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Diocese of Washington church to join Roman Catholic ordinariate

Diocese of Washington church to join Roman Catholic ordinariate

After a lengthy period of discernment and consultation with The Episcopal Church, including the Presiding Bishop, and the Roman Catholic Church, the parish of St. Luke’s, Bladensburg, Maryland, has decided to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC) released the following statement on June 6:

After a period of deep discernment, the rector and parishioners of St. Luke’s Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Maryland have decided to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church through a new structure approved by Pope Benedict XVI called an ordinariate. Saint Luke’s is the first church in the Washington metropolitan area to take this step.

The transition is being made with the prayerful support of Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic Archbishop of Washington.

See the rest below.

The Washington Post reports the story here.

St. Luke’s, a small, tight-knit congregation in Bladensburg with a majority of members from Africa and the Caribbean, will be allowed to hold onto its Anglican traditions even as it comes under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. That will include being led by its married pastor, the Rev. Mark Lewis, and retaining much of its liturgy.

Leaders of the church said Monday that they were not leaving the Episcopal Church because of the ordination of gays and women — issues that have bitterly divided the American wing of the Anglican Church and coincided with stepped-up efforts by the Vatican to reach out to Anglicans. Instead, church members said, they were satisfying their longing for a clear religious authority by welcoming the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI.

Although the parish already embraced various Catholic practices, Lewis, the rector, said he had already ordered a larger statue of Mary and planned more teachings on praying the rosary and saying confession — core Catholic rituals. The sign out front that had read: “St. Luke’s Parish-Anglican” was blank, awaiting the parish’s new name.

Episcopal News Service report is here:

The landing page of St. Luke’s website is headlined “We are Ordinariate Bound!”

“We look forward to continuing to worship in the Anglican tradition, while at the same time being in full communion with the Holy See of Peter,” the page says.

Wuerl said in the release that “the proposed ordinariate provides a path to unity, one that recognizes our shared beliefs on matters of faith while also recognizing and respecting the liturgical heritage of the Anglican Church.”

Wuerl is the United States delegate of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will handle requests for membership in a yet-to-be-formed “ordinariate” in the United States.

Until an ordinariate is established for the United States, St. Luke’s congregation, which has approximately 100 members, will come under the care of the Archdiocese of Washington, the release said.

“We welcome St. Luke parishioners warmly into our family offaith. The proposed ordinariate provides a path to unity, one that recognizes our shared beliefs on matters offaith while also recognizing and respecting the liturgical heritage of the Anglican Church,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “We also recognize the openness of the community to the guidance ofthe Holy Spirit in their faithjourney.”

In fall 2009, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the formation of “ordinariates” for former Anglican parishes seeking to enter the Catholic Church as a parish group. An ordinariate is a geographic region similar to a diocese, though typically is national in scope. Until one is established for the United States, St. Luke’s parish, which has approximately 100 parishioners, will come under the care ofthe Archdiocese of Washington.

“This was a transition achieved in a spirit of pastoral sensitivity and mutual respect,” said Bishop Chane. “Christians move from one church to another with far greater frequency than in the past, sometimes as individuals, sometimes as groups. I was glad to be able to meet the spiritual needs of the people and priest of St. Luke’s in a way that respects the tradition and polity ofboth ofour Churches.”

Under the terms of a letter of agreement signed last week with the Episcopal Diocese ofWashington, St. Luke parishioners will continue to worship in their current church, at 4006 53rd Street, Bladensburg. The agreement is a lease with a purchase option. Parishioners will begin preparations for reception into the Catholic Church later this year while Rev. Mark Lewis, rector of St. Luke’s, begins the process to be ordained a Catholic priest.

“I am deeply grateful to Cardinal Wuerl and to Bishop Chane for their support throughout this discernment. We look forward to continuing to worship in the Anglican tradition, while at the same time being in full communion with the Holy See of Peter,” Rev. Lewis said.

The first ordinariate was established in England in January 2011. Ordinariate parishes are fully Catholic, while retaining aspects of their Anglican heritage and liturgical tradition. Cardinal Wuerl is the Vatican’s representative forthe implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus (pronounced Anglican-orum chay-tee-boose) in the United States, the papal document authorizing the establishment of ordinariates. This document and other material are online at here.

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Robin Margolis

This comment may seem rather naive or too idealistic --

but maybe it is for the best that people who strenuously disagree with Episcopal Church policies allowing ordination of women and members of the gay community -- or who desire a more hierarchy-based, traditionalist leadership closer to that of the Catholic Church -- simply leave the Episcopal Church?

The loss of parishioners and churches is very painful. It is not pleasant to see Episcopalian congregations absorbed by other organizations, sometimes with internal battles and hurt feelings.

No organization, spiritual or secular, likes this type of process.

But prolonged internal dissension is likely not good for the Episcopal Church in the long run. Perhaps a "via media" (middle way) can only stretch so far?

Or in the words of Proverbs 17:1 -- "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife."

Perhaps the Episcopal Church will emerge stronger from this era.

It has undergone very tough eras before, such as the post-Revolutionary War era, when it lost the institutional support of the Church of England, and some of the Loyalists (Tories) who were Anglicans left the U.S.

But the Episcopal Church of the U.S. reorganized and re-grew itself. It can do so again.


Robin Margolis

Posted by: Anonymous | June 7, 2011 4:18 PM

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First off: the "lease w/ option to buy" clause makes EVERY difference between this, and the usual schism stories.

But this

"the rector and parishioners of St. Luke's Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Maryland have decided"

I always wonder about those parishioners who decided differently? They're just sentenced to go elsewhere?

JC Fisher

[Not to mention my resistance to ALL Vatican policies (which St Luke's has now signed onto) in the public square, which I believe violate both human rights AND the Gospel]

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