European Deanery

I have this news from our Bishop which is now public: Establishment of European Deanery.

On March 14th The Most Reverend Mark Haverland, Metropolitan of the Original Province and Acting Primate of the Anglican Catholic Church appointed the Right Reverend Damien Mead as his Episcopal Commissary for Europe (i.e., for those portions of Europe not in his own Diocese of the United Kingdom). Since continental Europe is not part of an existing diocese, it falls within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan.

This appointment gives Bishop Mead formal authority to deal with ACC clergy (two live in Europe at present) and persons interested in joining the ACC or forming congregations there.

The Deanery of Europe will be administered for the time being by Bishop Mead on behalf of the Metropolitan and will be treated as an ‘honorary deanery’ within the Diocese of the United Kingdom.

There is also a dedicated page on our Diocesan web site: ACC European Deanery. This need in our Diocese began with my reception into the Anglican Catholic Church in April 2013 and the establishment of the Chaplaincy of St Mary the Virgin, Hautot Saint Sulpice, France. I originally applied to Bishop Damien Mead, and he needed to obtain special permission from Archbishop Mark Haverland to establish something outside his territorial jurisdiction (the United Kingdom). We are now two Chaplaincies in Continental Europe, the other being of my brother in the priesthood Fr Gregory Wassen Chaplaincy of St Boniface / Gemeenschap van Sint Bonifatius, Orvelte in the Netherlands.

In concrete terms, little will change. Fr Wassen and I remain under Bishop Damien’s jurisdiction as before, and we will continue to attend Synod each year in England and any Deanery meetings that might come up.

Neither France nor the Netherlands are Anglican countries. The Church of England has a European diocese whose Cathedral is located in Gibraltar, and its local communities are known as Chaplaincies. There are Chaplaincies for British expatriates and tourists in most major cities including Rome and Paris. Some French chaplaincies have attracted people who were hitherto Roman Catholics and sought something different for one reason or another.

We have also adopted this concept. I have always welcomed French people to services in my chapel when they wished to come, and I have prepared a translation of Mass in French which still needs a considerable amount of revision. They have invariably been my in-laws when coming to our house for Christmas or Easter. I have always avoided any proselytism in my area, because Anglicanism is not sectarian and must not appear to be so. There are very few English expatriates in my area. They tend to go to the Vendée (where I was from 2001 until 2005) and further south-west in areas like the Dordogne.

My main ministry at present is this blog. I endeavour to promote a liturgical, contemplative and humanist kind of Christianity in accordance with the doctrines of my Church (Affirmation of Saint Louis) and a philosophical approach. On any particular day this blog is read by people in the USA, the UK and Australia, since my language is English. I usually have 4 to 8 French readers able to read English, but who have never commented on postings. Some time ago, I tried a blog in French, but it never attracted any interest.

Here in Continental Europe, it is a spiritual desert. Roman Catholicism occupies the same place in society as mainstream Anglicanism in the British Isles. It is there for occasional Sunday attendance at Mass, the main feasts, weddings and burials. Within the “unwashed masses”, there is certainly a minority attracted to spiritual themes and alternative medicine, very much a “consumer mentality”. I am not interested in “marketing” to bring in “clients”. It works in America but not here.

Why Chaplaincies in Europe? I can’t speak for Fr Wassen, but I live here and I am a priest. We are all non-stipendiary priests in our Diocese, and therefore live in our own houses wherever they are and have our own chapels. Fr Wassen’s chapel is a room in his house and mine is an outbuilding which is a part of my property. The existence of a chapel depends on the existence of the priest. That would change if groups of laity got together and decided to set up a stable chapel and an association to manage the money coming in and being spent. They would the call on a priest. Such a community would imply their being English expatriates, Anglicans and motivated to leave the Established Church to join us. Most Roman Catholics are dubious about our Orders (Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae of 1896). The mentality and “lie of the land” are totally different in America and the British Isles.

What of the future? I think that other priests, more or less suitable, will present themselves and any communities they might have. Many in France, Italy, Belgium and elsewhere have gone the way of the “independent sacramental movement” with various results. They require a considerable amount of discernment as to their fundamental agreement with our way in the ACC and their essential stability and sense of vocation. A few are quite dubious characters, so we have to be very careful. To what extent can we “inculturate” outside the English-speaking countries? Do we present a fundamentally traditionalist ideology which is less extreme in political terms? Our history and struggles are not theirs.

We need to be ourselves. Fr Wassen with his experience of Orthodoxy and my own interest in the medieval and Renaissance underpinnings (local rites, high culture, etc.) give us something unique to offer, a Catholic vision which is neither Protestant nor Counter-Reformation, and which is humanist and gentle in pastoral terms and our manner of dealing with people. The vision is subtle, but needs to be expressed and explained, as I do in this blog. If we have something unique to offer, and that appeals to people, they will eventually approach us, and we can be of service to them in the communion and fellowship of the Church. We are not parish priests but chaplains, priests available to serve those who call on us.

