Anglican Archbp. Williams wants a joint commission to oversee Anglican conversions

A reader alerted me to the following story from the Telegraph:

Archbishop of Canterbury moves to flush out Anglicans plotting to defect to Rome

The Archbishop of Canterbury moved last night to counter secret plotting [!] among disaffected Anglicans who are planning to defect to Rome.

By Tim Ross, Religious Affairs Editor

In a surprise announcement, Dr Rowan Williams [Anglican Archbp. of Canterbury] said he wanted to establish a new joint group of Roman Catholic and Church of England figures to oversee the conversion process.  [A joint commission?  Cui bono?  Would this commission help to… what… transfer property?]

The proposed group would be designed to enable smooth and less painful transition for those who want to leave the Church of England to become Roman Catholics in protest at the ordination of women bishops.

It would also bring into the open the negotiations between disaffected Anglicans and the Vatican which have been taking place in secret for months.  [The title of the article suggests that this is the main purpose: identify in advance those who are thinking about transferring their flags.]

Dr Williams’s suggestion came in his first public remarks since a parish in Kent and a London bishop announced their intention to accept the Pope’s offer to convert to Roman Catholicism.

Last Friday, St Peter’s church in Folkestone and the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst, disclosed their plans to join the so-called English Ordinariate, a new body proposed by the Vatican as a home for disaffected Anglicans.

At least two more bishops are widely rumoured to be planning to join the Ordinariate when it is established next year, but their negotiations with Rome are taking place behind closed doors.

Neither Lambeth Palace nor the Roman Catholic authorities in England and Wales know the extent of the numbers of Anglicans who are likely to switch allegiance.

Under Pope Benedict XVI’s plan, Anglicans would be able to move into full communion with Rome while at the same time preserving some of their traditions and heritage.  [Perhaps Dr. Williams is edging closer to issuing Romanorum coetibus?]

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, while on a trip to India, Dr Williams spoke of his frustration at the Pope’s decision to announce the Ordinariate to the public with little prior warning a year ago.

“I was very taken aback that this large step was put before us without any real consultation. And it did seem to me that some bits of the Vatican didn’t communicate with other bits,” he said.

“It caused some ripples because I think there was a widespread feeling that it would have been better to consult.  [Boo. Hoo.]

“As this is now being implemented, we are trying to make sure that there is a joint group which will keep an eye on how it’s going to happen. In England, the relations between the Church of England and Roman Catholic Bishops are very warm and very close. I think we are able to work together on this and not find it a difficulty.”

It is understood that neither the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic authorities in England and Wales have yet agreed to Dr Williams’s proposal for a joint group to oversee the Ordinariate.

In the interview, Dr Williams acknowledged that the ordination of homosexuals and women as bishops threatened to create “deeper divisions” within the world-wide Anglican Communion.

I feel that we may yet have to face the possibility of deeper divisions,” he said.  [D’ya think?  When doctrine can be voted up or down, when prevailing societal trends are the wind in your sails, what else is going to happen?]

“I don’t at all like, or want to encourage, the idea of a multi-tier organisation. But that would, in my mind, be preferable to complete chaos and fragmentation. It’s about agreeing what we could do together.”

Perhaps such a joint committee could be useful in working out the details of transferal of ownership of property?   I don’t know how those things get worked out in England, where the state church is the Church of England.

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  1. TJerome says:

    The “Archbishop” better be careful or this “Commission” may be the very catalyst that transitions his Church away.

  2. SonofMonica says:

    I made a brief stop for a few years in the Thames before swimming the Tiber. These sort of “commissions” are the Anglican way of doing things. There is no real authority exercisable by the ABC in situations such as these, as he is considered a mere figurehead. The only thing that he can do is try to convince folks at odds with one another to talk to each other for as long as possible. There is an awful lot of talking in the Anglican Communion–a lot of “conversation” and “listening processes,” a lot of keeping folks “at the table” as they talk past each other. Since the ABC’s only means of control in this situation is to keep people at the table in conversation, that is what he is choosing to do here. This is Dr. Williams’s way of validating his position/ministry/authority, if you can rightly ascribe any of those nouns to the ABC. And there is really no other option for him. The Anglicans don’t even pretend that their bishops have apostolic authority. They are merely one branch of parliament, so to speak.

