No Church-Sharing in London for Ordinariate – What’s going on Bishop Chartres?

The Anglican Bishop of London, Rt Rev Richard Chartres gave an address to the London diocesan synod on 2th. Dec. which included the statement quoted below:

There does however seem to be a degree of confusion about whether those entering the Ordinariate like Bishop John might be able to negotiate a transfer of properties or at the least explore the possibility of sharing agreements in respect of particular churches. For the avoidance of confusion I have to say that as far as the Diocese of London is concerned there is no possibility of transferring properties. As to sharing agreements I have noted the Archbishop of Westminster’s comment that his “preference is for the simplest solutions. The simplest solutions are for those who come into Catholic communion to use Catholic churches”. I am also mindful that the late Cardinal Hume, whom I greatly revered, brought to an end the experiment of church sharing after the Synod’s decision of 1992 because far from being conducive to warmer ecumenical relations it tended to produce more rancour.’

After this, emotions were running high, and Bishop Chartres was either praised (by disgruntled Anglicans who see the Ordinariate as a threat) or condemned (by Catholics who see an uncharitable attitude in this decision). It may be helpful to read a comment on this issue made by someone more informed, such as the retired Anglican Bishop Edwin Barnes, who decided to join the Ordinariate (from his blog Ancient Richborough):

‘For the avoidance of confusion I have to say that as far as the Diocese of London is concerned there is no possibility of transferring properties’.
So Bishop Richard Chartres at his Diocesan Synod last week.

By contrast, here is the Property Page of the Daily Telegraph four days later: ‘A recent survey conducted by a property website declared that
churches are the nation’s favourite conversion’. Now London, of course, is a special case. Not that its churches are bursting with eager worshippers; indeed, it is reckoned that the average worshipping congregation across the diocese numbers fewer than forty people. No, it is its bishop which makes London different. He has fought to keep churches open, even in the City where there are few residents, and for this determination he deserves much credit. But…

In his address to the Synod the Bishop related unhappy experiences of attempting to share a church building. ‘The late Cardinal Hume, whom I
greatly revered, brought to an end the experiment of church sharing after the Synod’s decision of 1992’. On the evidence of that handful of failed experiments the good Bishop is prepared to condemn every attempt at church sharing.

There was similar episcopal resistance nearly fifty years ago when in a Surrey parish we dared suggest to our Bishop of Guildford and his opposite number of Arundel & Brighton that our parish church might be useful to the Catholic community. Eventually, and a little grudgingly, the two bishops permitted the experiment. So it was that between our 8am celebration and the later Parish Communion, Catholics met in the Anglican Parish Church to say Mass.

Some of the friendships which developed from this modest experiment continue to this day. I am not sure if the sharing arrangement still flourishes; but it certainly did so for more than thirty years.

It takes a very special sort of leadership to feel unthreatened by such events yet when they are entered into with generosity and charity on all sides they can produce great results, so that even non-churchgoers can begin to say “How these Christians love one another!” – and say it, for once, with no trace of irony.

The present Bishop of London is famously implacable in his views. How stoutly he recently defended the Royal Family when one of his Suffragans dared to suggest they did not always produce the most stable of marriages. There is little prospect of any of the churches in his dioceses playing host anytime soon to a Catholic Mass; even though in many of them it might appear to be the Catholic Mass which is celebrated. There are seven years before age will force him to hang up his mitre if neither he nor the Almighty has decided it should happen earlier. Then will it be economic or ecumenical pressure which determines the fate of the underused churches of London Diocese?

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1 Response to No Church-Sharing in London for Ordinariate – What’s going on Bishop Chartres?

  1. joyfulpapist says:

    Fr Ed Tomlinson has a perspective on church sharing and the attitude he and those of his congregation who which to join the ordinariate are facing. There are several posts about his experiences, and this reflection on the attitude he recommends:

    we must look forwards not backwards and love those who currently fail to care for us. How those contemplating joining the Ordinariate behave as they forge a new home will be an important witness to the world.

    I have no doubt that the Ordinariate is a movement and gift of the Holy Spirit. But I must be more patient with those who will never share that view or who are not yet ready to do so. And though many may want to abuse me- for what I believe to be true- I must never allow this to derail me from my walk with Christ. I must not become bitter, resentful or angry. At all times I must love. I must bear misfortune gracefully and take everything to Jesus in prayer.

    The Holy Father proclaimed that the Ordinariate ‘prophetic’. And what do prophets do but hold up mirrors to the world? And this is why we who are supporting the Ordinariate find ourselves bearing the anger of others. Our stand for the faith causes discomfort. This is why we deal with so much misdirected anger and frustration and pain. To be hated and misunderstood by the world is this not the prophet’s inheritance? But we must not be drawn into argument but simply love as Christ loves us.

    The week did not start well and I was upset by some heavy handed treatment of my congregation. But now is the time to forgive and move on. Those considering the offer of the Ordinariate must remember that everything is in God’s hand now and we must point to this truth in faith. He leads to a place that is new. We must not fight for what we need but wait for God to provide it. If people will not let us keep buildings- let them have them. If people want us to go with nothing then fine! God is faithful and He will provide for our needs.

    Litigation, recrimination and bitterness these await us if we choose to look back in anger. But look forward in faith and we will receive abundant joy. The reward of a new Ecclesial life with sacramental assurance and certainty.

    When Jesus went to his death they stripped him of his garments, and likely they will strip us too, for we too must die to all that has gone before. But death was not the end on Good Friday and nor will it be now. Those who eventually join the Ordinariate will die that we might live. We must therefore be- above all else- an Easter people. A people looking forward to our Resurrection in the Holy Catholic Church. So no matter what others might throw at us- Alleluia is our song and love must govern our footsteps. Do not let the devil catch us on the hop and capitalise on our uncertainty. Love at all times, only love.


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