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15 Responses to European Deanery

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    This is very interesting (to use that grotesquely inadequate word)! The Dutch are definitely great readers of English books, not only in translation, but in English, if just about not only any second-hand bookshop but any second-hand commercial or charitable shop is anything to go by, and similarly viewers of English television programmes and films – I recall Yes, Prime Minister reruns on Dutch television, as well as having bought dvds here of Yes, Minister and the BBC dramatization of Trollope’s first two Barsetshire novels and of various of the1980s BBC Shakespeare series – all with subtitles as the Dutch tend not to run to dubbing as the Germans do (whether from taste, economy, or some combination of both). And I have the impression that much the same is true of the Germans – and note that Fr.Gregory’s Chapel is not far from the Dutch-German border. How far might interest in English literature, history, and (Church) music of various sorts, come to that, conduce to visiting an English service, if the opportunity arose? Nor should I omit English theology and religious literature, with the various works of C.S. Lewis as an example. (I have spoken at two conferences organized by the Inklings-Gesellschaft, for instance, and to a Reformed student group in Kampen, as well as to an enthusiastic general audience, as long ago as Lewis’s centenary year.)

    It is also (there’s that weak gerundive again) an interesting time, if one thinks of certain degrees of UK and international attention to my brother-Charles-Williams-scholar, the Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden (whose latest video, as linked at Anglican Ink has, I see, received a comment from Fr. Jonathan Munn, among others). And I see that the Rev. Canon Charles Raven,as GAFCON Membership Development Secretary, and the Rev. Lee McMunn, as Mission Director of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), were involved in a Church Planting Consultative Group meeting in Sheffield a couple months ago, the AMiE having Europe in their purview as well, though the brief account I read made no specific reference to this side of the Channel where plans for new local churches are concerned.

    Perhaps various opportunities “to discuss peacefully, respectfully, and lovingly with people” (to borrow Fr. Jonathan Munn’s words with reference to the ACC Silver Jubilee Mass) will soon be presenting themselves!

    • I have always been impressed by the way all the Dutch people I have met speak English so well. Germans too. The French are about as bad as us English for learning foreign languages. I too was hopeless at French when I was at school. The Germans watch Dinner for One in English on TV on New Year’s Eve. You might find that offering services in English rather than Dutch would attract some people. I have known French people preferring Mass in English to French! My feeling is that we need to keep our identity and not look like bogus Roman Catholics.

      It would be good to look at what people are doing in terms of “church planting” adapted for European culture. Something I often hear is Evangelical in the pulpit and Catholic at the altar. One could add charismatic, competitive and extroverted personalities. Some Americans would add the cult of ultra-masculinity, the mediatic look, the polished exterior of successful businessmen and stars. I would personally feel insulted to be approached by a person of such a profile in religious matters. Even in the question of consumer goods, I pride myself by buying things I need rather than in response to advertising and marketing. I suspect that many Churches are using American methods that might work in London, Paris, Berlin, etc.

      What we need is to enter a peaceful context of discussion and reasoning through a contemplative and scholarly attitude, rather than taking away freedom via manipulation. I like the expression to discuss peacefully, respectfully, and lovingly with people… It is in this spirit that I write my blog. I offer ideas, not claiming that they are always right, but presenting them for discussion. This was always the spirit of the Anglicanism I knew as a schoolboy, that gentle balance between faith and reason.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        “It would be good to look at what people are doing in terms of ‘church planting’ adapted for European culture” – a good point, in combination with “keep[ing] our identity”: I’m sometimes alarmed by what I see various Dutch churches doing in the way of aspiring ‘church planting’ (which, e.g., liturgically sometimes gives more the impression of a pop concert than a service). Keeping one’s identity – which can have its proper latitude of expression – and apprising people of the possibility and kindly inviting them (e.g., in Fr. Jonathan Munn’s tones). (As to latitude, I remember seeing termly announcements in Oxford, in my day, of Prayer Book services in historical Latin translation – and now rather kick myself for never taking the opportunity to visit such a service! Also, of Scots Gaelic Psalm-singing, come to that… something else I should have visited, I now think! Regrets I think more properly liturgical and devotional than merely aesthetic!)

  2. Father, you have at least one regular reader of your posts in Canada as well!

  3. Fr. David Marriott SSC says:

    Several parishioners at St. Peter & St. Paul in Vancouver (ACCC/TAC) had come to the church as members of the Catholic Apostolic Church ( With the deaths of the ‘Apostles’, there was no provision for the Sacramental ministry to continue, and members were, for those I have met, advised to seek out a traditional Anglican parish so that they could make their Communion. A brother of one of my (late) parishioners lived in The Hague, Netherlands, where the last – for the Netherlands – Catholic Apostolic church is still to be found.

    • This is amazing. Like the Petite Eglise in France or the “priestless” Russian Old Believers, such people usually refuse to have recourse to other Churches. The Irvingite CAC’s church in London is a magnificent neo-gothic building, and is used by Forward in Faith and an Orthodox community. There is also a church in Paris that was until recently used by an independent Gallican church, and now the church in question has been sold to developers and will be demolished. How does one get to meet faithful from the CAC? If any are still alive, they are very old. I don’t know if there are any young families. In the Petite Eglise, most of the young people lapse from religious practice or become Roman Catholics. It is all in advanced decline.