  3. Scott W. says:

    Secret plotting eh? Oh noes! Those Armada ships are full of Jesuit priests and Francis Drake won’t stop bowling!

  4. Jacob says:

    The general school of thought I’ve read seems to be that nothing short of an act of Parliament would be able to transfer properties from the CoE to the English Ordinariate due to the monarch’s coronation oaths to preserve and protect the CoE and its properties, etc.

    I’ve never been an Anglican/Episcopalian, but my observations of the Anglican Communion over the last decade, especially since Robinson got ‘ordained’, jives with Son of Monica’s: talk talk talk, defer defer defer.

  5. TNCath says:

    Since when does the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury assist the Catholic Church in dealing with converts?

    Church of England properties are properties of the government. It seems to me that the government, and not the Church of England itself, would have to work out the particulars of such a move. Given the financial and membership crisis going on in the Church of England, the government may be all to happy to relinquish ownership of and financial responsibility for some of these buildings [back] to the Catholic Church.

  6. priests wife says:

    This problem is very similar to to what is going on in the Ukraine, Romania and other countries where the communist state took catholic property and gave it to the Orthodox. Sorry to say- almost nothing has been given back in the last 20 years since Catholicism has been legal- nothing like a state church….

  7. ipadre says:

    “I was very taken aback that this large step was put before us without any real consultation. And it did seem to me that some bits of the Vatican didn’t communicate with other bits,” he said.”

    Since when does the Roman Pontiff need to consult with the Archbishop of Canterbury? Did he consult with the Holy Father when they decided to allow “women bishops” or “gay priests” or what have you!

  8. dcs says:

    Count me as another layman who wasn’t consulted.

  9. Rich says:

    +Williams has had ample opportunity to help these people who want to leave. It is dishonest to act as if he wants to reach out and help them now after they have pretty much decided to convert, when he could have been reaching out to them the whole time. He is also not fooling anyone to act as if this isn’t a ruse to block these people from leaving the C of E after he has helped to make their lives difficult there to begin with.

  10. Archicantor says:

    ipadre: “Did [the Archbishop of Canterbury] consult with the Holy Father when they decided to allow ‘women bishops’?”

    First of all, the Church of England hasn’t yet formally decided to ordain women as bishops. And, yes, there was consultation, at least through correspondence and conversations with Cardinal Kasper (Pontifical Council for Christian Unity), who was invited to address the 2008 Lambeth Conference on the subject. When some provinces of the Anglican Communion were first countenancing the ordination of women to the priesthood in the 1970s, then-Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan wrote directly to Pope Paul VI to keep him informed, and received a reply. When the Church of England was about to ordain women in the early 1990s, it was Pope John Paul II who took the initiative in writing to Archbishop Robert Runcie, prompting an interesting exchange of letters. And there was, of course, a lot of lower-level discussion about the theological issues and the ecumenical implications.

    So in other words, Rome and Canterbury have historically kept each other informed about significant developments like this, both out of courtesy and out of a desire that possible ecumenical consequences will be known in advance, even if the decisions themselves don’t change as a result. I suspect that’s why Archbishop Williams wonders aloud if certain offices in the Vatican weren’t talking to each other before the announcement of Anglicanorum coetibus. Of course, Fr. Z’s suggested reciprocal gesture of personal ordinariates for disaffected Roman Catholics (Romanorum coetibus) would take a very different form, seeing that Anglicans already recognize the validity of Roman orders and sacraments, and many Anglicans already use one or both forms of the Roman Rite in their worship.

    Personally, I think things started going downhill when Archbishops of Canterbury stopped using the “royal we”. Coggan kept it, Runcie didn’t. :)

    (The links in the comment should not be construed as an endorsement of!)

