It is all out in the open now, official and formally announced: five English bishops are to move to the Anglican-but-really-Roman ordinariate. They are the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham; the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst; the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Keith Newton (i.e. three 'flying bishops'); and two retired bishops, the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes and the Rt Rev David Silk (a Down Under connection here as he was once Bishop of Ballarat in Oz). I am afraid my title is not as crisp or as humourous as Clayboy's: 'When flying bishops crash'! He makes this astute observation of the situation these bishops have been in:
'Then again, I am uncertain of the descriptions of these five as “leaving the Church of England”, since I’m not sure to what extent they were really in it anymore. The last time I listened to Andrew Burnham he already prayed the Roman Office and said the Roman Mass, and so did many if not all of “his” clergy. Indeed, as far as I could tell the only Roman custom he disagreed with was the marriage of priests and bishops, and the only Roman teaching that was in error was the one that said he and the male clergy were no more priests and bishops than the female clergy.
To what extent can you be an Anglican when you hold that half of those ordained each year in the Church of England are not ordained, and the ceremony is half-pretended and all tainted? So I’m not sure whether they had mentally left some years ago, and the paperwork is only now catching up with their hearts.'
Cranmer would like to ask some questions of these bishops - I imagine many other Anglicans would like to ask them too:
'You were all ordained priests and have ministered as bishops in the Catholic and Reformed tradition of the Church of England. Time and again you have given absolute assurance to the people of God about the validity and efficacy of the sacramental ministrations you have offered which were guaranteed by your historic succession from the Apostles, and the unbroken laying on of hands sustained through the Reformation period and continuing in the traditions of the Anglican episcopate to the present time.
You all are now required to be ‘re-ordained’ as Roman Catholic priests. Although you may exercise a degree of ecclesial authority as granted by the Pope, no man who is married may be a bishop on the Roman Catholic Church.
Were the many sacramental ministrations over which you presided – eucharistic celebration; the ordination of deacons and priests – nothing but theatre?
Do you now take the view that Anglican orders are ‘utterly null and absolutely void’?
Are those men whom you have ordained (one very recently) truly and assuredly ordained?
Has your ministry within the Church of England been based upon fictitious claims?
Is such reasoning of such inconvenience that you will simply ignore these questions and now assert that the Church of Rome is the One True Church and the Church of England is not a church ‘in the proper sense’?
I have a couple of questions myself. Reading the various announcements (e.g. head to Thinking Anglicans for easy access to them all), one question concerns the remaining ministry of the bishops who have indicated they will resign on 31 December 2010:
Would anyone wish to be ordained or confirmed by one of these bishops between now and 31 December 2010? (I am generously assuming that until today they have believed their orders not to be null and void!)
Another question, this time for all Anglicans, concerns the nature of Christian unity, for which, let us always recall, our Lord himself prayed. First, read this from the bishops announcing that they have hitherto been masquerading as bishops:
'The Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum cœtibus, given in Rome on 4th November 2009, was a response to Anglicans seeking unity with the Holy See. With the Ordinariates, canonical structures are being established through which we will bring our own experience of Christian discipleship into full communion with the Catholic Church throughout the world and throughout the ages. This is both a generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians, the unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death. It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter.'
Note that they are bringing their discipleship and not their ministry into full communion. That is accurately said. My question is this:
If unity is not only possible in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter but possible by other means (i.e. as we Anglicans not in communion with the successor of St Peter must believe by definition), what is the character of Christian unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death?