A return to Anglican roots


This is morning I returned to Anglican roots- visiting St. Lawrence’s church in Hunworth where my father is rector. Being Catholic, I could not take communion, but I was able to make a spiritual communion amongst fellow Christians and was honoured to lead intercessions and support my dad in his ministry.

Unlike much of the Church of England, services in Hunworth reflect a land that time forgot. The bicycle still leans against the church wall, BCP prayers echo against ancient walls and the people still meekly kneel upon their knees wrapped up in winter attire to beat the chill! It it was a charming morning to be followed by a hearty lunch that mother has prepared.

Whilst in church I offered prayers for the parish in Pembury and for a member of our community being admitted to the hospice this week.

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45 thoughts on “A return to Anglican roots

  1. That must have been very moving for you, I went to the funeral Mass of a dear old friend a few weeks ago in a Church that I had attended for a very long time, like you I wasn’t able to receive communion with many friends of long standing, it was so sad.

  2. ‘Being Catholic, I could not take communion.’ Even though your father, celebrating, said you could. Of course, I totally understand the reasons why you and others say (and do) this. On the other hand, it is a matter of record that increasing numbers of ‘Catholics’, both in the UK and mainland Europe, ‘disobey’ the ‘official’ RC position on this. Furthermore, it is completely obvious that the present Pope, trying to make quite radical practical changes, is profoundly out of sympathy with this sort of sectarianism (for example, as I have several times emphasised, here and elsewhere, he explicitly doesn’t regard Anglican WO – up to and including women bishops – as an insuperable obstacle to overall Christian unity). And of course, as your own father has several times here observed, there are plenty of ‘Catholics’ (in your narrow understanding of the term) who are glad to receive authentic communion in his and other Anglican churches.

    1. Well said John. Most Anglican churches I have been in make a point of saying all baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion, so it is by Fr Ed’s own choice that he excludes himself.

      Also in the news, the Archbishop of Birmingham spoke out in his pastoral letter calling for “compassion and understanding for those whose marriages have broken down”. Fr Ed, it seems that your hardline uber conservative stance is becoming increasingly out of step with your own church’s leadership.

      1. Harvey I am delighted if Anglicans really do want to share communion with Catholics- I assume this means we are days from all of them joining the ordinariate? If that isn’t the case- then clearly there are still a great many not wanting to be in communion with Rome- which I must, if being honest and polite, aknowledge at the altar. Which is it?

      2. And I think your suggestion that I lack compassion or understanding of divorced people is slanderous. Please show me where this is the case? Or is it that your arguments to support innovations are so weak you must demonise your opponents and cast them as hard- to give the notion you are the sole possessed of compassion?

          1. Not true. I have stated that remarried people whose annulment has been turned down are ineligible. And I have explained why. Because this is the teaching of my Church. So all I am doing is explaining catholic teaching. Why do you make it sound like its about me?

          2. You seem to be ignoring the vast difference between annulment and divorce. It has been discussed often enough. And, just to restate a fully valid sacramental marriage cannot be broken. That is by Christ’s own command.

      3. There would seem to be a huge lack understanding of the of the catholic belief in the nature of the Eucharist (Holy Communion) in some folks. For us, taking Communion in a church, signifies acceptance of the teachings of that church, the validity of its sacraments and a belief in the Real Presence. Normally we also see a unity with the Petrine Office. There are some unfortunate exceptions to unity at present, where we can take Communion, but they all accept the primacy of the Petrine Office and we fully accept the validity of their sacraments. Therefore, for us, taking Communion outside recognized Catholic Churches, Orthodox Churches which allow us (yes there are some) – and some other schismatics in emergency, is a very big no-no because of its meaning. Some Orthodox Churches were only Orthodox members are normally allowed the Eucharist have preserved a very ancient Christian custom of also serving small, help-yourself bits of blessed bread, at the end of Mass, for all to take who are not members of the church or who are members but not Communicating. The bread is not consecrated Eucharist.

    2. “Furthermore, it is completely obvious that the present Pope, trying to make quite radical practical changes, is profoundly out of sympathy with this sort of sectarianism (for example, as I have several times emphasised, here and elsewhere, he explicitly doesn’t regard Anglican WO – up to and including women bishops – as an insuperable obstacle to overall Christian unity). ”

      Would you be so kind as to furnish proof of this? Otherwise you are, as usual, talking out of your hat.

    3. John, I assume you are an Anglican and, if I am right then, just as a matter of interest, why are you so obviously exercised by what Fr. Ed has said here? Why should the Eucharistic Discipline required of Catholics by their own Church be of any consequence to you at all? I genuinely don’t understand why you could care less.

