Anglican Agonies

Let me speak from the heart. I was an Anglican for fifteen years: for most of that time I was an Anglican in England, first a theological student, then a priest. My visit this weekend to Church of the Atonement, San Antonio, made me feel nostalgic for those days, and for the great traditions of the Anglican Church.

When I go on to the Anglo-Catholic blogs like Anglican Wanderings and others I feel even more nostalgia for the Anglican Church and all its many treasures. Not only do I feel nostalgia for the fine buildings, the exquisite choral tradition, the hearty and glorious hymns and the quaint customs. I also feel nostalgia for the people. It is easy for me to poke fun at the typical Anglican liberal with his goofy views and gooey theology. However, I realize that there are many Anglicans spread now throughout Anglicanism and the various Anglican breakaway groups who only wish to remain faithful to ‘Mere Christianity’ and wish to preserve the historic Christian faith.
In visiting Church of the Atonement, I was saddened at how few Anglicans have taken advantage of the Vatican’s offer within the Pastoral Provision. The Catholic Church has said, “Have your own liturgy, have your own buildings, have married priests.” Only a handful of Anglican clergy and people (it seems) have even considered the possibility. What does this say about the Anglican’s goodwill and ecumenical intent? 
I realize the Anglican Use is not allowed in England, but would many more Anglicans really have taken advantage of it if it were? I doubt it. I don’t know what has kept more Anglicans from responding positively here in the United States. Perhaps it is what would have to be sacrificed to make it go. Fr Phillips went with a wife and three young children across the country and was offered a mere $1,000.00 a month. On this he was to support his family, start a church and minister full time. He went to minister to just 18 people at first.
This is what would be required: to step out in faith and do something new. To step out and be prepared to risk all, to work hard, to be misunderstood and to trust God totally. That sort of heroic faith is hard to come by.
Nevertheless, whether they come and pioneer the Anglican Use as Fr Phillips has done, and as has been done in a handful of other places in the US, or whether they come, leaving all to join the Catholic Church with no conditions–as Fr Jeffrey Steel has done this weekend–these faithful men and their courageous wives and families must be welcomed with open arms, with generous hearts and with willing response of faith.
The convert clergy bring great gifts to the Catholic Church, but they also receive much. I can say from my own experience that even the smallest step of faith yields a rich harvest over time.
What is the greatest thing any non-Catholic can do to further Church unity? The answer is simple: become a Catholic. As they bring their gifts, their faith, their enthusiasm and their love for Christ and his Church they will bring others and the cascade of graces will continue to overflow–blessing them, their families, their church and the whole Church of Christ. 
This cascade of blessings will also come with a whole raft of difficulties, sacrifices and agonies, but these also are only a part of the greater blessings which are in store. For those who faithfully take the step the blessings will be abundant and will come in more mysterious and moving ways than you can yet imagine.
My encouragement to Jeffrey and any others who may be paying attention is this: Launch out into the deep. The Savior is calling you to do some serious wave walking. Step out of the boat. He will not fail you, and as you step out, remember that it was Peter who did this before you and it is he that you choose to follow all the way home.

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  • Catholic Mom of 10

    Check out my blog about Mons Graham Leonard..suffered a serious stroke..& I mention your Path to Rome book..

  • Natasa

    I have only recently learned about the phenomenon of former ordained ministers who have families becoming Catholic priests. I admire you for your courage and faith and pray that you serve as an example to others who are seeking to fully live their Christian faith within the Catholic Church but fear obstacles (which I'm sure are many). I have become a regular reader of your blog and enjoy it for the enthusiasm when you write about the Church and faith, and honesty when it comes to sensitive issues.