  11. Clinton says:

    Since Dr. Williams was so keen to see sharia courts set up in Britain, perhaps he would like to
    have the matter adjudicated there? I understand they rather frown on folks leaving the faith
    they were born into…

    But seriously, why would the Church need assistance from Canterbury in dealing with Her
    converts? I doubt Archbishop Williams is hoping to help with the transfer of properties to
    the Catholic Church, so what on earth would this joint commission actually do?

  12. irishgirl says:

    How short are the memories of good will and Christian charity that was shown by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy Father on his trip to the UK. Not even a month has gone by, and the ‘sniping’ seems to have returned on Rowan’s side!

  13. Fr. Basil says:

    If real estate, rectories, and buildings are all the would-be converts are concerned about, consider Our Lord’s words in Mark 10:

    29And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

    30But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

    One old priest observed, “Embrace any heresy, fornicate on the very altar itself, but don’t quit the club! And if you do, don’t try to touch the property.”

  14. Randii says:

    Talk about a leading/mis-leading headline. Anything to sell a paper – or get a hit at one’s internet site.

    Church property ultimately is controlled by the crown and I doubt, short of a fair sale, that any Anglican building will be handed over.

    And why should it – when dis-affected Catholic groups leave and try to take their parish church the Catholic church does not “give” the property to the breakaway group.

    Truth be told, I suspect there is more behind-the-scenes goings on to reduce the number who convert among English Catholic PTB than among Anglican PTB.

    Archbishop Nichols recently has indicated his seeing the possibilty of gay marriage down the road in the Catholic church. Welcoming in conservative Anglicans specifically opposed to this is probably not good for the Archbishop’s and/or English Catholic PTB long-term vision of the “future church”.

  15. SimonDodd says:

    I have some sympathy for Archbp. Rowan. The way that the Pope sprung A.C. on the C of E stands in sharp contrast to the extensive consultation between Rome and Lambeth when the latter started ordaining women. And we all remember the efforts of the “joint group of Roman Catholic and Church of England figures” which presided over the reformation and dissolution of the monasteries; Archbp. Cranmer’s commission was very effective in countering secret plotting among disaffected Romans who were planning to defect to London… Right?

  16. Brian2 says:

    PTB??? What does that stand for?

  17. Randii says:

    PTB = Powers That Be

  18. mike cliffson says:

    To be fair, as you quote him being quoted in the press, it is a noncatholic, the Anglican primate, who says that the Bishops of E&W are quite palsy-walsy with their Anglican ¿Counterparts?, rather than the Catholic bishops themselves so stating – and of course “Bishops” maybe ecclesiospeak for the Bishops conference permant staff ( aka Ecclestone square aka magic circle), rather than the Bishops themseves.
    One the one hand, collaboration with other baptized is a great thing on the public square for social issues, such as in the UK some time back, very rightly indeed taking in” Boat people” , and would that such an open collaboration on abortion and morality had been more in evidence more often at high levels, of course what prayers went up and whate discreet coefforts were vainly made, one knows not.
    ON the other, Caesar’s wife principle, whilst I should in charity be happy that they have had a moment of human relaxation amongst their burdensome duties, as a verysinful and judgemental and ignorant man, I sin when Bishops, or even priests , should take no pains to disabuse the faithful of the idea that they are happy having tea with the unorthodox with unorthodox matters on the agenda.
    I hope Im a minority of one.
    I should be sorry that any called to the one true church for their eternal salvation should have their path the more rock-strewn. Oh well, just keep praying!

