Members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) from across Canada met in Vancouver in early July to give overwhelming support to becoming a “Personal Ordinariate” in full communion with the Catholic Church and full submission to the Pope.
Only two of the lay delegates were opposed among 54 laity and priests.
The ACCC, with 1,500 members spread in 38 parishes across Canada, was responding to the 2009 invitation from Pope Benedict XVI to disaffected “high” ns worldwide to come into the Catholic church while retaining many elements of their liturgy, spirituality and discipline (e.g. married clergy).
“Our motivation is simply to fulfill the prayer of our Lord at the Last Supper: ‘That they may be one, even as We are one,’” said Bishop Peter Wilkinson, the Victoria-based Bishop of the ACCC, quoting St John 17: 11. “The model of Christian unity is nothing less than the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The ACCC is part of the Traditional Anglican Communion with 240,000 members worldwide, formed in the 1970s from disaffected members of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican and Episcopalian churches in response to the increasing liberalization of these bodies.
From 1977 TAC sought full sacramental communion and visible unity with other churches both Trinitarian and apostolic (claiming bishops in direct and unbroken descent from St. Peter.
Talks with the Roman Catholics proceeded slowly until Benedict became pope in 2005. With his encouragement, TAC’s bishops made a formal request in 2007 and he responded in 2009.
Opponents of union within TAC, especially in the U.S., prefer to let leave particular elements of Roman Catholic doctrine such as papal infallibility or the immaculate conception of Mary to individual consciences to decide. Also, some argue that spiritual unity that can be achieved without organizational unity, but Bishop Wilkinson believes “the unity our Lord speaks of in John 17,” is organizational. He adds: “There’s also an element of simple anti-Catholicism,” in the opposition.
Opposition surfaced recently in Bishop Wilkinson’s home parish at St John the Evangelist Cathedral in Victoria. some argued strongly against it and a retired pastor was briefly excommunicated for negotiating with an American Anglican-Catholic bishop to take those Victorians who are opposed under his wing. The ex-rector was reinstated, but then chose to voluntarily quit the parish.
The rest of the parishioners, meanwhile, voted overwhelmingly for communion with Rome. Bishop Wilkinson says he expects most Canadian parishes and TAC member churches to follow. Even the United States church, where the internal debate is fiercest, he expects to follow suit at some point. “There are many details to be worked out and there is no deadline,” he says.