The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain

The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain was never very sizeable in a country where it would almost be said that people would continue to attend the same church building even it were sold to the Muslims and converted into a mosque! It is said in England that Anglicans are attached to the buildings and Roman Catholics are attached to the Mass. Religion is at an extremely low ebb in my native country.

As the Ordinariate took shape, the southern Dean, Fr John Maunder who has the care of that wonderful iconic church of Saint Agatha in Portsmouth, went over to the Ordinariate and is now one of their priests together with Bishop (now Father) Robert Mercer. The former Vicar General, Fr Brian Gill, also went over with his parish. Some other priests have left, one to return to the Church of England and some others who appear to be in some kind of canonical “limbo”. At least there is no sign of them having joined the Ordinariate.

The present state of the TTAC seems to be less discouraging as would otherwise be suspected. I intend to make a trip to England in the New Year, see Canon Ian Gray who is my own canonical superior and see what is going on in Lincoln and elsewhere in the country. There used to be two flagship parishes, Portsmouth and Lincoln. Now, there is only Lincoln, but the church is impressive.

The parishes and missions are listed here. Of these, the “brightest” seem to be St Cuthbert’s in Hereford,  Aske Hall chapel in North Yorkshire and Lincoln. I will have to research the others to see if there is more than a priest with a “ministry of availability” like myself here in France. There seem to be about twenty men in the TTAC bearing the title Reverend indicating priestly or diaconal orders.

What hard information can I actually find in the recent Advent 2012 Pastoral Letter from Canon Gray? It seems that the separation process is complete between those who were to join the Ordinariate, who were staying and who dropped out. There seems to be a resolution to “clean up” and rebuild.

There was a diocesan assembly last October, and I as a priest belonging to the TTAC am sad not to have been there, since I was not notified of any such assembly. The website is obviously improved and has been worked on in spite of it being based on a standard template, probably web-based. Images make a big difference to a website. Printed media is fine when you have people physically present at an event, but it is limiting. I would very much like to meet Michael Wilson who runs the website, and perhaps home into what is really needed.

ttac-lincoln

The big news in England is St Katherine’s church in Lincoln, which is a former Methodist building on the site of an old Gilbertine priory, owned by a trust and used as a heritage and culture centre and only part-time as a church, as the arrangement was in Portsmouth. This gave the possibility for an expensive restoration of the building, this restoration now being complete. I agree with Canon Gray that an iconic building is important, a flagship church with all the functions of a diocesan cathedral: a chapter of canons, music, culture and a standard pastoral ministry to the faithful. England is a small country and Lincoln is in the middle, slightly to the east. It’s an easy city to get to. Once there is a symbol of this kind, it will encourage other places of worship to emerge from marginal status and use energy and money to the optimum.

There is a question of Canon Gray being consecrated a bishop. At first, I was sceptical, but again, the bishop is a figurehead and an icon. If the office of bishop is exercised as it should be and with humility, it could do a lot of good for the TTAC. The ideal would be union between the TTAC and the ACC, which has its bishop, but that cannot be done locally. Relations between the TAC and the ACC have become very cordial internationally, and it seems to be a question of patience and continued work on our relationship. I think having a TTAC bishop is justified, and this office would boost morale. I hope I will be notified about the consecration – so that I can be there! Another important thing is having brought the diocesan offices to life with new blood. Reactivity is essential for pastoral outreach and the desired growth.

How are we going to train new priests? One essential thing is knowing what are the intellectual credentials of the clergy we have. I think the profile is higher than some may think, and we need to devise a distance learning programme such as the Americans and Canadians have. There also need to be weekend sessions for practical matters such as preaching, pastoralia and, not least, learning to celebrate Mass properly.

These resolutions represent a new beginning for a war-torn church, and may be enough to attract some of our men back who dropped out through discouragement. Canon Gray specifically assures us that he would

– welcome any who might wish to consider returning to the TTAC.

This would not only extend to “prodigal sons” but also to other individuals and groups. There is already a deacon who was with an independent sacramental community and has joined up. There is a spirit of generosity, which must remain beyond the necessity of breathing new life into a community that has been through such difficulty.

