Fr. Alastair has agreed to my printing the letter he wrote for the parish of Withyham announcing his reasons for leaving the Church of England to become a member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It is a very fine letter which speaks powerfully of his integrity and wisdom.
After much thought and prayer, and with the help of spiritual direction, I have decided that I can no longer remain within the Church of England.
I am by God’s grace to be received into full communion with the Church of Rome. Denise and I will be taking instruction, and we are seeking reception into the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
The Ordinariate, as many of you will know, is that part of the English Catholic Church called into being in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI for Anglicans who wish to retain the distinctive musical traditions, liturgical culture and pathways of spirituality of the Anglican Church, while being fully in communion with the 1.3 billion Catholics in the rest of the world.
I am very conscious that today we are in a church building originally designed and built by English Catholics, consecrated by a Catholic bishop, and which for five centuries or so was served by Catholic priests who were in communion with the See of Rome. This period includes the time when Withyham was a cell of a French Benedictine monastery.
I want to be among those who will have worked for the re-establishment of the unity of Christendom within this realm – in whatever ways are now being mapped out by God’s providence. Unfortunately such reunion cannot happen with the Church of England, which by its deeds has resolutely set its face against unity with the historic churches of East and West.
There may be some who will regard my action as a betrayal. But it is not. During my time here I have done my best to teach the Faith and to be a priest to you all. However, if a priest does not listen to the voice of his own soul, he cannot with any sincerity be a pastor to others. And unity is a gospel imperative. Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed that his Church might be one. It follows that unless there is a sound theological reason for being apart, Christians should always seek to be united rather than divided. For my part, there is no valid reason for remaining in schism from what for 2000 years has been the Church of the West.
I have greatly valued my time in this parish. It has been bracing, even invigorating. I have learnt much from you, and for that I shall always be very thankful. I have prayed for you all, and will continue to do so. There are a number of challenges in this parish. I hope that some of them have begun to be addressed this past Lent.
The Archdeacon of Hastings and the Bishop of Chichester, with whom I have of course been in touch, have said that once I have publicly declared my position, this should be my last public service with you.
Over the coming months there will clearly be a heavy burden on the Readers, Elizabeth and Donald, and also on the churchwardens and PCC. Please pray for them. Give them the help they will need.
And of your kindness, please pray for Denise and me in the times that lie ahead for us. We in turn will not forget the friendships we have made, nor the loyalty and support that many of you have given.
After this service, instead of coffee, we are inviting you to drinks at the Rectory. Please do come over to say goodbye. Or if that is not convenient, we are around for much of next week – please feel free to drop in.
Third Sunday of Easter 2015