the membership list. It is much easier to move in the RCC.
The transfer letter in TEC is off putting to me. Too much red tape.
Yes, when I left the RCC I was told that they would await for my return and that most do return. I am aware of the call to return to the RCC. But I have not accepted it. The thinking in TEC is a bit more stimulating and I have a somewhat similar mass.
But I will say at times I do get tired of the label former Catholic or being told by the Rector that I maybe a bit "too Catholic" as when I asked about the possibility of Perpetual Adoration at the church.
So here I sit not truly RC but evidently not Episcopalian enough.
A Seeker

Frair John said...

I know a Bishop who has said, several times, that if he had a press conference the same way the Archbishop did when a very angry Priest left, he would never have time to do his job.

Anonymous said...

If JCF meant the question in earnest, the answer is that there is no Roman document equivalent to a letter of transfer to another denomination. We do have people who want to renounce their baptism, but I don't think that is what RCC-to-TEC people are intending.

There are also a small number (in the US) wanting to renounce their baptisms. That may be noted in the baptismal register according to local procedure. I hear that the number in Europe desiring to do that is far larger.