  • Napa Needlepoint

    I was an Anglican and when I converted I would have travelled hours to go to an Anglican Use parish, but the nearest one (the only one in California) is 6-8 hours away.Not being able to have the richness of anglican worship is a pain in my heart, more than 27 years later.I visited Our Lady of Atonement and cried all through Mass.And I know many Catholics who would love to go to Anglican Use parishes.My personal belief is that the bishops are afraid of it, just as many are afraid of traditional Latin Mass, and do whatever they can to discourage it.Why?Because it shows up just how far removed the nast majority of Novus Ordo Masses are from the rich heritage of The Church

  • The Archer of the Forest

    As an Anglican priest and not a 'gooey liberal vicar' type (I do enjoy the satire in those posts by the way…), my initial reaction to your query as to why more Anglican priests have not made use of the "Anglican Use" option in the RCC is threefold.One, loyalty is in question of such priests in some quarters.I know for a fact there are quite a few Roman bishops in this country that are, while maybe not hostile, are none to thrilled at allowing discernment for would-be Anglican priests from converting. I think they fear the ultimate loyalty of converted Anglican priests. I had one RCC bishop tell me point blanc one time, "If they convert once, what is to stop them from converting again when the going gets tough and liberal tide in the Catholic church starts ascending again (as in the excesses of Vatican II.)" Basically, though the Bishop I was talking to didn't outrightly say this, he was insinuating to me that if they are disgruntled Anglican priests, what makes anything think they won't end up being disgruntled Catholic priests?Secondly, to sum up a long pontification by shorter means, 'all that glitters is not gold.' The Anglican use rite really strips core Anglican sacramental theology out of the liturgy. They did a good job of turning the Roman mass into "Anglican sounding" liturgy, but if you really start comparing and contrasting substantive sacramental theology, it's still Roman, despite however much it is gussied up to look Anglican. I also think that most Anglican priests understand that no church is perfect, and that Catholics/Orthodox/whathaveyou all have their issues. Just trading one church with issues for another church with other issues is in the long run not all that attractive, given the work involved for completely redoing the entire formation process, as would be required, and a drastic cut in pay and benefits (not that that in itself is a valid excuse when standing before the Almighty.) Thirdly, though most Episcopal clergy these days don't want to admit it, there still hovers the Puritan work ethic, especially in the American Episcopal context. There is just enough Scotch-Irish influence (and stubbornness) that looks at fleeing to another Church (even if its the Mother Church) as cowardice. As my grandfather (as Scotch-Irish as they came) used to say, "If you quit, you've let the buggers win!" We would just as soon go down in flames than admit defeat. Again, probably not a good excuse when standing before the Almighty, but that's just the way some folks are. Again, going back to the spectre of Puritanism that a lot of Episcopal clergy carry against their wills is also the Puritan notion of Providence. God has set me here for a reason, and if I truly believe that God is working to bring all things unto himself in the ages of ages, then one has to believe that, even with its problems, God has a plan for the Anglican church and hopes that one day it will be reunified with its Catholic brothers and sisters. And, as I see it, if Anglo-catholic priests leave, then its never going to happen because we have handed over our church to people who have no desire now or ever to be reunifed with Catholic Christianity. It takes decades to rebuild a vineyard after an earthquake, and how can that occur if the workers called to tend the vineyard all leave?

  • Mark G.

    "What is the greatest thing any non-Catholic can do to further Church unity? The answer is simple: become a Catholic."The bluntness of that statement made me chuckle, even though I completely agree. As a reverted Catholic, I had to give up a Methodist church family & bear many on-going hardships as a result of my decision. But I'm so grateful for being called back home, so all the problems are really a cause for joy.On Trinity Sunday, the Church reminded us of our call to unity as one Church – with each other & with God – just as the Trinity is a unity of love of the persons of the Godhead. Doesn't seem like there's any price too high to pay to participate fully in that love.

  • Augustine

    As a former Anglican, I find myself saying, 'exactly,' to every phrase of Father L's post.Many Anglicans are simply not ready to accept the Ordinary Magisterium and all that it entails. They get the issue of doctrinal authority, but resist its ecclesiology.Of course the Anglican Use Mass embodies Catholic eucharistic theology! At any point that Anglican eucharistic theology differs from that of the Catholic Church, it is Protestant.Calling Catholics 'Romans' is at least moderately offensive. It implies the 'branch theory', in which there are 'Roman Catholics' and 'Anglo-Catholics'. No Catholic in communion with the Holy Father can ascribe to this notion. There are Eastern Rite Catholics and Latin Rite Catholics, of which the Anglican Use is an integral part. 'Roman' has a purpose as an grammatical intensifier, but not as a qualifier. All Catholics are in union with the See of Peter. Christians not in professed, organizational communion with the Pope are not Catholics. I don't mean to stir the pot here, but …

