First Bishop to the R.C. Ordinariate in U.S.

HOUSTON: Pope Francis Names First Bishop to Lead Catholics Nurtured In The Anglican Tradition

HOUSTON: Pope Francis Names First Bishop to Lead Catholics Nurtured In The Anglican Tradition
Bishop-elect Steven Lopes to be introduced at press conference today in Houston, Texas
Rome sends top official to North America to lead structure equivalent to a diocese
Vatican also approves use of new texts for the celebration of Mass
November 24, 2015

Pope Francis has named the Rev. Monsignor Steven J. Lopes to be the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter: a structure equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established by Pope Benedict on Jan. 1, 2012, with its headquarters located in Houston, Texas. Founded to serve Roman Catholics across the U.S. and Canada, it is the first diocese of its kind in North America.

The Ordinariate was created to provide a path for groups of Anglicans to become fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of their worship traditions and spiritual heritage in their union with the Holy Roman Church.

With this appointment, Pope Francis affirms and amplifies Pope Benedict’s vision for Christian unity, in which diverse expressions of one faith are joined together in the Church. By naming Bishop-elect Lopes, the Pope has confirmed that the Ordinariate is a permanent, enduring part of the Catholic Church, like any other diocese — one that is now given a bishop so that it may deepen its contribution to the life of the Church and the world.

Bishop Lopes’ appointment comes just five days before the Ordinariate begins using Divine Worship: The Missal, a new book of liturgical texts for the celebration of Mass in the Personal Ordinariates around the globe. The texts were approved by the Vatican for use beginning the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, 2015.

Bishop-elect Lopes was directly involved in developing these texts for worship; since 2011, he has served as the executive coordinator of the Vatican commission, Anglicanae Traditiones, which produced the new texts.

The new missal is a milestone in the life of the Ordinariate, since the Ordinariate’s mission is particularly expressed through the reverence and beauty of its worship, which shares the treasury of the Anglican liturgical and musical traditions with the wider Catholic community.

Pope Benedict’s vision for Christian unity and the concrete ways that Pope Francis is implementing that vision demonstrate that unity in faith allows for a vibrant diversity in the expression of that faith. The Ordinariate is a key ecumenical venture for the Catholic Church and a concrete example of this unity in diversity.


Steven Joseph Lopes, 40, is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. As the bishop-elect of the Ordinariate, he will reside in Houston, Texas.

Bishop-elect Lopes was born and raised in Fremont, Calif. The only child of Dr. Jose de Oliveira Lopes (deceased) and Barbara Jane Lopes, he attended Catholic schools in the Golden State, including the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. He earned licentiate and doctoral degrees in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained a priest in June 2001 and spent the first several years of his priesthood as an associate pastor at two parishes: St. Patrick Catholic Church in San Francisco and St. Anselm Catholic Church in Ross, Calif.

Since 2005, he has served as an official of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for promoting and preserving Catholic teaching. He was named a monsignor in 2010.

His family includes his mother, Barbara Jane; his step-father, Abilio Dias; five step-brothers; and a step-sister.

Bishop-elect Lopes follows in the footsteps of Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, who was named the first Ordinary (or head) of the Ordinariate when it was established in 2012. Msgr. Steenson’s retirement from his position as Ordinary is effective today, upon Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop-elect Lopes. However, Msgr. Steenson has been appointed Administrator of the Ordinariate and will continue to oversee its day-to-day activities until Feb. 2, 2016.

Bishop-elect Lopes is the first bishop to be named for any of the three Personal Ordinariates in the world: Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom; the Chair of Saint Peter in the United States and Canada; and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

The ordination of Bishop-elect Lopes is planned for Feb. 2, 2016 in Houston.

A biographical summary, photos, statements from Bishop-elect Lopes and Ordinary Emeritus Msgr. Steenson and other materials are online at

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a structure equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. Based in Houston, Texas, the Ordinariate has more than 40 Roman Catholic parishes and communities across the United States and Canada and is served by 70 ordained Roman Catholic priests and deacons.