  19. Supertradmum says:

    There are at least three issue here; one is the real transfer of property. The Government at this time might very well want to sell some prime location property to the Catholic Church at cut-rate prices, the parishes which want to come in as a group. Secondly, the issue of the National Church as remaining intact is huge. If the Anglican Church continues to be weakened by both the liberal agenda, and the Anglo-Catholics who are leaving, the entire question of the validity of the National Church is up for serious review by Parliament. There has been a movement for some time to disestablish the Anglican Church and I am sure the Queen, the Archbishop, and others, even Catholics, do not want this to happen. Christianity, I think, ironically, is stronger in England because of the Established Church. Thirdly, an issue is the Archbishop’s personal sympathies. Williams has been one of the liberals with a foot in both camps, trying to bridge the widening gap, not only for the sake of the Anglican church, but for his own peace of mind. He is an intellectual, who tries to create peace and harmony in an increasingly secular and split world in Great Britain, and as a good man, does not want the division which he can see coming. I do feel for him and believe that he is genuine in his attempts to ameliorate all sides, with an Anglican compromise, which will not work this time. His warm attitude and support of the Pope’s visit indicated a willingness to work with the Catholics, even though he felt slighted by the past announcements.

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    He just wants to know ahead of time when real estate is under threat. Makes life easier for the lawyers.

  21. Mitchell NY says:

    Sure the Catholic Church should “consult” the Church of England and the public about its’ issuance of internal documents. So they can be delayed, the media scourge the Church, and the public can express its’ bitter, hostile resentment and attacks against Church, Pope and Faith. Yeah that sounds good for the people who would like to put this ordeal behind them and come home.

  22. Daniel Latinus says:

    When I read this post, I thought about the situation of North Korean and Chinese prisoners who did not want to be repatriated after the Korean War. The cease-fire called for the prisoners to appear before commissions, and for representatives of the North Korean and Chinese governments to “make explanations” to the prisoners who did not want to return home, in hopes of convincing them to change their minds.

    Where individual conversions are concerned, I don’t see why any intervention would be necessary. I can see perhaps some need for some kind of transition process where senior churchmen will need to resign and be replaced, and where institutions and parishes decide to come over en masse.

    A few years ago, there were some discussions between liberal and conservative Episcopalians over what to do if a congregation wished to leave that denomination. One of the liberals suggested that some consideration be given to allowing the departing group to retain its church. The commenter cited cases where a congregation was driven from their church, and made to acquire a new home, while the church plant from which they had been driven stood locked-up and unused.

    On the other hand, I understand the CofE is saddled with an inventory of disused churches.

  23. Sixupman says:

    It is a matter of record that the E & W hierarchy have advised/told potential converts from the CofE to stay where they are!

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    People have no common sense.
    A. If you are planning to leave the episcopalian church, why do you care what the episcopalian church says about it? You’re on your way out the door anyway, right?
    B. If they give you any crap, you could spend 6 weeks as a baptist on the road to being Catholic. If you’ve been episcopalian for years anyway, it’s not like being protestant has ever been a problem for you before. It’ll take the episcopalians longer to get over your having been a baptist than it will to get over having become a catholic, trust me.

    The only exceptions I can see to this is the clergy. I don’t know what to think of episcopalian clergy; I don’t even know what to think of ex-episcopalian clergy. And I know even less about episcopalian real estate and how they manage it.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    However, I can understand the episcopalian church getting out the lawyers over real estate. The catholic church routinely does the same thing when groups try to assert themselves in violation of church policy, and their buildings are generally much, much nicer than ours. We own a bunch of elementary schools and airplane hangars, in general…..heck, some of our real estate we SHOULD give away it’s so bad. Or at least bulldoze and keep the land underneath.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Either Rowan Williams is playing to the C of E nickel seats, or he’s so out of touch with reality that he doesn’t understand what’s happening. Having spent my youth as an Episcopalian, I suspect it is the latter. He has simply been outslicked by the Vatican, where for years he and his predecessors were referred to as “Archbishop”. He has simply been slapped by reality and would do well to remember that Cardinal Newman (I think in his Apologia) said that after having become a Catholic, it was hard to believe that as an Anglican he actually thought himself in the Church.

    Re real estate: If an entire C of E parish swims the Tiber, then transferring the property to the Church does the C of E a favor. Otherwise, the C of E is left to maintain a property without the funds to do so.

