Summer Doldrums

Gatteville lighthouse, north-eastern point of the Cotentin,
light visible from the Isle of Wight

Time has gone by since I last wrote anything here. Since my last posting, I have been at the campsite at Barfleur, and we will be returning home next Sunday. The Dog Days are over, and the past ten days or so have been characterised by cloudy weather and a westerly wind. I have my small boat Σοφία with me, much easier to launch and recover than Sarum, but less capable in stronger winds and chop.

Without doubt, I will be writing a little more on returning home. Church news has been quite depressing, especially the uncovering of yet more child abuse by clergy and covering-up by bishops. Our world seems to be polarising more and more between liberalism and the nationalist right. My own country faces more debates over Brexit, and those of us living in EU countries face having to apply for things like residence permits and driving licences. People become jittery, hysterical and anxious.

My thoughts turn towards my article for the next Blue Flower. I am presently re-reading Rob Riemen’s Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal which jumps about from one illustration of the ideal to another. However, the central theme is reflected in this quote:

Nobility of spirit is the great ideal! It is the realization of true freedom, and there can be no democracy, no free world, without this moral foundation. Whitman’s masterpiece, his whole vision, is exactly about this: life as a quest for truth, love, beauty, goodness, and freedom; life as the art of becoming human through the cultivation of the human soul. All this is expressed by ‘nobility of spirit’: the incarnation of human dignity.

The same theme is reflected in Romanticism and its offshoots throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is something to revive us when we go through bouts of nihilism, acedia and Sartre’s La Nausée, usually provoked by other people whose ideals in life are not ours.

We will be breaking camp on Saturday and returning home, and frankly I will be glad to begin taking steps for my future life (whatever that means).

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Over the past couple of days, I have found some dialogues on Facebook concerning Gallicanism. French Anglicanism? Maybe in a way, but modern Anglicanism. The version of Gallicanism of Archbishop Dominique Philippe is a little more classical using the Roman liturgy of Pius V, but tending to be attracted to some toxic alliances (no further commentary).

There are several churches in France using the title Gallican. Most of these little churches are served by bishops with lines of succession from René Vilatte. A few of them:

There are others that seem to consist of little more than a bishop and a few lay faithful.

The idea seems quite attractive as a kind of middle way between Old Catholicism and Anglicanism, the identification of the local dimension of Catholicism, whether English or French.

I would say that, historically, Gallicanism is dead. It was absorbed by Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth century with the triumph of Ultramontanism and the imposition of the strict Roman rite in all dioceses.

What is now known as Gallicanism in France is a variation of Old Catholicism that derives its sacramental life via René Vilatte, the famous adventurer, from Orthodoxy in India. Almost invariably, it is a combination of a very novus ordo – like liturgy with highly sentimental expressions of French popular Roman Catholic devotion. Most but not all of their altars are facing the people and chapels are furnished in poor taste with oversized statues and sentimental images. Quite often, without excessive accusations of dishonesty, priests and bishops offer a service of minor exorcisms and faith healings. If they spend their days doing that and not doing a job to earn their living, they have to charge for their services. Even with Archbishop Dominique Philippe who is more traditionalist for the liturgy, he is forming alliances with the old crook Gérard Roux, so it appears.

The salient characteristic of these churches is a reaction from the strictness of Roman Catholic doctrine and morals. They also try to justify their historical legitimacy, which to me seems to be a tall order. The idea is appealing, either that of reviving the old Gallican rites of the first millennium like the French western Orthodox, or medieval Catholicism as before the Revolution (which simply imitates nineteenth-century Roman Catholicism for the externals). Many bishops in nineteenth-century France sought to perpetuate the line of Louis XIV and the Council of Constance in limiting the power of the Pope in favour of the national Church. We find parallels with the national Catholicism of Henry VIII, the Monarch taking precedence over the canonical jurisdiction of the Pope.

Taking the Gallicans of Bordeaux as an example, they resumed their position is several points:

  • Acceptance of the marriage of priests and bishops
  • Female Diaconate
  • Rejection of compulsory confession
  • Banning of excommunications
  • Freedom in fasting and abstinence
  • Participation of the faithful in the government of the Church
  • Election of bishops by clergy and faithful
  • Consideration of the animal world in the reflection of the Church. This is illustrated by the famous animal blessings of the St Rita’s Gallican Church in Paris.