Bishop to lead US Ordinariate of former Anglicans
November 24, 2015

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, 63, as Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, the ecclesial structure in the United States and Canada that ministers to former Anglicans who have entered the Catholic Church.

The Pontiff has named Msgr. Steven Lopes, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as the Ordinariate’s first bishop.

Msgr. Steenson, a former bishop of the Episcopal Church, has been ordained to the Catholic priesthood but is not eligible for ordination to the episcopate because he is married. He welcomed the appointment of Msgr. Lopes:

What wonderful news from the Holy See this morning, that Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Steven Lopes to be the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for Canada and the United States!

This is the happy outcome of much careful consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to whom I first made this request almost a year ago. I welcome this news with all my heart, for the Ordinariate has now progressed to the point where a bishop is much needed for our life and mission. A bishop will help to give the Ordinariate the stability and permanence necessary to fulfil its mission to be a work of Catholic unity, whose roots are to be found in the great texts of the Second Vatican Council.


Statement on the appointment of Bishop-elect Lopes

by Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson
November 24, 2015

What wonderful news from the Holy See this morning, that Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Steven Lopes to be the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for Canada and the United States!

This is the happy outcome of much careful consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to whom I first made this request almost a year ago. I welcome this news with all my heart, for the Ordinariate has now progressed to the point where a bishop is much needed for our life and mission. A bishop will help to give the Ordinariate the stability and permanence necessary to fulfil its mission to be a work of Catholic unity, whose roots are to be found in the great texts of the Second Vatican Council.

That the Ordinariate would ultimately be headed by a bishop has been the intention of Anglicanorum coetibus, the apostolic constitution under which we were established in 2012. It is indeed an encouraging sign that we have reached that goal. With the inauguration of our new missal, Divine Worship, on the first Sunday of Advent, the time seems especially propitious.

It was on the occasion of my reception into the Catholic Church in 2007 when I first met Msgr. Lopes, and we have worked closely together ever since. There is no one who knows better the work of the Pastoral Provision and the Ordinariates: those entities created in response to Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. Msgr. Lopes has been deeply involved the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission, charged with identifying “that liturgical expression which has nourished and maintained Catholic faith amongst Anglicans throughout the period of ecclesial separation and which in these days has given rise to aspirations for full communion with the Catholic Church.” He is thus uniquely qualified to be our first bishop.

It is particularly noteworthy that the Holy Father’s appointment is the culmination of a process for selecting an ordinary laid out in Article IV of the Complementary Norms of Anglicanorum coetibus. This provides for a significant consultative process that begins with the Governing Council of the Ordinariate presenting a terna of candidates. I am grateful to the members of the Governing Council, who accomplished this task with discernment and discretion.

I am grateful, too, for the encouragement, wise counsel, and support of the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops during these first four years of the Ordinariate’s existence. I will always treasure the friendships made with these bishops. Their warm welcome for us pilgrims has certainly deepened the joy we know as Catholics.

Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, Ordinary Emeritus


I don’t usually trawl the ‘Virtue-on-line’ site for articles for my blog, but this one was too good to miss.


Contained herein is the news that Pope Francis has appointed the very first Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States of America to head the local expression of the Anglican Ordinariate – the quasi-Anglican/Roman Catholic Church in North America.

The previous head of this off-shoot of The Epsicopal Church in North America was Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson (above) who was the Ordinary for the personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter granted by Pope Benedict who could not be ordained a bishop because of his married status.

This is the first time the Ordinariate in any part of the world has been given its very own Bishop from to local Roman Catholic Church as local Ordinary.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand



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C. of E. General Synod – Reality Bites!

Queen Elizabeth speaks on Christian Unity and Primates Meeting

Posted on: November 24, 2015 2:35 PM

Photo Credit: Gavin Drake / ACNS

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Queen Elizabeth II has opened the 10th five-year-term of the Church of England’s General Synod with an address which spoke of major advances in Christian unity and the need for prayer for January’s Primates Meeting. Earlier, during a sermon at a Eucharist in Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen and other members of the General Synod, the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, said that disagreements over moral issues should not divide churches.

