ACNA’s Anglo-Catholic Crisis- A Case Study in Anglo-Catholic issues

After Monday’s article about the Anglican Church in North America’s  Anglo-Catholic section, the Missionary Diocese of All Saints (MDAS) contemplating leaving the ACNA we received a statement from the Suffragan Bishop of MDAS, Richard W. Lipka:

” I want to be clear that we have not made any decision to leave ACNA. We have simply begun to explore relationships with other  non-papal Catholic entities”

An ACNA clergy source, which wishes to remain anonymous, has stated they do want to leave, but they need some place to go to. Despite members of the MDAS clergy making enquires with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and the Western Rite Vicarate for the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia (ROCOR), these were not options considered by the MDAS itself. It is publicly known Bishop Lipka is a former Catholic priest and could never join a Personal Ordinariate. Many Anglican clergy who have contacted the Chair of St Peter have reported being told they only accept married priests coming over with parishes- they speculated for reasons of financial support.

A former official at the ROCOR Western Rite Vicarate, Fr Anthony Bondi, made a comment on the original article:

The Western Rite Communities welcome all who are seeking the stability and orthodoxy of the Orthodox Church. Many of your colleagues are already here, come join them.

What makes this story interesting is it touches on the future of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the West- not only “where is home?”, but also “where is safe?”.

Although a former force for change in the Anglican Communion, Anglo-Catholicism always had staunch opponents. Not only has Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Communion seen better days, there is a question if it has a future there. The Anglo-Catholics of London thought they were safe in their enclave, most not under alternate episcopal oversight, and in the most shockingly unpastoral move had a woman bishop appointed. They had not learned a simple truth: if you are ‘Catholic’ in both liturgy and doctrine, both the Liberals and Protestants will never leave you alone. The very valid question is if you believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and those you claim to be in union with do not, how are you actually in union when they reject your core belief?

This has lead to the Continuing Anglican movement were mainly Anglo-Catholics have sought to have their own churches which uphold Anglo-Catholic belief: yet this movement has not exactly thrived. Although there are many good people of conviction, there are other eccentric outfits whose clergy are ‘sad little kings of sad little hills’. With the MDAS seeking a relationship with the Polish National Catholic Church, is this them just really crossing over into the equally unusual “Independent Catholicism” movement?

Some Anglo-Catholics have seen the Eastern Orthodox as kindred and have entered into “Western Rite Orthodoxy”- extremely controversial in the Orthodox Communion. The worship is kind of Anglican with some Byzantine insertions in liturgy, rubrics and even music: so Western Liturgy, but Eastern Doctrine (but close enough for many). A lot of these communities have gone full Byzantine, were others still hold an Anglo-Catholic identity.

A small number of Anglo-Catholics have joined the three Personal Ordinariates (Dioceses) created in the Catholic Church under Rome, following in the footsteps of John Henry Newman, without whom there would never have been an Anglo-Catholic movement to begin with. Beyond the first wave of Anglo-Catholic converts, they are attracting “Roman Catholics” who love the Anglican Patrimony. Where many Anglo-Catholics see going over to Rome as the ultimate sin, to the point of losing your Anglo status, many Ordinariate and Western Rite Orthodox members have reflected that the main body of Anglo-Catholicism is really just “Protestant-lite”.

The questions of “Where is home? Where is safe?” for Anglo-Catholics, such as those in the Missionary Diocese of All Saints, are important ones indeed- -they strike at the heart of Anglo-Catholic identity. Although the Anglo-Catholic branch of the ACNA claim they have not made a decision: staying in a church body which according the the MDAS statement has a “larger epidemic of Anti-Catholic sentiment”, and with the diocese described as not sustainable- would you stay? But of course the question is: if you leave, where would you go?

13 thoughts on “ACNA’s Anglo-Catholic Crisis- A Case Study in Anglo-Catholic issues

  1. Why are there so many superfluous and ignorant apostrophes throughout this posting (e.g., “Anglo-Catholic’s” [three times] and “Roman Catholic’s” [once])? The apostrophe signifies possession, not the plural. In England this improper use of the apostrophe was once known as “the greengrocer’s apostrophe,” as it appeared so often on handwritten price notices on shops (e.g., apple’s, 1s a dozen). I regularly such a sign in Clerkenwell in the early 80s, which appeared on the price notices painted on the window of a defunct greengrocer’s shop.


