Anglican Society of Catholic Priests Responds to Vatican Decision

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In light of the announcement by the Vatican of the creation of new ecclesiastical structures to make room for disaffected catholic-minded Anglicans to move over to the Roman Catholic Church, it seems important for catholic-minded Anglicans who have long been an integral part of the Anglican Communion to reassert their understanding of catholicity and tradition within Anglicanism.

The Society of Catholic Priests, formed the the early 1990s in the UK, has established a new branch of the Society in North America. Its mission is to promote priestly spirituality and catholic evangelism within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Interestingly the announcement by the Vatican, while seemingly highlighting differences between the Anglican Communion and the Vatican over issues of ecclesiology, sexuality and ordination points to a more durable fact. There is an amazing degree of overlap between these two bodies across a range of theological issues that make such a move possible. Our catholic heritage within Anglicanism makes such an initiative feasible.

For those priests who find themselves unable, on a variety of grounds, to in good conscience remain Anglican, such a move may make some sense. While Anglicanism has developed varied patterns of authority and different systems for decision making, many feel drawn towards the more centralized structures and the official understandings of Roman Catholicism.

On the other hand, anglo-catholics have found the openness of the Anglican tradition, allowing for a wide range of views and different approaches, to reflect the realities of life in the Body of Christ as it is lived out in history and the world. For many within the catholic tradition, recent changes are a natural extension of our understanding of the evolution of tradition within the life of the Church. The catholic tradition has never been about simply safeguarding narrowly explicit interpretations of scripture but about engaging the contributions and experience of all the members of the Body of Christ in the life of the Church.

Our very sacramental and liturgical life is an outgrowth of our understanding of the value, indeed the essential nature, of human experience in expressing the life of a living Christ among us. Worship of a living God is expressed in a living tradition, and utilizes the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, both of which are essential to the nature of catholicity.

As new questions face the Church, new rites evolve to address the human experience. The catholic tradition is one that lives in and confronts the complexities of the world as it is in all of its myriad grace and potentiality as well as in its vexing questions and dilemmas. The Church, at times is both anchor and sail in society. Its catholicity is that which holds fast to the essential in the face of volatility and proclaims newness of life when it is necessary.

In the face of division and anger, the Society of Catholic Priests is offering a life together that holds fast to the traditions of the Church while making room for the movement of grace, charity, and hope. It gives a non-anxious place for priests who are looking to find a place of rest amidst the eddies of church life. It is a place for the complexity of difference to meet the simplicity of devotion. It is a Society that looks to center itself in the mainstream of the Church, on the Prayer Book, and in our tradition. Our lives have been consecrated to the service of the Church and the Society of Catholic Priests welcomes those looking to be still, refrain from anger, and hope again for the unity of the Church in all of its diversity.

Robert Hendrickson

Communications Director

The Society of Catholic Priests

North American Province


The Society of Catholic Priests in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada exists to help all clergy flourish as priests in the Catholic Tradition of the Church and to encourage spiritual growth and Catholic Evangelism. More information on the Society can be found at our website: Those interested in registering for the Inaugural Assembly of this province of the Society may do so at

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesAnglican Church of CanadaChurch of England (CoE)Episcopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

Posted October 26, 2009 at 6:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Anastasios wrote:

“..A society that looks to center itself in the mainstream of the Church…” while actively digging a new channel so that it conforms to where we want it to go!

October 26, 7:23 pm | [comment link]
2. Rev. Patti Hale wrote:

“...A society that looks to center itself in the mainstream of the Church…”  No thanks.  I’ll stick to centering myself in Jesus Christ.

October 26, 8:04 pm | [comment link]
3. Ian+ wrote:

Go to their site and click on “Communications” where the first thing you’ll see is a pic of Montgomery Clift (the gay actor) playing a priest in the confessional. Then scroll down to see a banner that reads, “A Tradition of Progress”, and elsewhere a woman in a chasuble elevating a host. Subtle indications of their agenda? Surely not!

October 26, 8:28 pm | [comment link]
4. tjmcmahon wrote:

Correct me if I am wrong, but this looks like “affirming catholicism” at work to me.  It denies the very tenets of Catholicism.  There is a much older society, the SSC.
or look up our good friend Christopher Cantrell+
That is where you will find Catholic Anglican clergy.
I don’t believe there are any TEC diocesans who are members. Anymore.

(from the supposed Catholic society’s website)
1. Members of the Society must
a) affirm their fidelity to the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of
Canada, depending upon their canonical residency, and the canonical
leadership of the same;

So that would mean that most Anglo Catholic clergy I know personally are excluded, since they have been deposed by TEC.

And note- you have to swear fidelity to KJS to be a member, which lets out all Anglo Catholics, right there.

Most of the rest of their rule of life is taken not quite verbatim from the SSC- although they tend to use slightly trendier language.  And one gets the distinct impression that they use the 1996 AD version of Sacraments of Orders and Matrimony, and not the 30 AD versions.

October 26, 9:50 pm | [comment link]
5. The young fogey wrote:

Correct me if I am wrong, but this looks like “affirming catholicism” at work to me.

Exactly. What will be passed off as Anglo-Catholicism after the last real ones leave. Credally orthodox and believing almost as we do, and with good liturgical sense, but… not Catholic. Because if you believe the church can change the matter of holy orders and declare same-sex sex not a sin, you believe not in the church but a fallible denomination.

October 26, 10:57 pm | [comment link]
6. rjhend1 wrote:

“Take delight in the Lord… be still before the Lord… refrain from anger, leave rage alone…”

The SCP has spent much time reflecting on the first nine verses of Psalm 37 with its message of joy in the Lord, patience and stillness as God’s purposes unfold and its call to a non-reactive, non-anxious calm which seems to speak precisely to the unfolding nature of the Society at this point.

Frankly, too many have made an idol of their anger. On both sides of the false dichotomy, there is too much love of rage, too much rage for love, and too little time for silence.

The Society has received letters from self-described liberals literally cursing that we are not being aggressive enough. We have received letters from so-called traditionalists raging that we are somehow watering down Christianity. The liberals seem to have little tolerance for much beyond their version of inclusion and the conservatives seem to waste little time before degrading all that which does not pass their purity code.

These are seemingly stark terms. But, for many of us, too much time is being wasted on self-important irrelevancies, trifling theatrics, risible theologies, and halcyon reminiscences.

We accept the Church as it is with its glories and its deficiencies in plain view. It is a wounded Church. Our goal is to be some part of the confession, the healing, and the renewal. We do ask our members to affirm that they are part of the Episcopal Church for that is where we are, where we are called to ministry, and where our work is needed.

The SCP is composed of priests, seminarians, deacons, bishops, and religious who are, quite simply, looking for more from their Church. More than neutered theology. More than sputtering anger. More than well-trod arguments. More than cacophony, legalism, polemic, and invective.

The Society has priests across the range of catholicity who have committed themselves to growing in faith, trust, and hope with one another in a risen Christ. We do not agree on everything and do not seek to. Our goal is to be there for one another in pain, grief, joy, and service. Spreading the Gospel Truth is not a liberal or conservative agenda item. We are committed to supporting one another as we share the Good News of Christ crucified, risen, and ascended.

We know that for many the idea that there is a center to the Episcopal Church seems unbelievable, but we are there and we are at work in the Church. We also know that there is little trust, scant hope, and meager dreaming. We look to restore our delight, renew our service, and remain in witness to a God of power and might.

In Christ,

Robert Hendrickson
Communications Coordinator
The Society of Catholic Priests (
North American Province

October 27, 1:25 pm | [comment link]
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