England Synod Nov 2015 2
Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa
Photocredit: Picture Partnership/Westminster Abbey

“The presence among us today of the Preacher to the Papal Household would not have been possible but for the notable advances since 1970 in co-operation across the great Christian traditions,” the Queen said in her speech to the Synod. “There are many other examples. The Covenant between the Church of England and the Methodist Church; the recent visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch; the participation in this Synod of observers from so many Christian traditions; the newly created ecumenical community of St Anselm at Lambeth. Each of these serves as a reminder both of the progress already made and of the journey that still lies ahead in the pursuit of Christian unity,” she said.

The Queen recognised the divisive nature of the some of the Synod’s business, saying that the “last Synod will be particularly remembered for the way in which, after prolonged reflection and conversation, even in the midst of deep disagreements, it was able to approve the legislation to enable women to be consecrated as bishops.

“This new Synod too will have to grapple with the difficult issues confronting our Church and our world. On some of these there will be many different views. And I am sure that members of the Synod will pray earnestly that the gathering in January of the Primates of the Anglican Communion will be a time when, together, they may know what is God’s will.”

Quoting St Paul, the Queen said that all Christians “as ambassadors for Christ, are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Spreading God’s word and the onerous but rewarding task of peace-making and conflict resolution are important parts of that ministry.

“So too is the Church of England’s particular vocation to work in partnership with those of other faiths and none, to serve the common good in this land. . .

“Your Graces, each new Synod inherits from its predecessor the same weighty responsibilities. Collectively, you must continue to draw deeply on your faith, judgement, and life experiences, as well as that precious Anglican tradition of unity in fellowship, to discern the future path of the Church of England.

England Synod Nov 2015 1Photocredit: Picture Partnership/Westminster Abbey

“At the beginning of this new Synod, as you put your hand into the hand of God, my prayer is that, as we sang in that joyous hymn this morning, ‘His glorious light may shine ever on our sight, and clothe us round, the while our path illuming.’”

The Church of England’s General Synod is elected for a period of five years and meets two or three times a year. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said that this differed from other churches’ assemblies where the members are elected for each meeting and sometimes meet only once per year; or, in some cases, once every three years.

“There is time for us to grow together as a body of Christians, sharing fellowship and worship with each other and bearing each other’s burdens as we engage in the common task and, most importantly, sharing the joy of the Gospel of Christ.”

The Synod was gathering “at a moment of great uncertainty and conflict in our world,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said. “We shall, in the midst of all our other business, want to take time to pray earnestly for the leaders of the nations as they grapple with problems so intractable that solutions are likely to be neither simple nor quick.

“As we seek to take counsel together here to discern the mind of Christ for the Church of England, and for those whom we serve in this land, we shall draw strength from knowing that Your Majesty’s prayers will be with us,” he said as he addressed the Queen.”

Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury presided over a pre-Synod Eucharist at Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen and civil and religious dignitaries. The sermon was given by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household.

He raised the forthcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation – the great divide between the Western churches. “It is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other’s rights and wrongs,” he said. “Rather, let us take a qualitative leap forward, like what happens when the sluice gates of a river or a canal enable ships to continue to navigate at a higher water level.

“The situation has dramatically changed since [Reformation times]. We need to start again with the person of Jesus, humbly helping our contemporaries to experience a personal encounter with Him. ‘All things were created through him and for him’; Christ is the light of the world, the one who gives meaning and hope to every human life – and the majority of people around us live and die as if He had never existed! How can we be unconcerned, and each remain ‘in the comfort of our own well panelled houses’?

“We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than faith in Jesus unites us.

“We need to go back to the time of the Apostles: they faced a pre-Christian world, and we are facing a largely post-Christian world. When Paul wants to summarise the essence of the Christian message in one sentence, he does not say, ‘I proclaim this or that doctrine to you.’ He says, ‘We preach Christ crucified’ (1 Cor 1:23), and again ‘We preach . . . Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Cor 4:5).”

