Kent News: Anglicans leave Church of England for Rome

12 03 2011

Kent News has this article:

Churches have seen their congregations decimated this week after dissident Anglican priests and their parishioners turned to Rome.

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the exodus in both Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells as worshippers opted instead to celebrate their first mass at Catholic churches.

In Tunbridge Wells, Father Ed Tomlinson led 70 worshipers to join St Anselm’s Roman Catholic Church in Pembury leaving a congregation of just 15 at his former church St Barnabas.

Meanwhile, Father Ivan Aquilina took 40 parishioners with him to St Thomas’ Roman Catholic Church in Sevenoaks leaving 50 at the town’s St John the Baptist Church.

They join around 600 Anglicans nationally who have decided to leave the Church of England over liberal reforms such as the ordination of women bishops.

Pope Benedict XVI has created a new body called the English Ordinariate for Church of England traditionalists who want to switch allegiance to Rome while retaining some of their Anglican customs.

Father Tomlinson said: “The big day for us was Sunday when we said goodbye. Wednesday was the beginning of Lent and we are joining with the Catholic Church to celebrate that.”

He described this week’s move as a “very quiet, tentative first-step” towards preparing to convert to the Ordinariate for Holy Week at Easter.

The future of St Barnabas in Stanley Road looks bleak with just 15 Anglican parishioners left.

“It makes its viability very difficult,” Father Tomlinson said. “One of the really sad things is that I proposed to the Church of England we might share the building and work together, but the Church of England has been a bit sore about that so we’re leaving with nothing.

“It is a beautiful building. We’ve not changed what we teach, what has changed is the wider Church of England, who want to worship in a new and different way, which is why in the end it was an easy decision for us because it was a matter of integrity and standing up for what we believe in.”

Father Aquilina spoke about his decision to leave the Church of England and his former church in Quaker’s Hall Lane.

“The most important thing that moved me to join the Ordinariate is Jesus – I believe that we have to be faithful to what he said. The Church of England is being changed and I cannot recognise His words any more.”

Speaking about the changes in the Church of England, he added: “It is innovation and it is a complete departure.

“We speak now of organic growth and development that is a beautiful thing, but this is rather starting something completely new.

“Part of that malaise is the ordination of women to the priesthood, but that is just part.

“It is a question of the unity of the church and not working together on these important issues such as re-marrying divorcees and gay marriages. The Church of England is deciding rather than talking with Christians to find a common decision.”

Both have talked about the Church of England “moving the goal posts”.

Speaking to this newspaper last year before he had officially made the decision to leave, Father Tomlinson said: “Certainly it is fair to say that it would be very difficult for anyone with genuine Catholic convictions to stay, although some may try and do that for the time being.

“Catholicism in the Church of England is dead beyond a generation. People could stay and enjoy the last few years or could make a radical decision in the short term that would guarantee a better future.”