Friday, January 07, 2011

Chelmsford Diocesan policy on the Ordinariate

Clergy in the Chelmsford Diocese have received an Ad Clerum from Bishop Stephen relating to the Ordinariate, which seems to me to be graciously robust. Key points:

- +Stephen is seeking 'clarity and generosity'
- those entering the ordinariate are leaving the Church of England, therefore clergy need to formally resign
- parsonage houses will not be transferred
- "we will... move quickly to make new appointments" to the relevant parishes
- +Stephen is open to shared use of church buildings, but not on Sunday mornings as this will "not serve the need for clarity"
- those parishes that have been withholding their parish share have been acting dishonourably, and +Stephen asks for the withheld moneys to be paid back - "Without this it will be all the harder to have the generous conversations we hope for".

Good stuff.


  1. Sam:

    Thank you for this. I've been wondering about how actual dioceses have been coping with the Ordinariate, and have been unsatisfied with the information I have found.

    If I may be provocative for a moment, how many of the buildings in question are older than 1535? Don't those, rightfully, belong to the Roman Catholic Church? (Here in the States, all pariochial property belongs, in law, to the diocesan bishop.)

    God bless,


  2. Don't those, rightfully, belong to the Roman Catholic Church?
    No, they were lawfully nationalized.

  3. "lawfully"

    The trouble with that argument is it depends what you mean by "lawfully" and (crucially) who decides what is lawful.

    A better line of argument is that they were not nationalised. Before 1535 they belonged to the parson (the "parson's Freehold" predates the reformation by many centuries) and after 1536 they still belonged to him. The only difference being that he was no longer in full communion with the Holy See.

  4. How comes a letter from the Bishop (Ad Clerum) to his Clergy (would asume p+c) gets published on the WWW?

  5. Sir Watkin,

    You have crystalized the situation excellently. If they belonged to the parson when the revolt occured, and went with him, then when the parson in 2011 goes elsewhere, shouldn't the property rightly go with him?

    Doesn't this get the bishop in exactly the jam he's trying to avoid?


  6. Anonymous - the Bishop in his letter asked for his views to be widely publicised. I think the whole text is on the Diocesan website.

    Chris, Parson's Freehold is a trust position tied to the office-holder, so if someone ceases to hold the office then the freehold also lapses. The property has never 'gone with' a particular person.

    To my mind, the idea that the CofE 'stole' churches from the RC is nonsense on stilts. There has been a Christian community breaking bread together for 1350 years or more here in West Mersea. The fact that some members walked out because of arguments between king and pope does not invalidate the continuity and identity of those that stayed. Anyone who left would be welcome to come back :)

  7. Sadly, Fr Sam, your Hermeneutic of Anglican Continuity can also look like nonsense on stilts. (I don't think it is, but neither do I think the Hermeneutic of Anglican Rupture is.)

    From a perspective different from yours the idea is absurd that a group that emerged from teh Reformation period out of communion with its Mother Church of Rome, with a dubious episcopate and priesthood, and a defective Eucharistic rite, is one with the community that existed prior to the Reformation.

    If a local church is no longer recognisable as a church to the rest of the Catholic Church, who is doing teh walking out? Its members who "leave" in order to remain in Catholic communion, or those who stay?

    You rightly point out that the Parson's Freehold involves a trust, but a trust for what purpose and on what condictions? Was that trust morally (if not in English law) violated by the changes of the Reformation? There is (at the least) a case to answer here.

    On the other hand, if the local community is indeed paramount, Carl has a ready answer to your narrowly focussed refutation of his suggestion. It would indeed be strange if the property "went with" the parson alone, but not so unreasonable if it went with the community should it decide to join the Ordinariate (or Methodism for that matter).

  8. Sir Watkin - I'm not sure if you're quoting an argument in that second/third para or if you actually believe it, but that argument presupposes that "the Mother Church of Rome" means something, as does "the rest of the Catholic Church". I'm not sure that either concept can bear the weight that catholic (small c) theology has often placed upon it - which is an issue I'm still working through, being of avowedly Anglo-catholic leaning myself! Not only does the great schism impact upon it, but we now understand the diverse nature of the early church more fully than did the Reformers/Counter-Reformers. Whither the Copts for example?

    I'll try and get some more detail on parson's freehold, but, FWIW, if there was unanimity then there might be a case for what you say, otherwise not (the vicarious nature of English religion is also a factor - that is, the church belongs in a moral sense to the community as a whole, not just the worshipping congregation).

  9. "some members walked out because of arguments between king and pope..." Ah, yes- as Sellars and Yeatman put it, "The Pope... seceded with all his followers from the Church of England. This was called the Restoration." As a result of which, I recall, the said followrs were liable to imprisonment, torture and execution as traitors. Even in the nineteenth century, what a to-do there was about allowing these people civil rights!

  10. What you say deserves a proper response (more than I have time for at the moment), but suffice it to say that I was just sketching out a position, not unreasonable in itself (whether or not it's actually correct), and held in essence by many Christians from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century - a position from which your ecclesiology looked as absurd as the one you were criticising.

    (N.B. I deliberately phrased that position to be resistant (at least at the level of specifics - the wider picture is as you say more complex) to the Great Schism problem.)

    I'm a little puzzled, however, by your uncertainty, for in my first paragraph I explicitly distanced myself as well from the Hermeneutics of Rupture as from that of Continuity as regards Anglicanism.

    To be honest the Parson's Freehold is a red herring. I was just having some fun there.

    There is no realistic legal claim that a congregation heading for the Ordinariate could make. One can dream up abstract legal arguments, to be sure, but that's simply a reflexion of the fact that the question of Church of England property is so confused. The chances of success in the law courts are minimal. Slightly better where e.g. parish churches are held under trust deeds and not the freehold system, but still small.

    No, if there is a case, it is a moral one, not legal. Should that be conceded by the Church of England authorities, a transfer could easily be effected by the usual procedures whereby church property is sold or leased. If sharing is the desired soltuion it can be achieved either by a Local Ecumenical Project or more informally. It would be very simple - if the will were there.

    As for the communal aspect of English religion, that's not negigible (tho' one must beware of romanticising it), but it's not entirely clear to me why a change of ecclesial status has to make a difference. Legal stuff aside (which I doubt the Lord Jesus cares a fig about), couldn't the pastoral role of the traditional parish church be fulfilled by Anglicans in communion with Rome just as well as by Anglicans who for now remain in the Church of England? (He suggested mischievously.)

  11. This old post of mine is relevant:


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