  • stpetric

    As a former Anglican priest, now happily Catholic, I remain in contact with many of my former colleagues. I know personally at least four in various parts of the country who would like very much to come into the church under the Pastoral Provision, but who are meeting lethargic and unenthusiastic responses from Catholic bishops and vocations offices.Similarly with the "Anglican Use" liturgy. There is a listserv of very frustrated people who are interested in the AU, but who generally find little cooperation from Catholic parishes and dioceses getting local groups started.There may be valid reasons for the church's reticence. But the principal problem, so far as I can see, is NOT resistance from catholic-minded Anglicans.

  • His Prince Michael

    Congratulations, well-written andon-point.ALL, for The Greater Glory of GOD:

  • Hosshi

    Frankly, the only true solution to regaining Holy Tradition is to seek refuge in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  • Hosshi

    Frankly, the only true solution to regaining Holy Tradition is to seek refuge in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  • Hosshi

    Frankly, the only true solution to regaining Holy Tradition is to seek refuge in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  • Benedicta

    When I lived in San Antonio I was part of Our Lady of the Atonement. I left Texas, went to fine Novus Ordo Masses but 5 years ago, I found the Extraordinary form of the Mass. I had the opportunity to go back to San Antonio last month and visit my old parish. I had no regrets. The extraordinary form of the Mass is … extraordinary, certainly for my soul. Obviously I did not have your experience since I was never "Anglican" but I do know that I found what my soul had been longing for with the EF of the Mass.You talk about apathy on the part of the Bishops? Certainly, and painfully so. They will not admit that they have been wrong for the past 40+ years and they prefer denying the true faith to souls instead of giving them the Ancient form of Mass.Let's continue to pray for Bishops! Viva il Papa!

  • The young fogey

    Of course your first paragraph resonates with me as a born Anglican rooted in Anglo-Catholicism.American RC is still in too many places 1970s 'AmChurch', liberal Protestant wannabes but without high church.I don't tell Anglo-Catholics to jump into that and all will be well. That said I'm honest about ACism as a dead end which has got me some heat in my blog recently.Anyway a main point is: these hostile American RCs are not training new priests to do AU. They want it to die off with the ex-Episcopalians.In contrast the Antiochian Western Rite Orthodox Vicariate is doing a good job re-creating 1950s American Anglo-Catholicism (non-papal ecclesiology, Prayer Book texts, Tridentinesque liturgics). They train new priests for it. There are four times as many AWRV parishes as AU RC. It doesn't seem a bait-and-switch like AU RC.AU's not perfect but better than run-of-the-mill Novus Ordo.The solution for English ACs is RC national parishes. If Pope Benedict has their back, and I think he does, it may happen. As would more AU in the US. (English ACs aren't as Prayer Booky as American ones so they don't want AU.) More troops alongside you on the front of his Catholic revival!Sorry to hear that about Mgr Leonard.

  • veritas

    I must say Father that as an ex-Anglican myself I have a mixed reaction to your comments.Firstly I agree with you that I do miss some features of my Anglo Catholic days. I miss the stirring singing of good quality hymns, not found in the majority of Catholic Churches. Although I am very fortunate that the Cathedral I attend has an organist and Choir with excellent taste and our hymns are excellent. I also miss the precision with which Anglo Catholic priests conducted every liturgy – “everything done decently and in order” (great quote about Anglican liturgy, but I don’t know who originally said it). The casualness of Catholic priests to liturgy I still find very disturbing.However, the appalling rot inside Anglicanism is no surprise to me. I firmly believe it began 400 years ago when Henry ripped the Church from Rome. It has been disintegrating ever since.I can truly say I do not miss being an Anglican at all. I look now at the Anglican Church from outside and see just how meaningless it is to call yourself a member of God’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church when you do not put yourself under the Primacy of Peter, the one chosen by Our Lord to lead his Church on earth.However, I can truly say that I DO miss the beauty of Anglo Catholic liturgy. I honestly believe that the whole church would benefit if the Anglican Usage became far more widespread. One thing that does worry me though, is that the Anglican Usage Book of Divine Worship contains a lot of modern sections and too many alternatives i.e. the priest may say this or may say that etc etc.It was this introduction of numerous alternatives and modern options that began the rot in liturgy after Vatican 2 and I am amazed that the writers of the Anglican Usage Book of Divine Worship have allowed this.I, like you, was hoping that many Anglicans would make use of the Anglican Usage option and come home. However, I also suspect that too many Anglicans love being their own Pope. That is, they love being able to pick and choose what they will believe and what moral laws apply to them. This ultimately is the big flaw in Anglicanism and this is what is killing it. Now I can truly say that, with all the faults of its human members, I am a member of God’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and I am totally bound by its doctrines and moral teachings. That is a joyous thing and something I could never say as an Anglican.