      • T Graham says:

        I’ve just moved close to Albury where the mother church that Drummond built on his estate is still maintained by the CAC, although it isn’t open for visitors alas. I don’t know if they have services there, but apparently there is a young CAC family of seven living nearby. I’m looking forward to meeting them at some point if I can, maybe even get a chance to see the beautiful church there.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Following on from Fr. Marriott’s comment, without knowing much of the historical details, there are quite a number of CAC folk, including (largish) young families, involved with/in C of E Chaplaincies in the geographical ‘middle’ of the Netherlands, at least some of the younger adult generation of whom have basically ‘transitioned’ into being ‘mere Anglicans’!

        I don’t know how that is, more in the direction of Fr. Gregory Wassen’s Chaplaincy – but perhaps it will be prove to be an appreciable ‘factor’ in the Deanery!

      • William Tighe says:

        Mr. Dodds,

        As you may be aware, back in 1999 I published an article about the “devolution” of the Union of Utrecht:

        I wonder how well the Dutch Old Catholic Church is doing today, and whether its embrace of the Zeitgeist (or Tijdgeeste) has contributed in any way to reversing its slow decline in numbers, or in any other way.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Dr. Tighe,

        I’ll have to see what I can do in the way of finding some recent statistics, and report back!

        An intriguing recent local development in one case, about which I do not (yet) know much, involves an Evangelical Lutheran Church in some sense uniting with an Old Catholic parish, with an obvious practical element of escaping exorbitant architectural repairs needed on the Lutheran Church building, but that clearly not being the ‘whole story’.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Working out from the Dutch Wikipedia Old Catholic article, I find one organization that keeps track showing a drop in registered members from 5,830 in 2004 to 4,757 in 2015, while another notes 6,001 in 2003 of whom 1,030 attended Sunday (or weekend) services, down to 5,700 in 2014 of whom 932 attended Sunday (or weekend) services. Averaged over 29 church buildings (the same total I have in a book from 1979), that give around 30 attending in each. I suppose that might well be characterized as a continuing “slow decline in numbers”. (I know not how curiously, the World Council of Churches gives 10,000 as the current membership figure – perhaps they count in units of 10,000, with 0-9,999 also showing up as that total?)

        I have an impression that their public profile is of a height quite out of keeping with their numbers, but my own interest in matter ecclesial may be leading me thoroughly astray, here. Which of the great majority of inhabitants of the Netherlands has much of a specific impression of any contemporary Church, I wonder? (The total formal membership of the Churches monitored by the two organizations mentioned constitute something less than a third of the inhabitants noted in the CIA Factbook as of July 2016.)

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I thought this was interesting in the context (with reference to a book published by OUP about a month ago):

        If it is correct that the C of E “has seen a 14 per cent drop in Sunday service attendance in a decade with overall Sunday attendance figures were just over 750,000 in 2015 overall, less than half the level of the late 1960s” – whether or not that includes Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe Chaplaincies or not – that’s rather a striking difference from 932 of a Sunday/weekend, for the Dutch Old Catholics (not having tried to discover full Union of Utrecht attendance…).

      • Dale says:

        When I was much younger and a high school student in Switzerland, Zurich, I had contact with the Swiss Old Catholics, they were in swift decline at that time, and were on the verge of dropping the traditional Roman rite, which they celebrated with some rather unfortunate modifications and in German; they had dropped all devotions, incense, high Mass etc. But at that time the normal Sunday liturgy was a fairly traditional looking missa cantata sung facing east in German with the use of hymns and Gregorian chant. But instead of offering themselves as an oasis to the more balanced Catholic traditionalists, they went in the opposite direction and became a novus ordo clone.

        Since that time they have become simply a modernist Protestant sect with the ordination of women and a complete acceptance of the pan-sexuality normally attributed to American Episcopalians. Their membership has dropped like a stone, but they still have some very beautiful edifices, and are state-supported. They are now mostly the home of very advanced Roman Catholic modernist converts and most of their clergy are modernist, Roman Catholic converts. One wonders what would happen to them if they lost their state-tax supported position? Most likely it would all crumble since their churches are mostly bereft of laity.

        In Zurich the Catholic Apostolics have a very beautiful turn-of-the-century church in a modified Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine style. It is quite large and the interior is quite impressive with a stone high altar and Byzantine style Christ Pantocrator over the altar painted in a half dome. In the 70’s they still had a small congregation

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I see Fr Z noting in a 5 April post, “Mass attendance in Belgium: 5%
        Mass attendance in the Netherlands: 5%”!

        One of the organizations I note re. the Dutch Old Catholic statistics gives for 2015 Dutch Catholic attendance, 186,700 out of 3,882,000 members (with the other organization giving for membership, 3,816, 684).

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