I have written to Bishop Brian Marsh of the ACA and asked him in these terms:
It would be very useful for me to be able to publish a testimony in retrospect about what the TAC bishops understood when they (I think you were not among them at the time) when they went up and signed the books and the letter.
The good Bishop replied and emphasised that he is giving his personal reflection, and others may take issue with him.
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Thank you for your good email; I am pleased that you are attempting to discuss the issues of the Portsmouth Petition, the Apostolic Constitution and the Ordinariates in a reasoned manner. A full understanding of this aspect of the church’s history will need the gift of time. Until then, however, we can – and should – offer our provisional understandings of the events that have unfolded since the Portsmouth Petition of 2007, just over five years ago. I would emphasize that this is a personal reflection and represents my own views on the matter. Many of these thoughts have been published elsewhere.
Portsmouth Petition. Although I was not present at the signing of the Portsmouth Petition, Bishops Langberg and Williams signed for the ACA. The text of the petition was not publicized until months later. I did not know of the contents of that petition until it was delivered orally by Archbishop Falk at a meeting of several ACA bishops in 2008. That meeting was held in Fort Worth. Also present were bishops Iker and Wantland of The Episcopal Church. Upon hearing the text, it was my impression that the petition sought “organic unity” with the Roman Catholic Church on a corporate basis. Indeed, that is what I and others had been led to believe was in fact on the table. Archbishop Hepworth had encouraged the belief that the Traditional Anglican Communion would remain intact and that the various national churches would maintain their corporate identities.
The Portsmouth Petition was just that – a petition. To suggest that it was a contract of any kind would be to misrepresent the intent of the document. The Portsmouth Petition was a request on the part of some members of the College of Bishops, a request for a means whereby the TAC might enter into unity with the RC Church.
The fact that members of the TAC College of Bishops signed the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church has caused many to believe that the bishops present were ready to enter the Church of Rome. This is not the case. The signing of the Roman Catholic Catechism as the most complete statement of the catholic faith was simply a statement of fact. The subsequent statement that the bishops aspired to teach that catechism in no way implied their full acceptance of the catechism nor their intent or desire to become members of the Roman Catholic Church. While there were undoubtedly some bishops present who wished to do just that, the simple signing of the catechism does not imply their wish to become Roman Catholics.
Apostolic Constitution. The issuance of Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009 was greeted initially with great rejoicing on the part of many within the TAC. It seemed that our dream of organic unity would be realized. Indeed, Archbishop Hepworth declared that it was a direct response to the Portsmouth Petition and that the TAC should move immediately to accept it. He lobbied extensively for the acceptance of the Apostolic Constitution.
While there are many threads in this part of the story, it became clear to several of us that the Apostolic Constitution did not offer the kind of organic union we had hoped for. Indeed, the Apostolic Constitution offered individual conversion. The corporate integrity of the TAC would not be a consideration. This was not what the Portsmouth petition had requested in its perhaps naive request for corporate unity.
The College of Bishops of the TAC needed to discuss and debate the matter of the Apostolic Constitution. As the highest legislative body of the TAC, such discussion and debate would be required before the AC could be acted upon. Archbishop Hepworth did not immediately call such a meeting. When he did plan a meeting for 2011, he abruptly cancelled it. Finally, in February, 2012, a majority of members of the College of Bishops met in Johannesburg South Africa. By unanimous vote, the TAC College of Bishops rejected the Apostolic Constitution. A petition had been sent to Rome. Rome responded. The response was not accepted.
Ordinariates. Ordinariates were established in the UK in 2011. On January 1, 2012, an Ordinariate was established in the United States. A few hundred “former Anglicans” have entered the Ordinariate established here, along with some former Episcopalians.
The Anglican Church in America has continued as an orthodox Anglican body. It has developed strong relationships with other continuing church jurisdictions and has entered into an agreement of reconciliation with the Anglican Province of America.
Although individuals are welcome to seek membership in the Ordinariates, until now few have chosen to do so. We certainly wish those who have entered Ordinariates godspeed! We pray that they will be happy with the choices they have made. We believe God has called us to labor in another part of the vineyard and we will attempt to do so as best we can.
Again, please know that this is a personal reflection. Others may well take issue with what I have written.