He continued: “This does not mean ignoring the great theological and spiritual enrichment that came from the Reformation or desiring to go back to the time before it. It means instead allowing all of Christianity to benefit from its achievements, once they are freed from certain distortions due to the heated atmosphere of the time and of later controversies.

“Justification by faith, for example, ought to be preached by the whole Church – and with more vigour than ever. Not in opposition to good works – the issue is already settled – but rather in opposition to the claim of people today that they can save themselves thanks to their science, technology or their man-made spirituality, without the need for a redeemer coming from outside humanity. Self-justification!

“I am convinced that if they were alive today this is the way Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer would preach justification through faith!”

Addressing the issue of Christian unity, Father Cantalamessa said that it was “not a simple matter.”

“One has to start with the big Churches, those that are well structured, putting together that which unites them, which is vastly more important than what divides them,” he said. “Nothing is more important than to fulfil Christ’s heart desire for unity expressed in today’s gospel.

“In many parts of the world people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostals, but because they are Christians. In their eyes we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.

“The Anglican Church has a special role in all of this. It has often defined itself as a ‘via media’ (a Middle Way) between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity. From being a ‘via media’ in a static sense, it must now become more and more a via media in a dynamic sense, exercising an active function as a bridge between the Churches.

“The presence among you of a priest of the Catholic Church, in circumstances of such special significance, is a sign that something of the kind is already happening.”

Over the next two days, members of the Synod will debate the C of E’s programme of reform and renewal, the refugee crisis, and the future of its church buildings.


Who, but a Franciscan, preaching to the current English General Synod membership and before the Queen of England – its putative ‘Defender of The Faith – could put the situation of our joint Christian Churches with such felicity? :

“During a sermon at a Eucharist in Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen and other members of the General Synod, the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, said that disagreements over moral issues should not divide churches.”

Recognising the upcoming 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, Father Raniero (Preacher to the Papal Household) , affirmed the need; not to go back to pre-reformation dogmatism, nor yet to post-Reformation separatism; but rather to acknowledge what has been good in both of our traditions and work to improve those things that unite- rather than divide – us, as followers of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.

It is those very same ‘moral issues’ that have divided the Anglican Communion Churches – matters on which Fr. Raniero says we should seek to accommodate a culture of ‘agreement to disagree’ while remaining in fellowship – not only as Anglicans but as fellow Christians. This, surely, is the way to go – especially as we approach the Anglican Primates’ Meeting at Canterbury in January 2016. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Future for the Church of England

Bishop of Sheffield

Reform and Renewal: the Noddy and Big Ears Guide

The new General Synod meets for the first time (this) week.   A central part of our agenda over the next five years will be the ongoing Reform and Renewal process.

Here is an unofficial Noddy and Big Ears Guide to Reform and Renewal.  It’s a Noddy guide because I’ve tried to make it simple.  It’s a Big Ears guide because the whole Reform and Renewal process is about listening to what’s happening across the country and developing a response.

This is also something of a personal perspective.  I’ve been closely involved in the story so far.  To use a Star Trek analogy, let me take you on a guided tour: first to the Captain’s Log to explore the deeper story; then to the Engine Room to understand what’s being proposed; and finally to the Bridge to look ahead into the future.

Captain’s Log: looking back…..

The roots of Reform and Renewal lie in the immense change taking place in the society we serve.  The Church of England has lived through a century of change.

We lived for fifty years, from 1915 to 1965, through the end of Christendom: the idea that society is uniform and that people are Christian unless they opt out, that church going is the norm.  We have had to adjust our ways of being the Church to that new reality.  We have needed to recover, especially, the central idea that God calls us to be a church in mission to our own society, the call to make disciples and the call to set God’s mission at the heart of our common life.

We then lived for fifty years and more with a mistaken understanding of secularisation.  Secularisation began in the 18th century.  It’s the process by which science, democracy, technology and economics became separate from any particular religion (and in that sense it’s closely related to the end of Christendom).  This process has brought immense benefits.

But from the 1960’s until very recently, secularisation has been linked with another powerful idea.  The notion that the more advanced a society, the less place it has for religion of any kinds.  In the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, many people predicted and believed that the role of faith in society would shrink away to nothing as our society “advanced”.