  • Julia

    "The solution for English ACs is RC national parishes"This caused so many problems. It caused an interdict in my parish because of refusal of Irish to accept a German pastor – and they were all 2nd and 3rd generation! Why would we want to get into that again – especially when there isn't a language problem with Anglicans. From my experience most Episcopalians aren't English anymore, any way.Are you wanting to hold on to English-ness? You aren't in England any more. Please, why the use of RC? We are Catholics. If you don't believe that, why would you want to convert?

  • The young fogey

    Like veritas I miss Anglo-Catholic culture (but still get it as a happy non-communicating part-timer at a Tridentine parish still in the Episcopal Church!) but not Anglicanism.Julia: Actually most RC national parishes in America (and the Eastern Rite Catholic dioceses there) were started as damage control after high-handed treatment by the resident Irish helped cause several schisms among immigrants in the US: the Toth and Chornock ones to Orthodoxy among eastern Slavs, the Polish National Catholic Church among a minority of Polish immigrants and even some Italian ones to the Episcopalians (St Anthony's in Hackensack is still orthodox Anglo-Catholic).

  • Julia

    And are the English-descended Catholics in the US ready to split? I've not heard of any. I'll wager that none of them are just off the boat. Today, Polish belong just about anywhere – three of them are my half-Polish sons – who inherited English, Irish, German, French, Norwegian, and octoroon from me. Where should we go to Mass?Many Hispanics are just coming to this country, and once inculturated won't need Spanish Masses any more. We have Vietnamese and Hispanics in our parish along with Germans, Irish and just about anything you could imagine. Why hold yourself aloof from the Catholic hoi poloi?

  • Julia

    BTW Our choir can do and does Sicut Cervus and Durafle and Chesnikov, and chant and Parry. Us regular Catholics are not all yahoos. Is it a class thing with you guys?I'll go quietly. Best Wishes.

  • The Bovina Bloviator

    Veritas, it John Wesley who desired "everything 'done decently and in order'" and he was referring to I Corinthians 14:40: "Let all things be done decently and in order."I, too, miss Anglican worship, terribly, but as time passes (I took the swim well over a year ago), I realize more and more it was the exquisite liturgy and music of Anglo-Catholic worship that kept me in the Episcopal Church, for the last 15 years at least, which when you think about it amounts to idolatry; I was worshiping the worship. It was the right thing to do leaving for Rome and not only have I no serious regrets, there is the additional and priceless benefit of undisputed sacraments.You are correct about AU and its "modern sections" etc. AU permits a modified form of the dreadful "Rite II" from the 1979 Prayer Book, which was one of the primary means by which evildoers worked their destructive acts on the Episcopal Church.

  • Diane

    I need some of your exAnglican priests to help the Catholic side at the Continuum blog. They are educated and well-versed in tradition, scripture and the fathers.The defend their positions well: the validity of their orders (they are non-Canturbury anglicans), papal universal jurisdiction never existed, etc.Click on the old Roman Catholicism posts to get up to speed on their arguements and tactics.

  • adventuresinjesus

    As a non-American ex-Anglican priest allow me to add just a simple observation: There is no Anglican Use outside of the US! I further suspect that few (if any) Anglican clergy outside of the US would identify with the Book of Divine Worship.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Diane, I know the Continuum blog. It's a waste of time. The writers are, to a greater or lesser degree, committed anti-Catholic Protestants and use their specious arguments just like any other Protestant anti-Catholic except with somewhat more subtlety and certainly far too many words.

