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TAC: The Unhappy Anglican House of Archbishop John Hepworth

TAC: The Unhappy Anglican House of Archbishop John Hepworth
Confusion reigns over Pope's offer of Anglicanorum Coetibus

By David W. Virtue
March 21, 2011

A personal ordinariate offered by Pope Benedict XVI for traditionalist Anglicans has divided the American branch of the of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) - the Anglican Church in America - causing an irreparable schism in that body of Anglo-Catholics.

The Traditional Anglican Communion was formed in 1991. Archbishop Louis Falk served as its first primate. He was succeeded in 2002 by Archbishop John Hepworth of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia. The TAC exists in Africa, Australia, the Torres Strait, Canada, Central and South America, England, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Japan and the United States. The vast majority of its members are in India and the Torres Strait.

The TAC is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and is independent of the Anglican Communion. The TAC upholds the theological doctrines of the Affirmation of St. Louis (1977) with its members self-described as Anglo-Catholics in their theology and liturgical practice. Some parishes use the Anglican Missal in their liturgies. The TAC is guided by a college of bishops from across the communion and headed by an elected primate. TAC churches separated themselves from Anglicans principally over the ordination of women, liturgical revisions, the acceptance of homosexuality and the importance of tradition.

The Pope's offer to orthodox Anglicans, however, has produced unintended consequences.

Five Church of England bishops with 800 former Anglicans and some 60 priests under their instruction have been the chief beneficiaries of the ordinariate. It also includes three SSM Sisters from Walsingham. There are also three more women who have joined them. Three former C of E bishops have been made monsignors. So far, there has been no mention of the Traditional Anglican Communion, even though they have been in the forefront of wanting such an arrangement with Rome.

The truth is, however, Rome is being very cautious with them. Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently invited Bishop David L. Moyer, who also doubles as a priest of the TEC Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA, and his wife to England for the Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman in September 2010. However, he was politely given the brush off when he sought to be an Episcopal Visitor at the ordination of the English bishops to Rome when he was told that it was an "English" event where he would not be welcome. In a letter written to TAC clergy, Moyer described his feelings waiting on the sidelines as "frustrating" and "regrettable, but it is the reality".

There is more reality to come. The Vatican has answered the requests of various Anglican groups for full communion by issuing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, thus opening the possibility of corporate reunion with Rome for some Anglicans. To date, it has not embraced the TAC even though overtures between TAC and Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the pope's representative on the Ordinariate and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman Curia, have been strong.

The question is why? There are several reasons.

The first is that the American branch of TAC - the Anglican Church in America - with its 5,200 members has not fully embraced the idea. The ACA is largely, but not exclusively Anglo Catholic. They are bound together by Anglican traditions and Biblical morality. When confronted with what seemed to them to be a fait accompli from Archbishop Hepworth, they countered by saying that they had not been adequately consulted. They were convinced that their membership would not simply roll over and go to Rome on command from Hepworth. This turned out to be true.

A revolt began among the rank and file forcing all four bishops to weigh both their own futures and those of their congregations. Almost immediately, three of the province's four diocesan bishops, Brian Marsh, Daren Williams and Stephen Strawn announced they would not accept Rome's offer from their archbishop [Hepworth] thus setting off a schism.

The subsequent furor racked Anglo-Catholic blogs and bloggers with charges of betrayal and more coming from Hepworth and his supporters. Counter charges came from those who fervently believed they had never been consulted stating that they had no intention of going to Rome and wished to remain Anglicans in the long line of Anglo-Catholics going back to the 19th Century Oxford movement and Edward Pusey.

On February 5, 2011, the Chancellor of the Anglican Church in America issued a statement on behalf of the bishops of the ACA announcing that the church would remain a Continuing Anglican church. The statement also reported that one diocesan bishop, The Rt. Rev. Louis Campese of the Diocese of the Eastern United States (DEUS), resigned saying he favored acceptance of the Pope's proposal. He left to form the Pro-Diocese of the Holy Family with a small handful of parishes. Also favoring Rome's offer is The Most Reverend Louis W. Falk, President of the ACA House of Bishops.

Ironically, the first signs that all was not well began in Canada. In Surrey BC, the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada voted overwhelmingly in July 2010 to unite with Rome. The ACCC said it would establish a Canadian Anglican Catholic Ordinariate.

A storm of protest erupted in Victoria, BC, when an influential Anglican layman, Allan Singleton-Wood of the Anglo-Catholic parish of St. Mark's blasted the decision saying the ACCC had sold out to Rome and that the Ordinariate would mean the end of all things Anglican. The Anglican "house of cards" is starting to collapse and the ACCC is becoming increasingly desperate. They are taking a stance that "they (the ACCC) are the true Anglicans and we are an offshoot of two American churches", he wrote.

Without consulting clergy or laity, the bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada signed an agreement with Rome. [This started with the signing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2007; and then the application for erection of the Ordinariate in March of this year.]