We have adjusted our ways of being the Church to this reality as well.  For many years, many in the Church have accepted our decline as inevitable.  Many have even planned for that decline to continue as if this was God’s purpose for the Church.  The loss of confidence has been profound.  We have needed to recover the central Christian virtue of hope: the sure hope that God has a purpose for his church and for this Church of England for many generations still to come.

The sociologists now tell us what we have known for some time.  The role of faith in the modern world is not shrinking but growing and also changing.  Britain is not becoming more secular.  Religion and religious affiliation are changing all the time, but the role of faith in public life and private life is not less but more significant.

The former chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has recently published a powerful study of violence and religion, Not in God’s Name.  Lord Sacks begins with a study of secularization and the gaping hole it leaves in human understanding.

“Science, technology, the free market and the liberal democratic state have enabled us to reach unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence.  They are among the greatest achievements of human civilization….But they do not and cannot answer the three questions every(one) should ask at some time in his or her life: “Who am I?  Why am I here?  How then should I live?”.

Rabbi Sacks puts forward the view that the coming century will be more not less religious, less not more secular.  How should we respond?

A hundred years of change.  The end of Christendom.  The beginning and end of secularization.  How are we as the Church of England to respond to God’s call in our day?  How are we to join in God’s mission and to make that response in faith and hope and love?

Reform and Renewal is part of an answer to these vital questions.

The Engine Room: what are the proposals?

Five years ago, the General Synod of our Church agreed three core priorities.

The three goals are these: to serve the common good of our society, to grow the life of the church in the numbers and the quality of our discipleship; and to re-imagine the ministry we offer to the nation.  The first two are inextricably linked.  We see growth and life in many places but in too many the combined effects of declining and ageing congregations mean that in ten years time, we may no longer be a church in every place.  To serve the common good and the whole people of England we must pay close attention to growth in the life of the Church.

Those goals are widely and deeply owned across the Church of England.  You will find something like them in the vision statements of many dioceses and parish churches.  They have been at the heart of the work of our national Church for the last five years.

But it takes time in a Church of the size and complexity of the Church of England to listen, to reflect, to begin to shape answers to those key questions.  How should be respond to God’s mission in hope?  How do we better serve the common good, grow the life of the church and re-imagine the ministry we offer.  What can we do nationally to support dioceses and parishes?

Little by little, through a process of listening, conversation and research some answers and some initiatives began to emerge.  There are six or seven different streams of work.  They began at slightly different times and different places.  They are also in different stages of discussion or implementation.

One is looking at how we use our historic assets to support growth rather than reward decline; another is exploring ministerial education, another at simplification, another senior leadership and still another what we need to do nationally and so on.  They are all linked together in some way.  For that reason, it’s helpful to see them as one process under the single heading of Reform and Renewal: helping us to be a Church of hope, a Church engaging in God’s mission, a Church of compassion and a Church preparing for a harvest.

If you really want to spend more time with Scottie in the engine room trying to get us to warp speed, then read this summary paper for Synod.

The Bridge: scanning the horizon

That’s the big picture.  I want to zoom in now, if I may, and ask the question what difference the Reform and Renewal programme might make to the life of the Church of England over the next fifteen years, if it bears the fruit we hope it will, by the grace and power of God.  It’s not a programme designed to tackle everything.  The core ministry of the local church remains at the heart of the Church of England: worship, witness, service to the local community.

But here are some of the things which I hope will change over the next fifteen years as Reform and Renewal bears fruit in the life of the local parish church.

A culture of discipleship

First I hope and pray that every church will become better at making and sustaining and equipping disciples: that Christians will understand their faith better, share it more confidently, live it out more fully.  We need to grow again a culture of discipleship across the Church of England.

The Christian faith is not a hobby or a leisure activity.  The Christian faith is a response to the grace of God in Jesus Christ with the whole of our lives, for the whole of our lives, offering lives which have been made whole.

