Women Priests and the Discomfort in the Church of England
The Church of England ordained its first women priests in 1994. Since the beginning, this decision raised discomfort in many members, both clerics and laymen, of the Church of England. Because of this, the Provincial Episcopal Visitors (PEV) was created. These suffragan bishops, popularly called “flying bishops”, have the task of visiting the parishes that will not accept the ministry of women priests, and they are under a bishop who has participated in the ordination of women as priests.
The ecclesial province of Canterbury has two of these suffragan bishops, the bishops of Richborough and of Ebbsfleet. The province of York has one, the bishop of Beverley, and the diocese of London has appointed a PEV, the bishop of Fulham.
Three of these “flying bishops”, the bishops of Fulham, Ebbsfleet and Richborough, and the former bishop of Richborough, have decided to leave the Church of England and to join the Personal Ordinariate of the Catholic Church at the end of the year.
Ilsussidiario.net has asked the Right Reverend Edwin Barnes, Bishop Emeritus of Richborough, to clarify some critical points of this story.
All the bishops who expressed their intention to join the Personal Ordinariate created by Pope Benedict XVI with his Anglicanorum Coetibus are members of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Church of England. Bishop Barnes explains who the Anglo-Catholics are: “Anglo-Catholicism developed from the Oxford Movement in the 19th Century, which was founded by Oxford Professor Pusey, country parson Keble, and the Vicar of the University Church in Oxford Newman. It grew and flourished until late in the 20th Century, by which time the Eucharistic Vestments and regular and frequent celebrations of the Eucharist had become the norm in more than half of our Parish Churches. Our worship in most places had the outward appearance of Catholicism rather than of Protestantism.”
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