Continuing Anglicanism might agree with most of this except the ordination of women to the diaconate. However, these positions are not unreasonable, but are characterised by the ras-le-bol in regard to Roman Catholicism. Theological and practical training does not seem in most cases to be on the list of priorities of most Gallican churches.

Some Gallican prelates are trying to establish relations with Anglicanism, but the American Episcopal Church in France and elsewhere in Europe. They are considered by the Roman Catholics in France as dangerous competition and therefore cults to be discouraged.

Maybe my position is negative and sceptical. It is saddening because if a greater degree of integrity could be found in these Churches, our uniting Anglican Churches could be more forthcoming in reaching out to them. I keep an eye open, but I see little to hope for – unfortunately.

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Anglicanorum Coetibus Hermeneutics

In about 2010 and the following year, we were all speculating about Anglicanorum coetibus and whose petition it was answering. Mrs Deborah Gyapong has written Syncretism? Bait and switch? A look at reality in the Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Patrimony. There have been some comments on Facebook.

At the time, Archbishop Hepworth was telling us that it was all about the petition from Portsmouth of October 2007, which I witnessed as a simple priest under the Archbishop’s oversight in his Patrimony. Certainly, at the time, Rome was unaware that Archbishop Hepworth was a former Roman Catholic priest and divorced-and-remarried. We in the TAC were unaware that Forward in Faith and some individual Anglican Communion bishops has been approaching Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF for a long time. If the Portsmouth petition had no influence in the emergence of Anglicanorum coetibus, it was an amazing coincidence.

Monsignor Andrew Burnham, someone I am inclined to trust has said:

The approach I made with Keith [Newton] was in 2008. Once AC had been published, (Nov. 2009), we were summoned to Rome. Keith went there in January 2010 and the three bishops (I.e. with John Broadhurst) went back in April 2010 for a larger scale meeting (without TAC). Jeffrey. Steenson, Archbishops Wuerl and Collins, Longley and Bishop Hopes were there too. Subsequent to that three-day meeting, the CDF called in the TAC.

The CDF called in the TAC? Certainly not Archbishop Hepworth. The only time Archbishop Hepworth met Cardinal Müller was in Canada, and the Cardinal treated him quite coldly. I can only imagine there would have been groups of priests and bishops from the TAC making approaches independently from Archbishop Hepworth. The latter was being strategically sidelined to avoid his canonical irregularity spoiling the whole thing for clergy who had never been Roman Catholics. In the end (2012) Archbishop Hepworth had to resort to almost blackmail by accusing Australian priests of having sexually abused him as a young man. Perhaps the accusations against two deceased priests might have been credible, but not the one against Monsignor Dempsey. It backfired, and that was the end of Archbishop Hepworth as far as Rome was concerned – and for the remainder of the TAC that didn’t join the Ordinariates.

These “repeated and insistent” Anglican approaches to the Holy See are the stuff we’d all like to read about in a book one day. In the meantime, thanks for helping make it happen!

Fr Barker is currently writing a book about this very matter! Looking forward to it very much.

I hope to read the book by Fr Barker, and I trust he found my material on the TAC Archive useful. My own blogging from the time (The English Catholic) could only be partial because I did not have the information in retrospect (as is beginning to appear now) – perhaps this naivety will give authenticity to my writings as a “raw source”.

The later facts would bear out such a theory: once Archbishop Hepworth was out of the way, a good number of bishops and priests joined the Ordinariate. I was left on the beach, and although the TAC in England took me in as a priest on Archbishop Prakash’s behest, I honourably resigned and joined the ACC. There was no point in my applying to Rome on account of my own canonical irregularities, and also because there is no Ordinariate presence in France (other than an Ordinariate priest in ordinary parish ministry in a Roman Catholic diocese). What did I believe in? I joined the ACC because it corresponded with my belief as a Catholic and offered me the possibility to go through life with my head high. I am grateful to Bishop Damien Mead and our diocesan Board of Ministry, and honoured to serve as a priest in my small capacity.