Every local church, every diocese needs a plan for taking forward that culture of discipleship, for growing new Christians, for sustaining established Christians.

Reform and Renewal is helping to make resources available for that task.  There are key proposals to change and increase the Church Commissioners distribution of funds to support poorer parishes and to support growth in numbers and in the depth of discipleship.  There is a major emphasis on how we teach the faith, how we encourage discipleship in every place.

Energy for mission

Second, I hope and pray that every church will focus greater energy and resources on God’s mission and worship, service and witness.  That means less time on bureaucracy, form filling, administration and the like.

A major strand in Reform and Renewal is about simplification: on how we make the task of vicars, of churchwardens, of PCC treasurers and others simpler and easier in the future.

Ministry and leadership

Third, I hope and pray that every local church will have the ministry and leadership it needs to support God’s mission.  Lay leadership and ministry is key and the next two years will see significant developments here.  The voices of lay people need to be heard more clearly in the life of our Church.  We need to invest more in training, equipping and sustaining lay ministers.

We need urgently to see more vocations to ordained ministry.  40% of our current clergy are approaching retirement.  On present projections half of our clergy who retire cannot be replaced.  We need as clergy to be better equipped as leaders in God’s mission.  We need our clergy to be more diverse as a group.  We need more younger clergy who are able to offer a lifetime to ordained ministry.  We need to ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers.

There will be a major national initiative to raise the number of vocations, significantly, by as much as 50% by 2020. That will involve every parish in prayer, in communication, in encouragement, in support.  We are looking carefully at the ways in which we train clergy before and after ordination and how we fund that training.  Dioceses are clear what is needed:  the Church needs ordained and lay ministers who are flexible, collaborative leaders in God’s mission.

Senior leaders

Fourth I hope and pray the senior leadership of the Church of England in 10 years time will be better equipped for their task and more representative of the church we are called to lead: male and female, black and white, from a wider range of backgrounds, well prepared and committed to ongoing learning.  Again we are investing intentionally in that process.

Communication in a digital age

Finally, I hope and pray we will be much more effective at communicating our faith in a digital age.  This is the most important investment the Church of England needs to make nationally.

We are living through the greatest time of change in the way we communicate since the invention of the printing press.  Parishes and Dioceses are moving far too slowly to keep up with those changes in the way we communicate.  We need to invest much more in our digital communications in order to keep pace and contribute to Christian engagement with the contemporary world.

So what is Reform and Renewal about?


  1. Resources for discipleship and growth
  2. Focusing energy on our core tasks
  3. Every local church having the ministry it needs
  4. Equipping senior leaders
  5. Better digital communication


These are not the whole agenda by any means.  There are other issues the Church needs to address.  The world keeps changing around us.

God has called us in our generation to be salt and light, to love our neighbours as ourselves, to have compassion on a lost and bewildered generation.  This is a time of turmoil.  But it is also a time of hope.

Pray for our Church as we move forward and most of all, as Christ commands us, pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send labourers to his harvest field.

And finally….

This post is based on a sermon preached on 15th November in St Mary’s and All Saints, Chesterfield.  I’m grateful to Father Patrick Coleman for the invitation and for the very helpful “Conversation under the Spire”.

I’m grateful to Premier Digital for an award for this blog in the category “Most Inspiring Leadership Blog”.  Like everything else I do it’s a team effort.  Warm thanks to Jane Perry and LJ Buxton for their research and ideas and to Kate Hill and Jason Smedley for managing posts and comments.

+Steven Sheffield


A very hopeful message by the Bishop of Sheffield on the diocesan web-site. Obviously up with the play – regarding the need of parishes to ‘get on-line’ – Bishop Steven now needs to urge General Synod to look very carefully at how the Church of England is going to be perceived in the wake of the current diocesan ‘Conversations on Human Sexuality’.

In an era when other Western Provinces of the Anglican Communion have already come to terms with the need for the radical inclusion of LGBTQ people in their local ministry and mission – in the understanding that Gay people are no longer considered by many fellow Christians as messengers of the anti-Christ, but fellow believers in the God of Redemption through Our Lord Jesus Christ – The Church of England seems to be dragging her feet in the business of accepting everyone as children of the God we all worship.