Anglican Catholics/Anglo-Catholics as Traditional Anglicans have adhered strictly to the founding principles of the Anglican Church, as set forth in the 39 Articles of 1563. The canons and ways of worship have remained as they have been for many centuries, he said.

Recently, the Rt. Rev Michael Gill, Bishop of Pretoria and Anglican Church in Southern Africa (TAC), wrote a letter to bishops Williams, Marsh and Strawn coming out in their defense.

He scored Hepworth's decision to want an ordinariate telling the bishops that while they had to agree to the "Patrimony of the Primate proposal from Archbishop Falk and Archbishop Hepworth in your House of Bishops, to function under Bishop Moyer, the application of this dubious innovation seems to have been seriously divisive.

"The subsequent foundation of a 'Pro-Diocese' under Bishop Campese in the USA within the Patrimony of the Primate is particularly worrying to me as a fellow TAC Bishop Ordinary, as our TAC Concordat requires that any new Diocese go through the College of Bishops for approval and discussion."

Gill described the Primate's actions leading to "speculation, confusion and division you and other leaders in the TAC are currently experiencing."

He said that "Anglicanorum Coetibus was a response in part by the Roman Catholic Church to our 2007 letter; what (in any environment) would be a normal bargaining exercise. That some of our Episcopal TAC brethren have simply swallowed it, 'hook, line and sinker', is evidence both of their naivety and their desperation to be accepted.

"The extension of the concept of the 'Patrimony of the Primate' should most definitely have been a College of Bishops policy decision flowing from those formal discussions - and not an ad hoc arrangement by the Primate with one TAC affiliated church - as it has a universal implication to all TAC affiliated churches and therefore definitely needed the full College of Bishops approval.

"To date, The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion has neither discussed nor ratified Anglicanorum Coetibus, its contents or its implications for the Communion, and until that is done, formally and in the correct forum, it remains nothing other than a Roman Catholic document on offer to ANY interested Anglican group - it is not TAC specific.

"You are in no way bound to accept it, and you are certainly not dissenting by declining or questioning it. The fact that you have been openly labeled as "dissenting" is most disappointing, especially as coming from our leader, as he has never yet deigned give any of us the opportunity to debate and/or agree to Anglicanorum Coetibus in the TAC College of Bishops forum, let alone dissent.

"If you have therefore acted in accordance with your own Anglican Church in America Canons and Constitution, and have not turned from your own church's prescribed rules and regulations, you can have nothing to fear or answer to."

This is the most damning document to date on the inadequacy of collegial discussion that has led to the ongoing friction and now schism in the ACA.

Archbishop John Hepworth

What has been most troubling to many continuers in the TAC/ACA and around the world are revelations concerning Hepworth's personal life. It has been revealed that he was once a Catholic priest and later resigned his orders to join the Anglican Church in Australia. He has also divorced and remarried.

These facts, known to Rome, are undoubtedly one of several major roadblocks to the acceptance of these continuers. Another charge is that Hepworth is guilt-ridden by his departure from Rome and is desperately seeking union with Rome to obtain a Catholic annulment of his first marriage and, as an Old Testament styled peace-offering, wants to present the TAC as an atonement to Rome for his sins of abandonment. Whether this is true or not, the facts remain that many of his bishops are thinly educated and would not meet the high standards Rome sets for its clergy.

Furthermore, TAC bishops would be reduced to lay status in the hope that they would qualify first for the Diaconate, then the priesthood. They would never again be bishops. (All five Church of England bishops renounced their orders, went to Rome as laymen and had to start from the bottom. Three have now been made Monsignors).

One of the unsettling aspects of the "Heinz 58" varieties of continuing Anglican jurisdictions in the US is the "purple fever" that dogs many of them.

Authentic Anglo-Catholics in the US, such as those found in Forward in Faith including bishops John-David Schofield, William Wantland, Keith Ackerman and Jack Iker who have fought and left The Episcopal Church over its moral and theological innovations, have preferred to remain Anglicans. In an interview conducted with VOL, Bishop Ackerman said that it is rather difficult to characterize an Anglo-Catholic. "The vast majority may well agree that an Anglo-Catholic is one who believes in the reality of the continuation of a pre-1540's Church in England and as with a number of the principles of the Oxford Movement. Moreover, the vast majority of Anglo Catholics in the Americas have always believed and taught that they are Catholics but not Roman Catholics. Gathering all Anglo Catholics together is often an opportunity to see a variety of divisions."

Whatever the future holds for the Traditional Anglican Communion and its Archbishop John Hepworth, Rome's silence speaks volumes. The future of TAC bishops like Campese and Moyer (the latter faces the prospect of being tossed out of his Episcopal parish in a lawsuit instigated by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania) are tenuous at best.

For the American branch of TAC - the ACA - the jig is "up" as far as the Ordinariate is concerned. The question now is: what other alliances might be forthcoming that could strengthen Continuing Anglo-Catholics? For the present, a group of Continuers has divided, yet again, leaving the unanswered question, is there more that divides Anglo-Catholics than unites them? Perhaps this is now an opportunity for greater unity among Continuers.


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