    4. I didn’t invite Ed to take communion as I knew he would want to keep to the rules of his church.
      Commentators here seem to suggest that it is individual Anglican churches that invite communicant members of other churches to join them. It is in fact official church policy:
      Canon B 15A Of the admission to Holy Communion
      1. There shall be admitted to the Holy Communion:
      (a) members of the Church of England who have been confirmed
      in accordance with the rites of that Church or are ready and
      desirous to be so confirmed or who have been otherwise
      episcopally confirmed with unction or with the laying on of
      hands except as provided by the next following Canon;
      (b) baptized persons who are communicant members of other
      Churches which subscribe to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity,
      and who are in good standing in their own Church;
      (c) any other baptized persons authorized to be admitted under
      regulations of the General Synod; and
      (d) any baptized person in immediate danger of death.

  3. I know that you are stating the Church’s teaching but this teaching is damaging to those it impacts and the point I am trying to make is that it appears that some of those in leadership within the church are stating to realize this and push for change.

  4. I don’t want to promote discord but I do believe that the radicalness of the present Pope is almost boundless. Whether he will ‘win’ or not remains to be seen. I think he will but in any case the attitudes he holds will undoubtedly win.

  5. Fr Ed, you know very well that, as Harvey says, many Anglican churches (St Paul’s Cathedral, for instance) invite Christians of good standing in their own churches to take Communion. If Catholics decline the invitation. that does not alter the fact that in extending it, Anglicans make an ecumenical gesture. Secondly, perhaps you could say whether, when you were an Anglican priest, you extended such an invitation? And, as far as you know, did any Catholics take Communion at that time from you?

    1. Stephen, I do know that Anglicans often extend an invitation to Catholics regarding communion. What i do not know is what they mean by doing this. Are they suggesting we are in communion? If so it is clearly dishonest. Are they suggesting one can be out of communion and yet in it really. Again I am confused? I think often the gesture is offered in love but confused in its theology. As regards Catholics who came to me as an Anglican- I was always very careful to explain to them exactly what we were and were not.

      1. Anglicans do not “often” or in “many” places invite Roman Catholics to Holy Communion: as Fr Barry Tomlinson has stated, it is official CofE practice to invite Christians of all Trinitarian confessions, whether Roman or Baptist, to Holy Communion. The CofE, in line with Rome and nearly everyone else, recognises Baptism celebrated in other confessions: and it sees an essential unity in our common Baptism.

  6. Father Ed, you write that you have stated that “remarried people whose annulment has been turned down are ineligible”. What about remarried people who have not sought an annulment? This is very material because, so I understand, the great majority of applications for annulment are successful.

    1. People who aare divorced and remarried and who have not sought an annulment are, a fortiori, in the same position as those who have and who have failed to obtain one. But you are right John that most annulment applications are successful. My husband used to work as an auditor for the local marriage tribunal and I saw the statistics which he was sent every year. As Pat says the indisolubility of valid sacramental marriage is by Christ’s own law but the power of the Church to bind and loose exercised in this particular manner does make for a suitable pastoral solution in many cases.
      However the wholesale acceptance by the Church of divorce/ remarriage/unmarried cohabitation would lead to the collapse amongst its members of conventional sexual morality and the sanctity of marriage and the family just as has happened in society at large because, if it’s not that important, then why stick with the hard bits? And that brings disastrous consequences for children as, again, we see in society at large.
      Just to pick up on another point which is the offering by non Catholic clergy of communion to all baptised Christians I too am aware of this which I am sure is usually done in good faith and charity. However I am also aware of situations (baptisms, weddings etc) when the presiding minister has known full well that a sizeable chunk – even the majority- of the congregation was Catholic and hence prevented by Church discipline from receiving communion but has gone ahead and put them under huge moral pressure to do so anyway. Also, quite disgracefully, of a Spanish couple, arriving in England, who mistook the local High Anglican church for a Catholic Church and who were not disabused of this notion when they enquired of the vicar who assured them that his was a Catholic Church; they only found out the truth when they attempted to enrol their oldest child into the area Catholic primary school. Said vicar subsequently became a Catholic and I hope it is not too uncharitable to believe that he should have confessed this deliberate deception in his first confession when he was received.

      1. I understand that a decree of nullity is the result of a finding that there was no sacramental marriage in the first place. If so, with respect, I do not see how a power to bind and loose is relevant. The Church is deciding that there was no binding sacramental marriage, and therefore nothing to loose.
        Likewise, I do not see why a failure to seek a decree of nullity is a fortiori a refusal of a decree. If no decree has been sought, there has been no decision on the status of the marriage. It may or may not be a valid sacramental marriage.
        I am content to be corrected if my understanding is wrong on either point.