  • Tim

    I'm a former Anglican, Catholic for 15 years now, who still misses Anglican worship! When I lived in Dallas, I drove 45 min. to go to St. Mary the Virgin, the Anglican Use parish in Arlington. What a gift from God! Now that I live in Anchorage, I attend the Byzantine Catholic parish here. I love it, but I hope I can help start an AU group here in the near future (which would, I pray, one day develop into a parish).I find the adjective "Roman" quite unoffensive–I use it often to distinguish myself from the Byzantine Catholics in whose parish I am so graciously welcomed. They would certainly point out that NOT all Catholics are Roman, even though all are in unity with Rome!Thank you, Father, for your blog; I'm glad that a friend pointed it out to me this week.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I tried an Anglican use Mass. I suppose it seemed a bit foreign after all these years of standard Ordo and I had to drive to another town to attend. So I haven't been back despite the fact that I have so much in common with them.I think once I accepted the 'Popery', got over some of the tackiness, and acclimated to Catholicism, the nostalgia of high church anglicanism faded. I'm still very high church and traditional in my tastes, but it's a place I can't go back to. I would say you can't go home again, but I am already home, so it's just a place I can't go back to, though I do have some nostalgia for it. And I have a sense of sadness around an ethnic anglo-identity that the vast majority of anglo sorts around the world are really locked out of the true Catholic church. Even the really high church so-called 'anglo-catholics' are locked in a sort of ice age, a glacial clinging to the last vestige of Catholicism Britain knew, with a thick gooey iceing of traditionalism to cover up what's been lost.

  • The young fogey

    Anglo-Catholics often have a better understanding of the immemorial, perennial, organic and authoritative nature of small-t tradition than those who trashed their own heritage in the 1960s and 1970s including the conservatives who defended the innovations based upon authority.And most ACs haven't tried to re-create the Middle Ages (the Catholic era in England) in church in about 125 years. That was literally true in the movement's second phase or so (Directorium Anglicanum).— A traditionalist without apology

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Fair enough. The 60s and 70s stuff really was atrocious. And it really isn't over yet. There are a lot of old pastors around who liked it, defended it, and continue to defend it. There are a lot of space capsules around bearing witness to it. I saw a picture of my church's sanctuary in 1912 and it literally brought tears to my eyes. Meanwhile the Pastor was saying 'I would never disrupt a nice piece of 1960s architecture' when discussing a looming restoration project and why we weren't going to restore the sanctuary to it's pre-60's glory. So I get your point on Catholic modernists.And I also get you're point that maybe the majority of high church ACs aren't struggling for medieval traditions though I doubt that's universal and could be constrained by budget.I still can't help but to wonder though, if ACs are overcompensating for something lost. In fact, I think they are overcompensating for a lost authenticity i the eucharist by having greater authenticity in traditionalism surrounding the Eucharist. In a world where their own bishops tolerate openly muslim or Buddhist priests and priestesses, perhaps there is a small amount of overcompensation in the sanctuary of a high AC church.

  • Alice C. Linsley

    I sometimes feel that nostalgia, but then I remind myself that the Anglicanism I once loved carried within itself the seeds of corruption. Or maybe it never existed. I often wonder if it wasn't a fiction. Looking back, from the Orthodox Church, I see that it wasn't the real deal.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I suppose the Anglican schism was a bit more 'deliberate' than the ortho schism thanks to that murderous tyrant Henry VIII and the civil war he laid the ground work for. But to me, Anglicans and Orthodox are a lot a like. They're a little bit ethnocentric/nation centric whether Greek, Russian, what have you. That was Luther's major appeal to the heads of state and what eventually seduced Henry VIII. Why put up with that pesky, multilateral UN like Vatican? Shouldn't there be a national church just for our culture? Witha presiding Bishop at Canterbury, Moscow, or Constantinople? OK I realize the Byzantium may have had an earlier claim but St. Peter's seat was Rome, the survival of the church must mean something, and the big lettering for 'Greek' and small lettering of 'Orthodox Church' on all the church signs are telling us something.