In the end, I don’t matter and there is no reason why anyone should care about me. I witnessed the whole thing, even though many bits of information were out of my reach. I am glad the Ordinariates came into being, and meeting some of the English prelates and priests in Oxford was for me an honour. They are good men and their ministry is fruitful. May God bless them… Some good TAC bishops and priests found their way “home”, and that can only be a good thing. Being in correspondence with Dr Timothy Graham, who attends an Ordinariate parish, was largely at the origin of my idea to set up The Blue Flower. In Oxford, I kept out of harm’s way, but they were cordial. Some have become quite stuffy, but others have mellowed and become more open to the continuing Anglican world. I hope and pray there will be more contact and dialogue, even though we the ACC and other continuing Anglican Churches will not go into communion with Rome.

I am presently reading Ross Douthat’s To Change the Church, Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, and it is quite harrowing as the author compares different interpretations of the present confusion and disorder surrounding the first ever Jesuit Pope. Catholicism is not an institution, but a Sacrament of Salvation, our faith in Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word and our communion that transcends all human barriers and intrigues. We are already in the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church is in us!

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Purple Fever

Fr Jonathan Munn has written an article / sermon on How to recognise a bishop.

I have written a number of articles on independent bishops and their churches.

This is not an area where we can be too judgemental, because we get what we give. We call someone a false bishop, and someone will qualify our own bishops with the same adjective – because the person is a Roman Catholic, Church of England or Orthodox. So we go round in the same circles. We can certainly find the stereotypes of episcopi vagantes in men like the one who is styled (or self-styled) Cardinal Rutherford Johnson. There are many bishops of small communities, and there are some who appear to be making a complete mockery of it or are suffering from some kind of narcissistic personality disorder. Like Cardinal Rutherford, there is one in England who has deliberately pretended to be a Roman Catholic bishop, and has accordingly been exposed as a fraud.

Rather than judge others, I will describe my own personal experience, which will not come as a surprise to most of my readers, since I have been “outed” (with less than accurate information).

After my ordination in 1998 by Bishop Raymond Terrasson (consecrated at Palmar de Troya in 1976) some brother priests and I found that Bishop Terrasson was less than honest with things like money. We got involved with a bishop who proved even worse, one Jean-Gérard Roux. Roux was outed by a man in the south of France called Dominique Devie, who ran a website on this and other unsavoury characters. Roux took me to court in 1999 accusing me of libel for the website in question. The website in question was taken down years ago. My lawyer argued for a statute of limitations, which avoided all the rigmarole of talking about histoires de curé with a secular court. Roux lost in the civil court and appealed, and also lost the appeal. The article linked to above was based on the information given by the site in question, and is also covered by the statute of limitations for internet sites as defined by French law. I have no control over any part of Terence Boyle’s website. I link to this page with these reserves.

Another priest and I were lodged at the time in a large town house in Montmorillon, and the way Roux emotionally abused the owner (a widow) caused her to suffer from a stroke and die in hospital. Roux disappeared, and moved from his lodgings in Chaillac (Indre) to a community of religious ladies to the east of Paris, more profitable and with juicy pickings. A number of lay faithful and an elderly priest took over the situation with me in Montmorillon and contacted the family of the deceased. It was quite complicated, but it all worked out. With help from my own family, I bought a house in Montmorillon where we were two priests and five or six faithful. We belonged to no institutional Church and we were aware of that.

St Ignatius of Antioch said Ubi Episcopus, ibi Ecclesia – where the Bishop is, there is the Church. We had either to find a Church to join where our priesthood would be like the strings of the harp played by the Bishop, the one pastor of his flock – or give up the priesthood and revert to the lay state. Small as my community was, it was real. The community and the elderly priest encouraged me to seek and accept the Episcopate. We would have the essential basic elements of a Church in awaiting union with some more “canonical” Church. I was consecrated on 25th March 2000 in Gent in Belgium by Bishop Luc Strijmeersch who seemed to share the same traditionalist Catholic outlook as I did at the time.

As I became disillusioned with sedevacantism, I began to explore the world of Old Catholicism, hoping that something orthodox had remained of the old Dutch Church. It was not an avenue to follow. As people died in Montmorillon or returned to more mainstream traditionalist communities, I moved to the Vendée and bought a house to live in the deep countryside. I was frequently contacted by men wanting to be ordained and consecrated, sometimes by people in Africa thinking I could provide them with money and the conditions required in France for them to get an immigration visa. There was a Scotsman living in England who seemed to be sincere. I ordained him and immediately he was gone in a puff of smoke.

