Thursday, 22 October 2009

Priests in London and Yorkshire say they are tempted to join Rome

The villages of the ancient parishes of Broughton, Marton and Thornton nestle in a corner of North Yorkshire that is perilously close to the Lancashire border. And even closer to Rome.

For the rector, the Rev Canon Nicholas Turner, editor of the traditionalist magazine New Directions, the Pope’s decree was the fulfilment of a long-held dream. But he must now decide whether to be reordained as a Roman Catholic priest. And if he does, what will happen to the churches and his parishioners?

To visit the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Thornton is to enter a Norman building that gives every appearance of being Catholic already. There is a statue of the Madonna and Child. There are candles and incense. Father Nicholas celebrates Mass, occasionally in Latin, hears confession and grants absolution.

The three parishes in the united benefice voted in the 1990s for resolutions granting them distance from the Bradford Diocese. Now the three parochial church councils may face a further vote: whether to join their priest and defect en masse to Rome, albeit a version of Roman Catholicism that would allow them to maintain much of their Anglican identity.

If it came to that, though, a hurdle would remain. Their three churches would still belong to the Church of England; unless a deal were reached, where would the new Catholics worship? In Father Nicholas’s ideal world, one church would pass into the control of the Anglican Catholics while the other two remained with the Church of England.

His world is not ideal, however, because his wife, Canon Ann Turner, is the local deacon and the Roman Catholic Church does not accept female deacons. Some tough decisions lie ahead.

“The Pope’s decision is a wonderfully generous move to unity,” he said. “It would be wonderful if the Church of England could return to full communion with Rome while still being the Church of England. But I can’t just abandon over 30 years of ministry as though they never happened. These are exciting times, but one can’t ignore the history of a village church. It is at the centre of the community and I hope we can forge a path that allows all of us to stay together.”

In Walthamstow, East London, Father David Waller sits on a green chair, a black and white cat draped across his knees, and offers a cup of tea. “This could be the most significant thing to happen to the English Church since the Reformation,” he says. Read more
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Peter Kirk said...

Looks like the Anglican Mainstream may soon find itself divided by the Rock of Peter.

Reformation said...

Looks like a major slap-down of the ABC, at least from the American side of the pond. Newman's dream-come-true.

It seems more like a public-relations coup de force, since Rome has always allowed Anglicans to come their way.

We'll see what the Code says in a few weeks.