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    On the contrary, robtbrown, it’s still real estate and will fetch a hefty price on the market. People buy old churches to turn into apartment complexes and restaurants. Haven’t you heard?

    The CofE is likely to think that preferable to just losing the real estate, particularly losing it to Rome. And they, like everyone else, would like some cash which the properties will bring. Oh yes, they’ll act all morose and regretful……all the way to the bank.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    Besides we have our own internal battles. What are WE going to do with all these drafty buildings?? Our wonderful bishops have already demonstrated that they’ll probably shut them down and replace them with all-purpose rooms just like they did with ours!

  29. robtbrown says:

    catholicmidwest says:

    On the contrary, robtbrown, it’s still real estate and will fetch a hefty price on the market. People buy old churches to turn into apartment complexes and restaurants. Haven’t you heard?

    I agree that would probably have been the case in the US before the collapse of the real estate market. England is another case entirely.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    The English Government owns the churches and land, not the individual dioceses or parishes. The situation demands more than just Church intervention. And, contrary to most of the above comments, I believe that such a commission is an admission of defeat for the traditional Anglican compromise. Those who have read Newman know what an awakening that it, as mentioned above, when one realizes that one was not a Catholic as an Anglican, but a Protestant.

    Those who need a commission are not just any of those who are leaving, but those who are in positions of authority who are leaving, such as a the bishops, chancellors, college professors, etc, who live in Anglican Church property and need new homes. Also, there is the huge question of pensions and benefits, which most Anglican clergy and workers would have to give up. These are not trivial problems. I am not sure what a commission would cover, but I can understand from the Established Church side why it seems necessary.

    As to the real estate, this is a huge problem for the Anglicans, I can assure you. There are many “bishops’ residences” and small chapels on the market even now, which carry prices of over one and one half to two million American dollars as of 10-23-10.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    PS, Catholicmidwest,

    These are not merely “drafty” buildings, but beautiful and mostly old and not reckovated properties in prime locations, with wonderful histories. Most of the Anglican churches in urban or even smaller country areas would be desirable over wither 19th century or 20th century Catholic buildings, many of which have been built in the past fifty, yucky, as far as architecture goes, years.

    However, it is, as I repeat, up to the Government to sell these, through their offices. Here are some interesting and I hope, helpful, statistics from 2007:


    Annual investment income £177.8m
    Central assets £5.7bn
    Central land holdings: 112,000 acres
    Local land holdings: 129,000 acres (Financial Times estimate)
    Nominal members (UK) 24M(Population 60.6m)
    Average Sunday church attendance (UK) 871,000 (Average Catholic Church attendance 869,221)
    Members worldwide 70M
    Church attenders worldwide 25M

    The Catholic Church, which has an almost equal number of church attendees (869,221) had revenue of only £297m in 2006, only 25% of the Anglican. Thirty-three Church Commissioners manage the property and stock market assets of the Church of England. Six of these commissioners who have ex officio membership hold state office. They include the prime minister and the sport & culture minister. All the commissioners are accountable to Parliament, to which they make an annual report, as well as to the General Synod of the Church of England.

    These facts are from

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    They can do what they did in Holland and make them into public halls, government buildings and museums. It could happen.

  33. robtbrown says:

    catholicmidwest says:

    They can do what they did in Holland and make them into public halls, government buildings and museums. It could happen.

    In which case they would not be prime real estate.

    There’s also the question of who owns the parishes. In the US the diocese is a corporation sole, owning all the parishes (with a few exceptions). My understanding is that is not the case in the C of E, where it’s mostly local ownership.

  34. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:
    Also, there is the huge question of pensions and benefits, which most Anglican clergy and workers would have to give up.

    Why would they have to renounce them?

    I think they would still be entitled to their pensions, which–like any other profession–are proportioned according to years of service. In fact, I had a classmate in Rome who was retired CofE clergy. He had converted and was using his pension to pay for theological studies in order to be ordained a Catholic priest.

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