Bishop Brian Marsh on Portsmouth

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.

* * *

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.

+Brian Marsh

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15 Responses to Bishop Brian Marsh on Portsmouth

  1. Pingback: ACA Bishop Brian Marsh offers a most interesting explanation | Foolishness to the world

  2. Michael Frost says:

    Most interesting. The section on the signing of the RC CCC is fascinating and worthy of some intense study. Will be equally interesting to see what others end up saying about this specific issue. I wonder what the bishops thought would transpire in the minds of their flocks about the RCC after they signed the CCC and aspired to teach same? And if the CCC is “the most complete statement of the catholic faith”, what does that make the RCC?

    • Sandra McColl says:

      To me ‘most complete’ is one of those uses of the superlative that actually makes room for improvement.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Sandra, I think we’d all agree that any catechism is a work in progress to a certain extent (Rome’s in its English is in its 2nd Ed.); however, the word “complete” is interesting. Is it a reference to size? Depth and breadth? So that the RC CCC is the largest one that covers the most topics most thoroughly? And does an aspiration to teach that CCCC imply its superior accuracy, goodness, truth, and beauty? Otherwise, why teach from something that is in any substantial error?

        There are many other lengthy Christian catechisms that one could teach from merely because they are comprehensive. But no reference point to any others is provided. The Lutheran Book of Concord is rather immense. So I’d assume it is very “complete”. Where do they disagree with the Augsburg Confession and its Apology? And Orthodoxy is rather immense and complete? Where do they disagree with Constantinople? Calvin’s systematic theology is broad and deep. Where do they disagree with Geneva?

  3. Pingback: Bishop Brian Marsh on Portsmouth Petition, the Apostolic Constitution and the Ordinariates « Fr Stephen Smuts

  4. Michael Frost says:

    Forgot to mention that in regard to the RC CCC, it would be interesting to see what else, if anything, they ever looked at. Three potential alternatives come to mind: Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and Reformed. Did they ever look at the faith and dogma of these others? The Lutheran Book of Concord is every bit as comprehensive about the Christian faith as the RC CCC. Reformed sources, too. And historic Anglicanism (e.g., 39/42 Articles) is very congruent with elements of Lutheranism & Reformed. Orthodoxy every bit as comprehensive. And where Rome disagrees with Constantinople, Anglicanism has tended to agree with the latter (purgatory, indulgences, immaculate conception, recent dicussions about filioque, collegiality, etc.).

    I suspect they never seriously looked anywhere but at Rome. I believe they would’ve better served themselves and their flocks if they had looked elsewhere in addition to Rome. And then after making the study, publicly opined about what made Rome their one choice to the exclusion of all others.

  5. Michael Frost says:

    Fr. Stephen, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity this year to speak with Archbishop Falk about his thoughts. I try to discourse with him every chance I get. He is most approachable, his learning is immense, and he speaks so eloquently yet directly. I listened to him speak directly to his parish after they decided not to join the Ordinariate and he choose not to, either. That is why I’m interested in hearing the various bishops explain what it meant to sign the RC CCC and want to teach it, to the exclusion of any alternative and without any expressed reservations whatsoever. (I like to consider the good Metropolitan Western Orthodox at heart, but that’s just me. 😉 )

  6. Neil Hailstone says:

    A question from an ordinary pew filling Anglo Catholic please. Why has there been no discussion about a formal limited Sacramental relationship with the RCC in the same manner as the Union of Scranton Churches? Or indeed why has Uniate status not been seen as an alternative option ?

    • The RCC denies the validity of any Anglican orders, including those of the Continuing Churches. All clergy going over to the Ordinariates or anywhere else are ordained absolutely after a time spent as laymen. Perhaps in the ecumenical scene, Anglican clergy has “some” validity for as long as they stay Anglicans, so that Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury can both dress up and give the blessing. It would appear that Continuing Anglicans have a line of succession from the PNCC, but Rome seems to take no notice of it.

      Uniate status, corporate union? This has been the subject of discussion, the basis on which Archbishop Hepworth initially praised the Apostolic Constitution of November 2009. Corporate did not mean more that parish-sized units in practice, with their priests going through the laicisation and absolute ordination process.

