‘Why did Anglo-Catholics like me stay within the Church of England for so long? This is a question which puzzles some people. I speak for many when I say that we had a vision of eventual corporate reunion, of the reintegration of Anglicanism within the Western Catholic mainstream centred on Rome. Individual conversions would not promote this. Our task was to remain where we were, to emphasise, live out and defend our Catholic heritage within the Anglican tradition. We took seriously the provisional nature of the Anglican position; we had no creeds of our own, we were not a confessional Church of Lutheran or Calvinist or any other stance, we had no ministry of our own, but claimed to be in continuity with the threefold pattern of ministry of bishop, priest and deacon, established within the early centuries.
…The decision by General Synod in 1992 to proceed to ordain women as priests made a great many Anglicans, including myself, face the reality of our situation in a stark and uncompromising way. By this decision which was to lead to the first ordination of women as priests in 1994, three blows had been cast at those fundamental emphases that I had found in the Fathers – continuity, coherence and sacramentality.
… It was no wonder that questions about the identity of the Church of England and its claims came to the fore in many minds. Was the Church of England merely an uneasy amalgam of various, essentially incompatible, viewpoints which was now breaking up into its constituent parts? Those of us who had long felt the attraction of the Roman Catholic Church were forced to reflect more deeply about authority within the Church. Where does authority lie within the Church? Who speaks for the Church with an authoritative voice? What is the special role of St Peter’s successor, the Pope?
… I am not seeking a watertight, rigid system of belief or a mechanical guarantee of grace, as though it were a commodity. What I am striving for is wholeness of belief within a context in which there is no doubt as to what is a sacrament of the Church’.
Canon Kenneth Noakes
(Fr Noakes had been a priest in the Church of England for 25 years until 1994)
from The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, 2010
Fr Lee Kenyon