I am still in England after having been at my Diocesan Synod in Westminster, served our little mission in Bristol, spent a day with a dear friend who was recently inducted as a parish Vicar, enjoyed precious time with another dear friend who is a medical doctor, a modern-Romantic philosopher and father of five lovely children together with his Italian wife, attended the famous conference in Oxford, The Gospel and the Catholic Church, A conference discussing Anglican Patrimony today. After the Conference, I came up north to spend some precious time with my family. Tomorrow, I will have a long drive southwards to be with my Bishop near Faversham in Kent, and will see his new pro-Cathedral for the first time where I will have the privilege of preaching a brief and pastoral homily at Mass. Later on Sunday, I will have my ferry to catch at Dover to return to France.
The Conference itself was a very rich time, though some talks were slightly less relevant to the real theme, or were from quite diverse theological points of view. It was all held in the beautiful church of St John the Evangelist attached to St Stephen’s House in Oxford. This was the first time I had seen the buildings of “Staggers” as this seminary has been called. For this evening, still at my father’s house in Kendal, I will simply outline some of the things that most struck me, and may go into some details in the coming weeks. I am told there will be some texts of talks on the website, some of which I am eager to have.
One of the finest talks was by Msgr Andrew Burnham of the Ordinariate, in which he identified one of the roots of Catholic Anglican identity / patrimony. That was Romanticism and longing. In his perspective, the longing was for unity with the See of Rome. Such an aspiration is not wrong, because some form of primacy of the Church of Rome was always expressed in some way by the Fathers and early Councils of the Church. However, we may not always be agreed on the mode of this aspiration or the possibility of its realisation in our particular time in history.
Roman Catholic speakers including Msgr Mark Langham, who is undoubtedly a fine priest in his Church, but did not fail to express a strong notion of authority and obedience. He contrasted the continental influence in English Roman Catholicism and the neo-medieval ethos of Anglicanism. He even mentioned the Sarum Use! They all talk about it but stop at actually using it. The comparison is certainly simplistic, and he would be more nuanced in his other writings and ministry.
A priest of the Free Church of England was forthright in his criticism of liberalism and modern agendas, and struck me by his (what I would call) reactionary authoritarianism.
Dr Gavin Ashendon was present and also spoke on the roots of cultural Marxism and the Frankfurt School. He too was forthright with his authoritarian sympathies. As I listened to him, my thoughts became very strong about the need for a third way between this new form of Jacobinism (as I would characterise it) and the authoritarian reaction it begets.
There were other clerics who gave talks – Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics and a few Evangelicals. Was this some effort to unite the “remnant”? Certainly the Conference had the noble and holy purpose of healing the breaches between all Christians. I failed to detect any note of desperation but rather a message of trust in divine providence.
I noted the discreet presence of Bishop Roald Flemestad of the Nordic Catholic Church and his clergy in England. I was very encouraged to note the desire of the PNCC in America and the Union of Scranton to dialogue with the “G4” (intercommunion of the four main Continuing Anglican Churches achieved last October in America) rather than with the ACNA. These matters are in the hands of our Bishops and those they appoint to assist with the process of dialogue. On meeting Bishop Flemestad and his priests, I could only say what was on my mind, that we must be clear and transparent at all times, because this is the only way we can make progress.
I was apprehensive about meeting some of those men, but I am thankful to accomplish this task of giving a face to my name for those who read this blog and appreciate what I am trying to do. I was pleased to see Msgr John Broadhurst again after all these years since my TAC days, and I personally thank Msgr Andrew Burnham for his profound and sincere words. They are good men, and I have every respect and esteem for the Ordinariate and for everything it is trying to do in the face of indifference and frequent hostility caused by crass ignorance.
My own thoughts have been enriched and I find myself confirmed in my desire to work for a new way above materialist rationalism and religion based on bigotry and “appropriation of truth”.