Update:

I have received a message from Fr Ian Westby who used to be the northern Dean of the TTAC. He received a nulla osta for the Ordinariate but chose rather to return to the Church of England. He awaits the decision of a special panel in regard to his priestly orders and future vocation. In what he writes to me, I believe him to be sincere and as constructive as possible.

I will not reproduce this message, but there are two important aspects to what looks like a very bleak situation. As of a year ago, there were less than ten faithful at St Katharine’s in Lincoln, and nearly all the other priests have very few laity. The picture would indicate less than fifty lay people in the whole country claiming membership of the TTAC.

He advises against the consecration of a bishop until there is a greater degree of stability and “critical mass”. I would say it might work one way or another: a bishop might provide a figurehead or what would be viewed as just another “vagante setup”. I do think extreme caution in this matter would be the right thing – perhaps wait for full union between the TAC and the Anglican Catholic Church (Original Province) under Archbishop Haverland at an American / international level, and then go ahead with a merger in England.

I hope the situation is retrievable, and Canon Gray obviously thinks it is possible to rebuild, but it sounds quite depressing as it has been, at least in 2011 and much of 2012.

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23 Responses to The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain

  1. Pingback: Fr Chadwick’s TAC Survey « Fr Stephen Smuts

  2. Stephen M says:

    The only comment I am at least partially qualified to make on TTAC is that I have driven past the church in Lincoln on two occasions and been inside it once. Inside is a small museum (and a very good one). There are no signs outside that give details of service times or contact details of for the priest or parish officials. It is advertised as a “heritage centre”. There was once a very faded printout that said “Mass”, but it was so small and faint that you could only read it if you stood directly in front of the notice board.

    This is terribly disappointing for any church. That said, I haven’t been that way for a few months, so maybe the situation has improved. Given the parlous state of the Church of England at the moment, TTAC should be burgeoning.

  3. Christopher Houghton says:

    Stephen M.
    Your point is well made concerning the visibility of St. Katherine’s still being a church. This will be rectified in the very near future. Please do drop in when you are passing and have another look. I am stunned that you were not aware of Mass being said every Sunday at 10:00am in the Lady Chapel. Similarly on most days ,Morning Prayer is held at 09:30.

    There is indeed a lot going on in the TTAC that will be announced on the website.

  4. Stephen Beet says:

    Any updates on this situation? The problems seem very grave in the UK for the reasons given in the original posting.

    • I personally have no information and can only suspect that The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain is dead, though there may be one or two priests who continue some form of ministry. I would be happy to be informed otherwise.

      • Dalene Gill says:

        The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain is not dead. Smaller, but with regular faithful parishioners. Bishop Gray is experiencing some health problems, and will undergo major surgery in the near future. The COB of the Traditional Anglican Church convened in Calgary at the beginning of June, and much was achieved.

  5. Archie says:

    update: Fr Westby is now a priest of the Ordinariate, in Full Communion with the Holy See. Thanks be to God.

  6. Rev Stephen Beet says:

    I am one of those who am in limbo, as you describe, mainly because of working overseas for 30 years. I was in the first group ordained at Fareham in 1994. Despite many attempts to keep in touch on visits to the UK, I have been unable tofind any info. There should be a.list of clergy

  7. Peter Long says:

    the cornish congregations number at least 100 regular worshippers!

      • Robert McBride says:

        I don’t believe there is a TAC Cornwall Mission, if there is it’s not listed on the current TTAC Web Site: http://thetraditionalanglicanchurchinbritain.org.uk/index.html

        I find this a terribly sad state of affairs seeing the (T)TAC was where many of us started our journeys within the Continuum. I fear the TTAC will never achieve what it originally set out to be, an alternative to the Church of England which adheres to ‘tradition’.