        1. A lawyer’s reply here John: which is that there is a presumption in favour of validity so a marriage is assumed to be sacramental unless and until declared not so by the competent authority of the Church. Also I think the power to bind and loose is relevant here even if, on a strictly pedantic interpretation, you can’t loose something that does not exist. The Church makes a finding which releases the bonds that have previously been presumptively in place. Of course it might be argued that if there is no sacramental marriage then why do you need the Church to say so but that rather misses the point of the consistent teaching of the Magisterium which, of course, Catholics believe is the teaching authority of Christ Himself.
          My husband who is also a lawyer says that Catholicism is a good religion for lawyers ( provided we avoid the temptation to legalism). It covers many of the concepts
          we are familiar with from our work for example the ability to distinguish between defence and mitigation, the juridical structure, the logic of it all but, most crucially, where we are used to thinking in two dimensions; law/equity, statute/ common law, bread and wine/Christ sacramentallyChrist present.
          Happy new year one and all.

      2. If the vast majority of annulment applications are successful, does this not imply that a large number of Roman Catholics are not in fact married in the eyes of their church? Should they not therefore all hasten to their churches to contract a valid marriage as they are obviously ‘living in sin’ and committing fornication?

        1. So tell me what better model the C of E could offer? In what way does it seek to ensure the teaching on marriage as a lifelong union is upheld, given that remarriage is now very common, despite official teaching, with seemingly little done to even question what went before. Is this not more duplicitous?

        2. Well until a decree was made – and you wouldn’t get a decree unless you asked for one – you wouldn’t know you were living in an invalid marriage would you?!
          Seriously, it may be the case that lots and lots of Catholics are unknowingly invalidly married. In the same way you may unknowingly stand in the bus queue every morning with a saint. Until the Church says so neither is defined.
          However as a pastoral response to individual human situations the marriage tribunal/ annulment avenue has always seemed to me at least to be theologically consistent with Catholic belief about what Peter was given authority to do as well as,practically speaking, holding back the deluge which engulfed the rest of society once divorce becomes unexceptional. I’m not qualified to,comment about the C of E specifically so do not do so!

          1. If I were a Roman Catholic I would want to know that I was properly married. Shouldn’t all RCs have their marriages checked by the Tribunal since so many (“the vast majority”) are invalid. It makes you worried about the marriage preparation and the care priests take in conducting marriages.

  7. Pope Francis has excommunicated a priest advocating women’s ordination in the Catholic Church. Not the action of someone who doesn’t consider women priests or bishops to be a grave obstacle to unity. He has never said a Catholic can take communion in the Anglican church, or Anglican receiving at Catholic Mass, except under some exceptional conditions allowed under canon law (e.g. danger of death, prolonged separation from own ministration with explicit request and permission and, under some cases, at nuptial Mass of mixed marriage by the non-Catholic spouse only and at priestly ordination by members of his immediate family).

    1. If you feel healthy, even if you may not actually be ~ for example something only an MRI scan may reveal as diseased ~ do you head for the GP.?
      No. You only end up with someone poring over your bits and pieces, spiritual or physical, when something goes wrong. And it is in the nature if the human condition that such things occur but can in many cases be dealt with by the Church. Note however that it’s not automatic.
      As for the suggestion from Fr. Barry that I said the vast majority of Catholic marriages are in fact null I did not say that at all; I said that “the vast majority ” of annulment applications are granted which is a very different thing indeed.
      Finally even if you may harbour a non self evident concern about the validity of your marriage (self evident being for e.g..that you know you had attempted to contract marriage outside the Church which would be a complete defect as to form unless a dispensation had been granted) most people for obvious reasons would find it a bit difficult suddenly to decide they ought to be running off to church to have it validated given that , of itself, validity can depend for eg on the interior disposition of your spouse when the words were said which informs the grounds upon which most annulments are granted…
      I realise that this all sounds s bit technical but it is logically and theologically entirely consistent and, much more pertinently, as I have said already, shores up a very Important issue i.e. the welfare of children and the sanctity of marriage itself.

  8. Father,
    Thank you for this lovely anecdotal image of your returning to your “roots”. I’m sure your father is a good man.
    Since this was basically about the Holy Eucharist, I have a question about the new Ordinariate Liturgical Usage. Are all the Anglican Ordinariate Churches, Congregations, missions and groups that celebrate the Holy Eucharist using the new Divine Worship Liturgy?
    Here in the USA and Canada it is still restricted to a handful of Parishes only.
    Also, have you been instructed not to refer to yourselves as “Anglican” Ordinariate? If so, this truly disturbs me as I thought the Ordinariates were established to promulgate the “Anglican Patrimony” not some vague ‘Personal’ one. This keeps me from committing to any Ordinariate.
    Many Blessings and thank you for this blog.

