Anglican bishops join Catholics
Five bishops are to join the Roman Catholic Church under a Vatican scheme for disaffected Anglicans.
Three serving bishops and two retired bishops have decided to enter into "full communion" with the Catholic Church through the personal ordinariate, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales said. The scheme, announced last year by the Vatican, allows Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining aspects of their spiritual heritage.
The bishops are the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough and the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Roman Catholic Church said. They will be joined by the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes, former bishop of Richborough, and the Rt Rev David Silk, former Bishop of Ballarat in Australia.
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet said it was a "fresh, new opportunity for the churches to move closer together", but denied it was motivated by divisions over the ordination of women bishops.
"Women bishops is a pressing issue, yes, but this is a question of whether the Anglican church is - as it says it is - part of the universal church going back to the time of Jesus, or whether it is going off in its own way and making up its own rules, as we think it is," he said. "We are pioneers. As bishops we have a particular responsibility, but there will be priests and parishes who will follow in good course. I've made this decision in neither sadness nor anger. I've made the decision in joy. I think this is a fresh, new opportunity for the churches to move closer together and I look forward to the opportunities of serving in a wider church."
The Bishop of Fulham said: "I'm excited but nervous about entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. I don't know what the future holds and it will either be a huge success or a huge flop, but I have decided now is the time to do it."
Bishop Alan Hopes, Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop in the Westminster Diocese, said: "We welcome the decision of bishops Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, John Broadhurst, Edwin Barnes and David Silk to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church through the ordinariate for England and Wales, which will be established under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. At our plenary meeting next week, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales will be exploring the establishment of the ordinariate and the warm welcome we will be extending to those who seek to be part of it. Further information will be made known after the meeting."
The decision by the five bishops comes after the General Synod of the Church of England decided to press ahead this summer with the ordination of women bishops without safeguards demanded by traditionalists. This was in spite of threats of a walkout by Anglo-Catholic and conservative evangelical groupings within the Church of England over the issue. The Rt Rev Burnham and the Rt Rev Newton are both so-called "flying bishops" who minister to Church of England parishes where congregations have voted not to allow a woman priest to preside at services. The Rt Rev Broadhurst, who is chairman of the Anglo Catholic grouping Forward in Faith, has already announced his intention of converting to Roman Catholicism. It also emerged last month that the parochial church council of St Peter's Church of England parish in Folkestone had voted to join the ordinariate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: "I have today with regret accepted the resignations of Bishops Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, who have decided that their future in Christian ministry lies in the new structures proposed by the Vatican. We wish them well in this next stage of their service to the Church and I am grateful to them for their faithful and devoted pastoral labours in the Church of England over many years."
In a joint statement with the four other bishops joining the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet thanked "those who agree with our views and those who passionately disagree" for their support. The bishops added: "We remain very grateful for all that the Church of England has meant for us and given to us all these years and we hope to maintain close and warm relationships, praying and working together." The five bishops will officially join the Catholic Church on December 31.