In 2002, I was contacted by the Order of St John, an organisation claiming legitimacy from the Russian Prince Troubetskoy and led by Dr John Grady in his vast property near Benton, Tennessee. My flight was paid by the Order and I was accommodated in a lovely modern house in the grounds.

I was dubbed by Dr Grady and made Prelate of the Order. I was not really interested in titles and honours, but rather in ministering to a community of people who have been badly served by fanatical or eccentric priests who had come and gone. Perhaps I would build up a small commandery in France. I took a lot of stick from American traditionalists who were concerned that this order should be condemned as bogus. The Order still exists in a reduced form under new leadership, but Dr Grady gave his property to the Diocese of Knoxsville as a retreat centre and has since died. It is not for me to judge the OSJ, but something happened that shook me to the bone.

Dr Grady presented an elderly man for ordination, who seemed to be the hope of the priory at Benton. In the summer of 2003, I collated his file of papers with due care and asked for a background check, which came up clean. However, after his ordination, it turned out that he was credibly accused of impropriety with young boys, though he had no criminal record. How that ended up, I have no idea.

Dr Grady wanted to get the OSJ regularised by Rome. It was just not realistic, because irregular clergy are not regularised by Rome. Rome would not recognise an Order of St John alongside the Order of Malta. The project of getting in with an Indian diocesan bishop came to nothing. The numbers were too insignificant for that to happen. In late 2003, I resigned, for I was living in France and the OSJ was of interest only to Americans. It was a harrowing experience for a simple priest in episcopal orders who was available to be of help at a pastoral level. I also had the ordination of a priest who was under a very dark shadow on my conscience, even though I took the proper precautions (background check from the American authorities).

I spent two years reflecting on things, the very meaning of my vocation, still harassed by fanatics and those seeking easy ordinations. This was a world of lost and wandering souls, just as I was wandering (I was living in a fixed place, but I was Bishop of Nothing). I ordained a third priest in 2004, a young man from Lyon who had done a course of theology and had done some seminary. He remained in contact with me, and eventually joined the Greek Old Calendar Orthodox. Who was I to stop him? He was reordained, and I have no idea whether he is still with the Orthodox. In late 2004 I decided to cease any episcopal act or even to use the style or dress of a bishop. I reverted to being a simple priest and contemplated the future. And if I returned to Anglicanism in a continuing Church?

I began to contact the TAC in early 2005, mainly through Father Graeme Mitchell in Australia. We had had discussions about the liturgy by e-mail, and since I was living in no TAC diocese, it would be appropriate to apply to the Patrimony of the Primate, then under Archbishop Hepworth. I was received and licenced in the TAC on the feast of the Curé d’Ars 2005. That was the official end of my episcopate which brought me relief and blessing.

I had been asked to become a bishop by a small community, and it seemed right at the time. I was young and had no leadership skills, and I must have looked silly all decked out as a post-Tridentine bishop. I still have all the “tat”, but have not worn it since 2004. I tried the ring a few months ago, and it is a tight fit. I took it off again and put it back in its little box. With me, it just didn’t go to my head, and I kept a realistic view of the whole thing. I have known of other bishops who relinquished it one way or another, reverting to the simple priesthood or even reverting to lay life. In the end of the day, the “ecclesial context” – even the OSJ – was never sufficient to justify my being a bishop.

Throughout my time in the TAC, I remained a simple priest, and it has been the same thing since the débâcle of Archbishop Hepworth and my joining the ACC under Bishop Damien Mead. My experience confirms the constant teaching of the Church about her lofty expectations of bishops. A bishop is first and foremost a pastor of souls and his presbyterium in his diocese. The various things a bishop wears in the street, at the chancery office, at the cathedral, in choir, vested for Vespers and Mass, attending a synod of bishops are but symbols of his gift and office to teach, sanctify and govern the faithful. Was I doing that as Prelate of the Order of Saint John or in my little community at Montmorillon? I don’t think so.

