Seeing as how the Anglican Ordinariate has set up shop in his backyard (it will run out of Houston), The Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, thought it wise to frame the event with some of his own understanding about what it is and how it might be regarded.
We’re the richer for his recent analysis on the subject. It’s forthright and helpful.
As many of you may be aware, the Anglican Ordinariate launched nationwide this week and it will be operated out of the Roman Catholic diocesan office in Houston . The Rev. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop, now a Roman Catholic priest working and teaching in Houston, will oversee the Ordinariate.
What is an Ordinariate? An ordinariate is a canonical structure within the Roman Catholic Church enabling former Anglicans to maintain their “Anglican” identity and autonomy within the Roman Church. Its precise nature may be viewed in the Anglicanorum Coetibus of November 4, 2009. The document states that the goal is “to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”
This is not a unique event within the Roman Catholic Church. In the Roman Church there are other Latin rite churches with similar accommodations. One in particular offers a similar structure and governing principles for Eastern Churches that wanted to return to communion with the Holy See (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches).
This is not a new initiative. The process for the current Ordinariate began in 1977 when the Episcopal Church began ordaining women priests. A 1980 pastoral provision was granted only for the United States and it directly subjects those former Anglicans to whom it is applied to the governance of the existing local Latin Rite bishops. In October 2007 the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) presented a petition to the Holy See requesting full union in corporate form, an action that has resulted in the Ordinariate we see in today’s headlines. This Ordinariate was a topic of discussion at the Diocese of Texas’ Clergy Conference in 2009 when it was initially announced.
The Ordinariate is news within the Roman Catholic Church today because it shows a broadening of the Roman tradition within a Church not known for change. In the Episcopal Church and Anglican tradition, we regularly welcome and receive members from all denominations. For many years we have had a process by which a person or congregation might affiliate with our Church and become Episcopalian. While our canons have offered this provision for movement for a long time, it remains a novelty for Rome.
Not many people are expected to make a change. The Rev. Steenson and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo have represented publicly that some 1400 individuals nationally have expressed interest in joining the Roman Church. Many of these individuals are members of congregations who already have pastoral oversight of regional Latin bishops and are not members of any Episcopal diocese. In the Houston area, Our Lady of Walsingham will be participate in the Ordinariate but the congregation has never been an Episcopal Church. Other break away congregations may seek to join the Ordinariate. I know of only one retired clergyman in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas who is considering joining the Roman Church.
There’s a bit more, then this.
As Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, where do I stand regarding the new Roman Catholic Ordinariate? I have no anxiety and I hope that the Ordinariate will be a place where some who feel spiritually homeless may find a dwelling place; and a place where others may come to a better understanding of their own Anglican heritage.
In the Bible Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem. His last teaching to Israel was this, he said, “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
I have chosen to follow God in Christ Jesus through the particular and unique church community of the Episcopal Church. I am unabashedly Episcopalian and I love my church. Furthermore, I embrace and welcome all those who choose to serve Jesus in and through the ministries of this Church. We in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas are a people in mission and we are focused on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, such that men and women will be drawn into relationship with him as Savior and follow him as Lord in the specific fellowship of the Episcopal Church; which is part of Christ’s universal and catholic church.
Doyle tweets using the handle @texasbishop.