      • There are three parishes indicated in the site. I joined the TAC in 2005, but I was in the Patrimony of the Primate directly under Archbishop Hepworth. When the game was up for the Archbishop (being refused as a cleric by the RC Church, making unfounded accusations of sexual abuse against a Roman Catholic prelate in Australia, being removed from office by those TAC bishops who remained) I was accepted as part of the TAC in England. I then joined the ACC in 2013 after some polite correspondence with Bishop Gray.

        Speaking only of what’s left in the UK, it is sad to see it as a shadow of its former existence. Many of the clergy joined the Ordinariate when they had the opportunity and if they had never been Roman Catholics. My Bishop (Damien Mead) had once been a TAC priest, but went to the ACC much earlier. In 2012 / 2013 very few TAC clergy joined the ACC. I think I was the only one, and in the “diaspora”. I fear that some have “given up”, become too old for anything or died.

        I see no sign of the TAC in England being a part of the Nordic Catholic Church under Bishop Flemestad. Perhaps they will surprise us, but I fear that they have totally lost any relevance.

  8. Robert McBride says:

    I agree it’s terribly sad as you say. I remember +Damien in those early TAC days and we had the pleasure of meeting at St Agatha’s Church in Portsmouth. As you say, he decided to find his spiritual home within the ACC. I moved in an entirely different direction altogether but always maintained connections with the TAC and even considered returning some years ago. I was though Made both Deacon and Priest within the TAC by the then Bishop Robert Mercer CR, one of the very few in the UK to have had that honour.

    I have no ideas what will eventually become of the TAC in the UK but sadly I don’t believe it has any real future now and their ship sailed once clergy left for the Ordinariate. That said, I know of one or two who are now within the Ordinariate who swore they’d never swim the Tiber but clearly they decided to take the plunge once the offer was made. Indeed, I also wonder just how long the Ordinariate will last in its current form as I understand ++Duncan Nichols isn’t its number one fan and Ordinariate congregations are struggling to get congregates in any large number.

    A close clergy friend of mine attended an Ordinate Mission in the South West with a view to joining them, most likely as a lay member, but was saddened by the fact he wasn’t greeted in any way and nobody wanted to speak to him or welcome him? If that is typical of other Ordinariate congregations then I simply cannot see them attracting new members? I suspect that they are a club within a club, i.e. TAC Congregations, who have now planted themselves rather comfortably within RC buildings. If that is the case then, as these congregations diminish in numbers, time will eventually be called and their members forced to join existing RC congregations.I simply don’t see much of a long term future for the Ordinariate other than it being a ‘Peculiar’ club within the Roman Catholic Church.

    Finally, whatever happened to the very first incarnation the Traditional Church of England as founded by the Revd John Whiting? I know that after the split with the TAC it was latterly headed by Bishop Michael Newman but all recent attempts to track the jurisdiction down have sadly failed? Whatever happened there I wonder? By the way, I like many others including Fr John Maunder were originally members of the TCE and were at the famous Fareham Conference which kick started the Continuum here in the UK.

  9. Michael Gray says:

    See how these Christians mock one another! If the problems of TAC were as they conjecture, surely they should be trying to help? The more so as if there is to be unity of the major Continuing bodies in the USA, it would be odd for it not to be reflected in the UK . I wIll find it hard to make a case for steps which would facilitate that unity, if it becomes possible to discuss them at Synod.

    • I am not very clear about who is mocking whom. I think that those of us who have written on this subject have tried to be respectful. Unfortunately this year, the one who has been mocking churches the most is not a human being but something so small that it can only be seen with an electron microscope. It has kept my Bishop in his home because, with his state of health, catching the virus would kill him. To this day, churches are marked out for “social distancing” and the destruction of a cathedral organ here in France is almost a symbol. I don’t think anyone here is being triumphalist about one church being better than another because it is better-established, has more money, organisation, numbers, whatever.

      If anything, I have tried to keep the memory of the existence of the TAC in England alive, and I would hope that there can be meetings between Bishop Ian Gray and Bishop Damien Mead. Church unity will have to come from the top down. Alternatively, I could suggest all the TAC clergy and laity attending an ACC Diocesan Synod, which could be fixed up behind the scenes so as to bring an official invitation out of it.