    • As even though I have an IQ of 133, I was not diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia until my final few years of secondary education- usually when I take time it is not so much an issue, but as article written in 20 minutes- I played it fast and loose with punctuation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • THE CORE belief, Simon, THE REAL PRESENCE, is just so necessary. YES, YES,live for the EUCHARIST. Wonderful, receive the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you, BILL H.


      • The article was written for a general, especially Anglo-Catholic, audience: the problem is most Anglo-Catholics believe Anglican orders are valid, even in the face of Catholic and Orthodox churches not recognizing them. As mentioned staying in the Anglican Communion were most do not believe in the Real Presence was an issue raised in the article.


  2. “An ACNA clergy source, which wishes to remain anonymous, has stated they do want to leave, but they need some place to go to.” Out of curiosity — Is the antecedent to this pronoun MDAS, or the anonymous clergy source?

    i think you are correct in identifying the question of “safety” as an important one, along with the question of where “home” is. My conclusion in my own grappling with these questions is that, while these questions certainly reflect a legitimate impulse, they are more often a temptation than a good queue for discernment. Ultimately, nowhere in the world is “safe,” neither is it ‘home.” Our confidence must be in God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ, expressed and embodied through his beautiful but broken body, the Church. To that end, we must learn how to make compromises with existing ecclesiastical institutions, as imperfect as they are bound to be, in ways that protect the space that we need to maintain and articulate our integrity.


  3. It is always prudent to be sure of one’s destination before setting out on a journey.

    I’m disappointed that this situation has arisen in ACNA. I pray that the Missionary Diocese of All Saints (MDAS) finds a real home.



  4. Pingback: ACNA’s Anglo-Catholic Exodus? | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  5. Pingback: “Where is safe? Where is home?” | Meditating on "Irvana"

  6. Pingback: The renunciation required to become Catholic | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  7. “If you believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and those you claim to be in union with do not, how are you actually in union when they reject your core belief?”

    The problem is actually deeper than simply the natures of one’s union with others who don’t share core beliefs. It’s this: What is the nature of a denomination that embraces internal contradiction and affirms that mutually exclusive beliefs are equally valid ways of living that denomination’s faith?

    And that points to the heart of the Anglo-Catholic conundrum. How can one be “catholic” in a denomination that enshrines the Elizabethan Settlement as a foundational truth of its institutional identity? The answer is that you can’t.

    I appreciate the paradox that it’s what I learned about catholicity as an Anglo-Catholic that made it impossible for me to remain an Anglican!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. -To use the same logic: “I want to be clear that we have not made any decision to leave my wife. I have simply begun to explore relationships with other relationships” – See how that sounds???


  9. I receive inquiries from younger ACNA clergy who desire to live more deeply in the catholic faith. Perhaps you are the seeds God has planted from which this nutritious element will come to feed the larger ACNA body. It really isn’t safe anywhere. Safety isn’t what we are granted.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really don’t understand the issues discussed in this article regarding the topic of the Eucharist.
    ACNA liturgy gives enough leeway to take the Eucharist as Catholic as you want. Anglo-Catholics can bow to the bread and wine and really venerate it if they want. I personally don’t care for that when a Bishop or Priest takes it too far, but I still happily receive from them.

    From my perspective, gosh I really hope that the ACNA doesn’t become more Anglo-Catholic than it already is. I think the balance right now is more than fair. In fact, in some cases I think it more than fairly caters to Catholics in the ACNA. The ACNA Catechism for instance leans very much towards emphasizing a works based salvation in the SALVATION section vs the Reformed position of faith alone for salvation. Also the 2019 BCP often favors Catholic theology over Protestant. Quick example is on page 224 where there are two Absolution Prayer choices for the Priest. The 1st option is clearly Catholic while the 2nd is clearly Protestant. Choosing to place the Catholic Absolution prayer first demonstrates a theological leaning in that location of the BCP.

    I care about the Reformation and the 39 Articles. To me, the church in England before the Reformation was just Catholic like anywhere else in the continent. If England did not participate in the Reformation like say how Spain didn’t, there never would be the denomination called Anglican.
    The Church in England, was only Anglican in terms of the location and people. Cultural differences in England pre-Reformation didn’t constitute “The Anglican Way.” The Anglican Way is the English expression of the Reformation.


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