What was more important than anything was to serve a Church, which I am now doing as a diocesan priest and member of the European Deanery of the ACC. My chaplaincy is described here. The internet is an instrument of ministry. For any question of “parish” work, I live in a country and region where people are devout Roman Catholics or nothing at all. France is in a poor state in terms of faith and religion. The Revolution ruined everything, as did the growth of the Catholic bourgeoisie in the time leading to the anti-clerical attacks against the Church in the 1900’s.

There are far too many independent bishops and men living in delusions and illusions. I am now one less of them whatever sacred character I may bear in my soul. Some of those characters like Roux or Cardinal Rutherford Johnson (I don’t like using inverted commas, because I will respect the way someone styles himself without any judgement of his legitimacy or lack thereof) commit the same stupidities as adventurers like Vilatte. However, within, I cringe for the sake of decent Catholic people and for the misled souls dressing up to the nines for no useful purpose. Some independent bishops are doing humanitarian work, like Archbishop Jerome Lloyd in Brighton, cooking good food for homeless people. He is almost atoning for the arrogance of others assuming the Episcopal Office. I have heard of some Old Roman Catholic bishops in America who have real churches, parishes and even a seminary. Goodonem! – as one of my sailing correspondents would say.

We cannot exactly judge a “true” bishop by whether he is in a mainstream Church like Rome or Canterbury, but we can ask if that bishop’s church is a true Church. A Church, in the Catholic meaning of the word, is not merely a community of people, but is also a sacramental manifestation of Christ through the Bishop and the Eucharist – celebrated by himself or a priest he licences for the purpose. A Church can be very small. All the characteristics of a Church, in which the Universal Church subsists, is found in a single diocese. However, there is a further dimension: the communion of bishops, typically in a synod under a Metropolitan Archbishop. These are characteristics that developed from about the second century (St Ignatius of Antioch) through the medieval era and held in common between the western and eastern Churches. What is important is the Church that chooses its clergy, or by kindness accepts “orphaned” clergy from elsewhere under certain conditions – and not a self-styling individual seeking to “found” a Church to justify his assumed status.

What if the ACC asked me to be a bishop? I would not like it one little bit, any more than Cardinal Ratzinger becoming Pope. I don’t have the aptitudes to lead, and that is essential in a bishop. Someone in that situation needs to balance his own distaste for becoming someone “important” and the needs of the Church. So far, so good, we have a really good Bishop in England, and that isn’t going to change any time soon! It is my honour to serve him as a priest.

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A Storm in a Teacup

My attention was drawn to an article in Fr Robert Hart’s blog – Convert Orthodoxy as Media Echo Chamber and the use made of it by You-Know-Who to portray Anglican / Anglo – Catholics as faux Catholics. I had brushes with Fr Hart in the old Hepworth days of the “Coeti-bus” and various other analogies of public transport from various players in the game. Since then, the Continuum shows little more than Fr Hart’s sermons, which of course are very good and edifying. Occasionally an article like this one emerges when we are reminded about the “two one-true churches”.

It is more an American problem than anything else. Our friend in California portrays his “faux” Catholics as hipsters, or people who follow certain fashions, who perhaps lack originality of thought, or who do not conform to his middle-class standards.

We Europeans are wont to quip about Americans lacking culture, but the same problem is here too. Europeans started being faux Americans a long time ago, and Americans remained on the whole quite religious. The USA is about the unique exception of the proportion between consumer capitalism and the extinction of religion, faith or spirituality. I suppose you get the same level of proselytism by Roman Catholic and Orthodox converts in cities like London. It happened to me and my fifteen years as a Roman Catholic were a curse (though there were some blessings). Europe still has that Cujus Rex ejus religio. You practice the religion you were born into, or none at all. Even New Age and the cults are out of fashion these days. Materialism and über-rationalism are still “in”.

Some people get so worked up about what other people are up to. People do many things that make me squirm like taking drugs and getting tattoos, or listening to infernal machine noises that some call “music” – but who am I to stop them. They and I belong to different worlds. They and I have different values and priorities.

One thing I suggest is more independence of spirit. Perhaps you have to be autistic to understand it. We don’t have to live and march in lockstep with other people. We can live our own lives whilst respecting the freedom and good of others. If religion is fashion or something to define our outward appearance, then it won’t do us much good.