      Hoping the Covid-19 will be out of the way by next spring…

  10. Robert McBride says:

    I assure you Fr Michael that I am not in any way trying to mock and if my message above came across that way then of course I do apologise. I would dearly love the TAC to flourish but perhaps part of the problem is its invisibility on the www at present?

    Unfortunately, and in this day and age, one looks first and foremost to the web for information i.e. Facebook pages and web sites. I did a recent search and did find the trial site but some links didn’t work and there appeared to be no church listings other than the three Missions in Letchworth, Ampthill and Lincoln. I can’t see Fr Long’s Mission mentioned even though there is a link above claiming about 100 Communicants? I am unsure whether this is the case or not? I know that Fr Stephen Beet has very kindly set up a Traditional Anglican Church Facebook Page, to which I am a member. Perhaps this is a good start? Not sure if this is an ‘official’ group or not?

    I also discovered that in 2018 two new excellent candidates were Ordained by Bishop Ian but there are no listing for them on the web site and no clue as to whether they are leading Missions? I believe one may be assisting in Lincoln but the other in Derby I am unsure?

    I am also unsure of the welcome that might be afforded to ex TAC Clergy, like myself, so some kind of conciliatory statement to encourage returnees willing to assist might be useful? I know there are the skills out there to help raise the TAC’s profile online. Having good communication skills and utilising them is key at the moment.

    I hope and pray that the TAC can bounce back after such a cruel separation because, one thing is for sure, there is a need for a ‘Traditional’ Anglican presence right now and an alternative to the continued outpouring of liberal ‘ideology’ that continually comes forth from the State Church.

    Pax vobiscum

    Robert +

  11. Jeff Hirst says:

    Dear Fathers,

    I wonder if I may as an outsider dare to dip my feet into your pond and make some comments?

    I have in the past corresponded briefly with Fr Anthony on another Blog, and he had kind and gracious things to say about me, so I feel encouraged.

    I was brought up in the Church of England but became a Catholic in 1994 when things went ‘pear-shaped’. Although I have never belonged to the Continuum, I have known people who have been or still are involved, and I respect it – and them. There are those who are Anglican by conviction and who in conscience cannot remain in ‘the mainstream’, but for whom the Catholic Church or Orthodoxy are not the right place either. I therefore regard myself as a ‘friend’ of the Continuum, and hope I don’t have an axe to grind.

    Anyone who has even the briefest knowledge of the history of the Continuing Churches knows only too well that in the early days there were some very strong personalities, and that harsh words were said and harsh actions performed. The echoes of these still resound today, and it is a brave thing to try and overcome them. I can feel their effects in Fr Michael Gray’s comment above.

    I am also encouraged by Bishop McBride’s eagerness to stretch out his hand, and for his and Fr Anthony’s readiness to apologise.

    It seems to me that here in England there are five churches that would be involved in efforts towards Unity – the TAC, the ACC, the Traditional Anglican Church under Bishop Michael Newman, The Ecumenical Society of St Augustine of Canterbury founded by Bishop McBride, and the Holy Catholic Church led by the late Archbishop Hamlett until his death.

    The problem of Internet presence is a pressing one. Some of these churches have good, up to date websites, others seem to have disappeared. Would a helpful suggestion be to ask those responsible for websites to approach in charity those without and volunteer their assistance? Or is that running before one is able to walk? How would the others take to such an offer?

    Over in the United States, the different churches in the ‘G4’ are being very cautious, and are not rushing into Unity. However, I note that the Diocese of the Holy Cross is about to become a constituent diocese of the ACC. To be running at different speeds is not a bad thing, and it might be that the same could be true here in the UK.

    My suggestion, therefore, would be that rather than an invitation to one church to attend another’s Synod, for a group. made up of the Bishops and senior clergy of all the different churches to meet informally at a neutral venue – my suggestion would be Walsingham, for obvious reasons – where those present, free from distractions or outside influence, could be totally honest with each other, share their distress and hurt over what has happened in the past in freedom, and use that as a spring-board for future formal discussions. It worked in the USA, where good and deep friendships have developed between the church leaders. Alongside the meetings, they would be praying together and sharing meals, of course.