    1. The Ordinariate is a part of the Catholic church. That is vitally important to convey to people. Yet it retains an Anglican patrimony.

        1. Matthew you are both charming and polite “Many blessings and thank you for this blog” and rude and dismissive “Dumb response. I’m done”. I think Fr. Ed is kindly taking some time out of his (holi)day to truthfully answer your question but you don’t like the answer.

          I am a convert from atheism to the Catholic Church. I didn’t ask for a special moniker to make sure all the other Catholics knew how extra special my spiritual experience was compared to theirs. I am grateful they would have me despite my great sinfulness and they welcomed me with open arms. In fact literally a great crowd waited for me after the mass in which I was baptised and received into the church and all came and hugged me, many of them crying and welcoming me home.

          You know what Jesus is asking you to do. Make sure you’re listening to him and not putting conditions on his gift.

          1. Catherine, in my experience there exists a certain type of person that has a need to feel special. They organize themselves into exclusive cliques of like minded individuals and generally need a bogeyman to align themselves against in order to justify their ‘special’ status. For example this may take the form of women’s ordination in the case of Forward in Faith, or the forces of ‘modernism’ in the case of the Ordinariate.

            Matthew, if you feel called to become a Roman Catholic I say go for it, but you do not need to join a minority sect within.

          2. Catherine, in my experience there exists a certain type of person who refuses to either listen or learn. They continue to describe the Ordinariate as a sect even though it is clearly established and functioning as a perfectly normative part of the wider Catholic church. Such people need the Ordinariate to be a bogeyman lest they actually grapple with the questions it asks, for example how one can claim to be Catholic yet remain part of an Anglican communion clearly driving in a liberal protestant direction. So if you feel called to be Catholic you had best ignore their advice and simply join it- which is such a vibrant and enriching reality that the parish you join might have an Oratorian presence, a Dominican presence or even an Ordinariate one. This is not news Harvey delights in, so he pretends it isn’t so. Please be patient with him.

  9. ‘You are, as usual, talking out of your hat.’ It is a matter of historical record, going back at least 10 years now, that I NEVER say anything as rude and contemptuous as that about Evangelicals, ‘traditionalist’ Anglicans, ‘Ordinariate’ Anglicans, RCs or whomsoever.

    Pat: it’s not that people (who disagree, who behave ‘discordantly’) don’t ‘understand’: it’s that they completely understand and still – to some extent – disagree. The theology, after all, is perfectly simple.

    To return to the present Pope. He recently said: ‘all of God’s creatures will enter Paradise’ (or more or less). That’s (a) balderdash (according to ‘orthodox’ Christian theology; (b) profoundly pastoral (because he was comforting a child that had lost its pet dog); (c) possibly also theologically profound/necessary, because evolution necessarily problematises orthodox Christian claims (based on the Jewish OT and Christian NT, both of which knew nothing of evolution) that ‘homo sapiens’ is decisively different from (the rest of) the animal kingdom.

    1. It is balderdash. It has been proven that the Pope did not say that all animals will go to heaven. It was a media story.
      If you had to time put down your Guardian or Church Times and did some searching you’d have found out that Pope Francis never uttered anything to the boy in question. In fact, it’s not even found on the Vatican news site.




      I think the most telling phrase comes at the end of the Catholic Herald’s report:
      “Reporting on the story, Time Magazine concluded: “Pope Francis has been cast as a much more liberal figure compared with his predecessors.””

      Operative word “cast”. If Time magazine or the New York Times is telling me how great the Pope is, then it’s time to start digging for the truth.

  10. I wander whether there is anyone – RC or CofE – who could suppress a smile of recognition at those lovely images in the second paragraph of your post. Very Anglican though above all so very English. However, already it feels like a faraway country: a place where they do things very differently.

  11. Touche Fr Ed, however I don’t think I’ve ever described myself as a Catholic. If pressed, I would describe myself as a liberal Protestant with a penchant for high church liturgy. I don’t think the distinction is as important as you do though.

    Happy New Year.

  12. It’s funny: although there is a fair amount of unbridled polemic and spirited counterattack on this blog, the general tone – of administrator and (most of the) commentators – remains rather benevolent. Must be something to do with the water.

  13. Shouldn’t all RCs have their marriages checked by the Tribunal since so many (“the vast majority”) are invalid.
    Surely it is the ‘vast majority’ of marriages that come before the tribunal seeking to be declared invalid, not the vast majority of marriages in total.
    Mr & Mrs O’Flahetty who have lived together in a loving relatiopnship for 60 years don’t need to have their marriage checked, for heavens sake.

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