My Baptist sister wrote to me a short while ago to contrast a “relationship with Jesus” and “religion” in its meaning as a code of observances and “works”. I don’t relate to that somewhat simplistic dualist distinction, but there is a point – the relationship with God and the Incarnate Word and our knowledge of God and ourselves. That certainly is the priority over outward observances and traditions. Christ laboured the point as he fustigated the Scribes and Pharisees. C.S. Lewis made a wonderful point as he came up with the idea of Mere Christianity – the core of beliefs and practices we all have in common.

It is insulting to call the Church I belong to faux because it is not in communion with the Pope and within the norms of their canon law. The word faux is the French word for false or fake or bogus. Used in English, it seems to mean the other French word pastiche or imitation, like a modern house built in an old style. It can be used in a very derogatory way, or it can be a good thing. The nineteenth century saw the building of some very fine neo-gothic churches in the wake of the Romantic movement. I see nothing wrong with appealing to the past for good ideas and a reference when we are lost and confused with modernity.

Whichever Church we belong to, I think is unkind and even cruel to disturb members of others communities to get them into our pews instead of theirs on the pretext of our boutique church being better than theirs. Again, institutional Christianity comes up against the same pierre d’achoppement as in the eighteenth century. It has had its day, unless we find what it was really about – which is not power / money structures. Proselytism and self-righteousness eventually lead to the Déesse Raison in the place of the statue of Our Lady and the guillotine in the town square, because when the salt loses its savour, it is fit only to be rejected and thrown away.

It is about the intrinsic value of each and every being of creation and its reconciliation with the Creator through inner knowing and love. Let us, each one of us, reconcile ourselves with ourselves, and thereby with God. Then perhaps there is some hope.

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Blue Flower Statistics

My site statistics page informs me that The Blue Flower has been uploaded 230 times since I published it on my static website As the Sun in its Orb.

The summer 2018 edition is available here free of charge for downloading.

Once summer is over, I intend to start planning the winter edition. All those interested in contributing something are welcome to contact me. I am inclined to write something on truth and theories of knowledge in the thought of the German Romantics, Novalis in particular. Patrick Sheridan (Russian Orthodox layman) has studied Tolkien in depth, and I think he wants to write something. I am concerned about the notion of truth in the search for a via media between fundamentalism in its different forms (but all claiming truth as their “property”) and post-modern scepticism. The more authors who sympathise with this theme and come forward, the better. There is no limit to size or number of articles, since these first issues are in pdf format.

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Hasta La Vista, Baby

I find myself in the Spanish-speaking blogosphere.

I have never learned Spanish, but my knowledge of Italian gives me an idea of some of it – and I ran the text through Google translation to get something very vague. It was a help. I don’t know who runs Sursum Corda or what his “position” is. Perhaps he is Orthodox with a soft spot for western rites. They do exist in Spain and Latin America.

He mentions The Blue Flower without seemingly really understanding what it is about. I do have an interest in Radical Orthodoxy as one expression of neo-Platonism and at a distance from scholastic literalism, but it is just one current of thought among many others. We need to be open-minded so as not to be victims of fixed ideas that hold us prisoners rather than freeing us to seek the truth.

It’s not a bad or unkind article. I am grateful for that. I doubt that Latins would be inclined to leave comments, but we’ll see. Perhaps an old confrere at Gricigliano we called La Gran’ España. Olé!

The author of Sursum Corda is planning an article about Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục. I wrote this one three years ago, and the subject matter has been flogged to death by the Archbishop’s defenders and adversaries, mostly in the USA. The sedevacantist world has settled down quite well now, but has been very similar to continuing Anglicanism in the 1990’s with the same problem of mitre-fever and immature men in the Episcopate. I see the variations on the same constant theme of human foolishness. I am grateful to see things settling down and becoming more stable, both in my own Anglican camp and with those identifying as Roman Catholics in spite of their canonical rupture from Rome.

I attach more importance to ecclesial coherence than the exact form of the rites of ordination in the Pontifical and our Anglican Ordinal. I have no problem with the validity of Anglican Orders in spite of the Reformation and the radical changing of rites. The same thing happened in the Roman Catholic Church with the novus ordo ordination rites, and they still have a valid priesthood. We do well not be obsessed with these issues of validity, but rather to live as Christians and adjusted human beings.

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