    If, as a result, the process of reunification were to begin, then as in the USA there would be nothing to stop churches coming together at different speeds with no hard feelings from those not prepared to unite yet, as those ‘at the top’ would know each other better and have a clearer understanding of their positions, hopefully not feeling threatened or intimidated.

    I wish you well as you all strive to serve those under your care,

    Jeff Hirst

    • I have read echoes about the slowing of the movement of the G4 in America. I don’t really know what is going on. Perhaps I am not reading the Continuing Anglican groups on Facebook enough. I can take only so much at a time, especially when I feel fragile spiritually and emotionally. I think also that the pandemic hasn’t been very helpful, since it has cancelled meetings, synods and prevented people from getting together. The world has become highly polarised with the rise of the so-called “woke” ideology that could fizzle out like any other fad or fashion – or take over the world like some new Nazi empire. None of us knows, but one can only say in German – Mit brennender Sorge – With burning concern.

      Different people have found their resting place in this or that institutional church. Many have been alienated and seek the transcendent within themselves and anything that can be seen as an icon of divinity and holiness, perhaps following another philosophy of life. I don’t blame any in our age of ignorance, intolerance and toxic narcissism. It has happened before and it is happening again. My own story is well-known and I make no secret of it, because I have nothing to hide or fear.

      I lived through the 1996-97 period of the ACC in England and the appalling behaviour of Bishop Hamlett. I left in 1996 in the late summer, just before the “bishops’ brawl” in America when a bishop threatened to pull out his gun! I returned to the RC Church and France, and it nearly cost me my personality.

      My intuition is that before there can be any “horse trading” between churches, toxic narcissistic personalities need to be out of the picture. The trouble is identifying them and deciding whom to deal with and whom to reject. Such will place us in a position of judgement, and perhaps only the narcissists have the competitive clout. In a “mainstream” church, you have institutions and laws to cope with the bad eggs, but there too, the loonies have taken over the asylum. These are hash words and cannot be used for pointing fingers at anyone else, but examining our own consciences, and as Jung said, integrating our shadow or “dark side” into our consciousness. I say this as being aware of living in a world where civilisation is just about at its end and barbarianism rears its ugly head. The church in general is impotent.

      For that general consideration, we need to consider that our own notion of the Church and Christianity needs a radical overhaul, not as the “liberals” would do it but rather more on the lines of Dietrich Bonhöffer’s writings and the message of his martyrdom.

      On a more practical note, I can only suggest that our work on the internet should be diverse and longer than our own noses. Yes, we can say that Bishop or Father So-and-so says Mass in such-and-such a place each Sunday at the time he has arranged. Perhaps one can write something simple and to the point of the So-and-so Catholic Church and why and how it was founded for what particular need other than the Bishop’s desire to get a mitre and an impressive table of lines of succession. That would take about one page. After that, we surely have things to say about theology, philosophy and culture as well as social and pastoral matters. This is what I have tried to do with this blog and the two books I have written (I am working on a third). I think that would do more than anything to establish trust and the idea that a corporate name means something more than a defunct illusion.

      It is not difficult to learn to use a computer well enough to run a blog. My father was 76 when he started to use a computer and e-mail. He was brought up with fountain pens and mechanical typewriters, as I was too. I’m sure most towns in England have evening classes where people can go and learn to use a computer – and then use it for communication and a presence in the world further afield than the few streets around the cleric’s home.

      By all means, have get-togethers and informal meetings, perhaps in places of pilgrimage. Get with the programme with internet communication, and whatever else we might get in the future. Let the conversation be more than simply affirming one’s identity. The Covid has cancelled everything for the time being, and aeroplanes are grounded except where special arrangements are in place. That won’t last forever – I hope and pray!

      In the meantime, do what I and a few other clerics do: run blogs and Facebook groups and keep the dialogue going without confrontation or angry polemics. Widen the scope of subjects and remember the seminars at university where everything was discussed rationally and not emotionally. We might also find that those who want to impose their own personalities would be bored with such things. The slow approach would enable us all to know and trust each other.

