Off to Rome!

Before you get all excited, this blog post is not about me announcing my membership of the Ordinariate. No, that’s never going to happen as long as Rome believes silly things about Mary and Papal infallibility. However, that doesn’t seem to be stopping some people and so the news this weekend was full of reports that St Peter’s Folkestone is the first Anglican parish to cross the Tiber (or at least to swim to an island in it).

This report from the BBC shows though that it isn’t that black and white. It appears that although the PCC voted in favour, the congregation were not consulted. One would think (in a manner similar to churches in the USA that have left TEC) that a move of such importance should be a decision the whole church membership makes rather than just the PCC, especially if the PCC was constituted at a time when the Ordinariate was not an option (and given the rotating membership this is certainly the case).

It all raises interesting questions about how this is going to work. The key issue is who gets the building. I can see a case to be made for when a large majority of the church membership wish to join the Ordinariate for the Diocese to be graceful, recognising that in effect the parish congregation as a whole is moving over. What happens to the parish then is debatable – a  geographic merger or a new congregation planted (HTB anybody) perhaps? However, in a case where it is only certain members moving, however senior they may be, the remaining congregation should for all intents and purposes be still seen as the Anglican congregation.

St Peter’s is important, not because it signals the vanguard of a new movement (though it may yet do), but rather because it means that all these issues of property and representation have now got to be worked out, and worked out promptly, efficiently and most importantly gracefully. If we don’t manage that then we risk going down the messy route that others in TEC have already trodden.

Oh, and kudos to the Church Mouse who seems to have spotted that Bishop John Broadhurst, chief advocate and poster boy of Forward in Faith may not actually be able to join the Ordinariate on the grounds that he was baptised a Roman Catholic and not an Anglican. Does this demonstrate lack of foresight on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church or meticulous Machiavellian planning? You decide…

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