    • Michael Frost says:

      Neil, RC pew missals used in America have a statement up front, inside front cover, on the Eucharist and who is permitted to commune. Cites the relevant Latin Rite Canon Law. Specifically mentions EO and PNCC as being eligible. (I pointed this out to my RC GF once when I attended liturgy with her.) See also para. 1399-1400 of the RC CCC; first covers EO, second churches derived from the Reformation.

  7. Pingback: The TAC Status Quo | Ordinariate Expats

  8. Mourad says:

    While Anglicanorum Coetibus as it name implies seeks to make provision for “groups of Anglicans” would wish to enter the Catholic Curch, it necessarily involves each individual making an individual commitment. The days when a King or an Archbishop could simply decide for his subjects what faith they are to profess are over. That’s what Henry VIII, Edward and Elizabeth did. They decided what their subjects were to be allowed to believe and the penalties for non compliance were extreme. Let’s not forget that that this was the genesis of Anglicanism.

    Fr Ed Bakker who thinks he is an “Anglican Catholic” has stated on Fr Smuts’s blog that he could not have signed up to the Catholic Catechism because there are dogmas expressed therein which he does not accept. That is entirely understandable.

    The various bishops, priests and laity who left churches in the Anglican Communion to form churches in what became the TAC did so for a reason. One presumes that there was considerable hardship involved in so doing and that the individual and collective decisions were not taken lightly nor for any unworthy motive, but because of a deep conviction that the particular church they were leaving had fallen so far into error that they cound not in conscience remain within it.

    But Our Lord gave a guarantee to His Church expressed in Matthew 16: 13-19

    “And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

    But the text refers to a single church not many – and if one feels constrained to quit an official church of the Anglican Communion, one is in effect saying “that particular ecclesial body is not the true church the Saviour founded” since if it were, there would be no reason to leave.

    Those TAC members would signed up to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and then followed though must at least have come to the conviction that they are aherering to the Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.

    But what about those who signed and did not follow though? Or who did not sign? What on earth or in heaven gives them any certainty that whatever was cobbled together at St Louis is going to be the sure foundation on which to build? On the product of a schism provoked by some Tudor monarchs?

    • Thank you for your courteous comment, but please remember that this is a blog run by someone who has been very severely burned in the (Roman) Catholic Church and who is not going back for more.

      Of course, the question whether or not it is possible to remain in the TAC with integrity becomes increasingly murky. I don’t want to discuss it any further. If others do, they are welcome, and you are fair game for them.

  9. ed pacht says:

    O)f course there is but one church. There cannot be more than one for we are all bound to one divine Head. Of course the one church is visible. It is people who come together in worship of the one Head. It is bread and wine transformed by His power into His own Body and Blood. It is the Word of God proclaimed by those set forth by their one Head. Of course members of that one church are called on to be in unity with one another. If course the gates of Hell will not prevail against the one church. However, where is it written that hell will not attack the church from within? Where is it written that unity must express itself in a centralized machinery? Where is it written that temporary divisions will not arise? Already in the New Testament we find Christians, recognized as such by the Apostles, who had become divided from one another. The church in Corinth was divided among various leaders, only one of whom was Peter (Cephas). In God’s sight the divisions among Christians are temporary, evidences of the activity of the gates of hell, and of the recalcitrance of the very visible members of the visible though divided church. Unity will not come by one part triumphing over another, but by sincere repentance by Roman Catholics, by Orthodox, by Anglicans, but the many varieties of Protestants, all of whom are culpable for causing and maintaining divisions. We need to admit that all of us have sinned, that all of us come short of God’s glory, that all of us need to change in ways we’ve not even imagined. God calls us to be changed by His power, and we are so bold, so hubritical that we attempt to answer that call by using our own power to change others. Humility, admission of guilt, seeking for wisdom we do not have, seeking to be made over in the image of the fullness of Christ, these are what repentance and conversion require of us. These are the road to a truly visible unity of a sadly wounded church. I don’t see any of the various fragments as truly showing the spirit of God’s calling. It’s time for all of us to repent.

    • Dear Ed, You have made a valiant attempt, but it seems to do no good. Christians are the worst enemy of Christianity, and it seems that we can only wait for the light to go out. Perhaps we would be surprised by the post-Christian world. As Christ foretold about the Temple of Jerusalem, Not one stone will be left standing upon another stone. May God forgive us but there’s precious little hope left in this world…

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