    • Robert McBride says:

      Firstly, can I thank you Jeff for your very kind comments about myself and TESSAC which is very much appreciated. Can I also just add some corrections for clarity as I believe there may be a few muddles here and there in your contribution.

      You state: “It seems to me that here in England there are five churches that would be involved in efforts towards Unity – the TAC, the ACC, the Traditional Anglican Church under Bishop Michael Newman, The Ecumenical Society of St Augustine of Canterbury founded by Bishop McBride, and the Holy Catholic Church led by the late Archbishop Hamlett until his death”.

      I guess this reflects the muddle that is the state of the Continuum in the UK at present but for clarity’s sake: The “Traditional Anglican Church under Bishop Michael Newman” was actually The Traditional Church of England (TCE) as established by the then Fr Leslie John Whiting now with the Angels RIP. Secondly, it is my understanding that the TCE, latterly presided over by Bishop Newman, is no more and appears to have ceased? I have no idea as to the details and any attempt to discover anything recent about the TCE, or Bishop Newman, has come to nothing?

      The ACC, and Fr Chadwick would know this far better than I, was originally led by Bishop Hamlett and was succeeded by Bishop Damien Mead after a period of Oversight from the US following Bishop Hamlett’s death . Thus, there is no Holy Catholic Church that I am aware of, only the ACC. Therefore, going by your assessment there would only be three major players the ACC, TAC and my own TESSAC though I retired and am Bishop Emeritus now.

      TESSAC is now headed by Bishop Martyn Douglas who is a very able churchman. He was originally a C of E Priest, trained at St Stephen’s House, and spent time in the TAC in the US before returning to the UK and joining with me to establish TESSAC. We are fortunate to have well trained clergy and insist that anyone seeking Holy Orders undertakes proper training and the foundation for this is the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies which is run in most RC Diocese in England and Wales. That said, each is accepted on their own merits of course.

      I should also mention the Free Church of England (FCE) but it would appear that they have gone down the ‘Happy Clappy’ route and I do not believe many more ‘traditional’ Anglicans would feel comfortable within the FCE?

      Finally, your suggestion of initial and more behind the scenes discussions between the various jurisdictions sound very sensible to be and I would certainly be very supportive of such a move. I believe each of us has a lot to offer each other and yes, that may include help with setting up more a professional web presence. I know that in TESSAC we have someone very expert in setting up broadcasts and web pages etc. I know this is true of the ACC also. So, let’s hope that following the shock of the Ordinariate that it doesn’t put the rest of us off course and before too long together we might be able to pull the ship around and head on the right course.

      Pax vobiscum

      +Robert

      • Jeff Hirst says:

        Thank-you, Bishop Robert, for your thoughtful reply. I am grateful for your clarifications, and apologise for any ‘muddles’. As I said, I am a friendly and interested outsider, and the only knowledge I have is what I have gleaned. Thank-you also for at least giving my suggestion of behind-the-scenes discussions a serious consideration. I look forward to seeing if anything comes of this, and promise you the support of my prayers in your continued endeavours.

        Jeff

      • I have this information from Archbishop Haverland which I believe he intends to be shared here to keep the record straight:

        Just a note in reference to a comment by Mr. Hirst on your blog: the Diocese of the Holy Cross has been invited by the ACC to join the ACC as a non-geographical diocese. The DHC at this time has decided not to do this, though they are grateful for the invitation. Mr. Hirst seems to be under the impression that the invitation had been accepted.

        At the moment the G4 Churches have very cordial relations. There is not, however, any other concrete proposal to move from full communion to organic unity. As Mr. Hirst says, things are moving very cautiously at the moment. I regret this, but we cannot hustle people in such matters. Unity worth having cannot be purchased at the price of dividing and alienating.

  12. Jeff Hirst says:

    I am, of course, very grateful to Archbishop Haverland for putting me right, and touched that he found the time to read my post and share some of his thoughts. It was kind of him. Thank-you!

    Jeff

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