Three Anglican bishops who are converting to Roman Catholicism have taken holy communion at Westminster Cathedral, with three ex-Anglican nuns.

Ex-bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham, the former bishop of Richborough Keith Newton and John Broadhurst, previously bishop of Fulham, oppose women bishops. They are expected to be ordained as Catholic priests on 15 January.

COMMENT: One thing is for certain, this is not the end of the Church of England. It is not even the end of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England. In fact, yesterday was the beginning of what should be an exciting period within the catholic wing of my church.

Since General Synod voted for the ordination of women back in 1992, Anglo-Catholicsm in England has been dominated by its reactionary element. At the beginning the reactionaries were so powerful that many of us, who were supportive of equality in ministry, were made to feel so unwelcome in our "high" churches, that we were forced "out of the club." But over the years there has been a steady increase in the number of catholic minded, but inclusive, priests, male and female, who have found it possible to get posts in real Anglo-catholic parishes. Now, many of them even find it possible to visit places of extreme intransigence such as the shrine at Walsingham and they have founded their own societies in which they (again, male and female) are supported in their catholic disciplines. The variety of opinion within Anglo-Catholicism in England is greatly under-reported, no doubt due to the fact that angry misogynists make better copy than peaceful, loving priests who just want to quietly get on with their job within the church they love and do not regard as inferior to any other denomination.

However, now that the blusterers of the anti-women caucus are leaving the Church of England for the place they have always regarded as the only true church, the nature of the catholicism that remains will change considerably. Those catholic priests (male and female) who desire a truly catholic dispensation within the Church of England, one that is truly catholic in its universal and inclusive desire, will now make up a much larger proportion of the catholic clergy. Gradually, but faster than in the past, these priests and bishops will become an equal, and then dominating, voice within Anglo-catholicism and then there will be plenty of opportunity for catholic renewal that is truly Anglican.

Our God of amazing coincidences who, through his Spirit  has encouraged his church to face up to the injustices it has perpetrated against gay people so soon after encouraging it to seek justice for the women in its ranks, has made this new catholicism possible. Not all gay catholics in the Church of England live in denial all their lives. Many of them are intelligent and self-aware enough to realise that opposing the priesthood of women is based on exactly the same magical nonsense and faulty logic as opposition to the priesthood of gay people. Some of these gay priests may have felt uncomfortable with it to begin with but now they understand and accept that their battle is inextricably linked to the battle the women have fought and are still fighting.



  1.      Excellent points, Jonathan! I hadn’t thought how this would change the complexion of Anglo-Catholic composition. You’re also right that much of the Sturm und Drang has been because of misogyny. I might also suggest that what both women and gays have experienced represents a limited understanding of, and comfort with, what it means to be masculine.

         In any case, I think it’s wonderful you’re able to see both healing taking place and opportunity for growth in what is, on the surface, a sad development. We never want folks to leave, but sometimes it does open the door to new possibilities.

  2.      After reading a few more news reports, I realize I have to ask a question: Why did the reception of these people into the Roman Catholic Church take place in Westminster? Shouldn’t it have occurred in a Roman parish instead of in a place of worship that epitomizes the Church of England and the Crown?

  3. Down South where Mimi lives there is an old expression, “Don’t let the door hit your a**.” The CoE lost three pains in the butt and Rome will now silence them. The only really sad note here is loosing the nuns.


  4. So they exit with a whimper rather than a bang. So be it.

    Another version of Jim’s expression: “Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.”

    I’m looking forward to the renewed vitality of true Anglo-Catholicism. It should be quite pleasant once more with the whingers out of the way.

  5. Well, it’s bloody stupid, and asking for trouble, to build a cathedral and an abbey in the same place and call them both Westminster.

    Actually it’s all the RCs fault. When we allowed them to start building churches again they decided that they had to have a big one right near the centre of power in England.

  6. Well, respect due. They’ve left before being able to claim a full C. of E. pension (unlike that assistant bishop of Newcastle who converted the week after he retired on a full pension). So there was integrity in their action albeit an integrity based on bullshit.

    But I also feel sorry for them. They had to leave because they fought an all or nothing battle and lost. I could see myself in that position. In fact, I may well be in that position – it’s difficult to know right now.

  7. “to the place they’ve always regarded as the true church”

    I thought The True Church was defined as “the way the last Rector did things.”

  8. Down South where Mimi lives there is an old expression, “Don’t let the door hit your a**.”

    Jim, refined people down my way say simply, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” 🙂

    MadPriest, I don’t feel sorry for the schismatics. They left on principle because the entire church wouldn’t go their way, but their principles stand on a foundation of bigotry. I’m sad when anyone leaves the Episcopal Church or the Church of England, but I don’t feel sorry for those who depart. They’ll be where they want to be.

    I guess I feel a little sorry for them in that they think they will still be Anglican, when, in reality, they will be Roman Catholic converts who are permitted to use Anglican-like liturgical practices. For how long, no one knows. If the pope says stop, they’ll need to stop.

  9. Now, Anglo-Catholics in the CofE can focus on building a Catholicism that can welcome RCs (individually for now, corporately—the whole kit & Vatican—in God’s Good Time).

    Catholicism’s gone missing in Rome under the former and current Bishops of. We may never have the numbers of formal adherents that Rome has, but we should keep a vibrant Catholicism alive in the AC, if for no other reason than to inspire the masses (!) of faithful RCs that yes, they CAN have this sooner (as Anglicans) or later [when Catholicism—like the Holy Family out of Egypt, post-Herod? (thinking of today’s Gospel!)—returns to Rome]