Having – at least to a degree – accepted the fact that women are not second-class citizens of the Kingdom of God but created to be fellow ministers and servants of the Christ of the Gospels; the C. of E. needs now to grit its collective teeth and move a step further in the direction of recognising those amongst us in the Body of Christ who bear faithful witness to Him, despite their difference in human sexual make-up.

This total identification with the Christ who was crucified for his liberality, will require a definitive movement towards radical inclusion of ALL people – regardless of social status, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual-orientation. This will help to free the Church from institutional hypocrisy, misogyny and homophobia that should mark us out from fundamentalist religious entities, whose programme is to destroy rather than build up the Image and Likeness of God in ALL of God’s children.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope Francis says neurotic priests scare him


Pope Francis has described some Catholic priests as so scary and neurotic that he keeps away from them.

At a conference on Friday marking 50 years since Vatican II’s declarations on priestly ministry and training, the Pontiff said he is instinctively suspicious of overly pious candidates for ordination.

“I will tell you sincerely, I’m scared of rigid priests,” he said.

“I keep away from them. They bite!”

Francis resorted to humour to make a point that some people that are drawn to a priestly vocation lack a certain stability.

This inevitably creates problems for the Church if they continue on to priesthood.

“If you are sick, if you are neurotic, go and see a doctor, spiritual or physical,” the Pope added.

“The doctor will give you pills. But, please, don’t let the faithful pay for neurotic priests.”

As well as assessing the spiritual state of candidates, seminaries should also seek to judge their physical and psychological condition, Francis argued.

“There are often young men who are psychologically unstable without knowing it and who look for strong structures to support them.

“For some it is the police or the army but for others it is the clergy,” the Pope added, warning that such disorders inevitably resurface at a later date.

“When a youngster is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I don’t feel confident (about him).

“Behind it there is something he himself does not understand. Keep your eyes open!”

Francis said the “fundamental place” of the human formation of the priesthood is the family, which is the “centre of pastoral work” and can do much to foster vocations

“A good priest is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history – with its treasures and wounds – and has learned to make peace with it, gaining a profound serenity, characteristic of a disciple of the Lord,” he said.

“Human formation is therefore needed for priests, so they may learn not to be dominated by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.”


News category: World.


In haste – no comment from me!

Father ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Evangelical Acceptance of LGBT People

Confession Time


I couldn’t help smiling to myself – the little boy of about six stood in front of his younger sister, who he’d obviously just upset, and drawled slowly “Sooorrrryy”. His exasperated mother shook him firmly by the shoulder and loudly whispered “Now say it like you mean it – say it from your heart!”

How often does God want to do the same to us, I wonder? What does it mean for us to truly say we are sorry – to mean it, to feel it, to own it so that we can honestly say that it comes “from the heart”?

It’s of course far easier to apologise for the things we’re conscious of getting wrong, when we have knowingly upset or hurt someone. It’s far more difficult I think to say sorry for things that we have been unknowing perpetrators of – where we have unwittingly inflicted pain and trauma on whole communities. Be it the horrors of the slave trade, sexism within Church or past colonial wrongs – there are countless examples of where a heartfelt apology could do so much to heal old wounds.

But to coin an old phrase – “Sorry” always seems to be the hardest word…

It’s something I too have found great difficulty with. A couple of weeks ago I was confronted by some LGBT Christians as to whether I had publicly repented for being an evangelical! I must admit I was quite taken aback by this, especially given the pain they knew I had been through in “coming out” to my evangelical friends and family.

However, I could see that their question was of deep importance to them, and one that required an answer. What they meant, I think, was had I repented for my part of unwittingly adding to the harm and pain of LGBT Christians given the views I once held – which are so prevalent amongst so many in my “wing” of the Church?

I’ve taken time to reflect on this. My immediate response was that I felt quite hurt to be asked this as I believed myself to be a victim, having sat under teachings that had caused me to reject who I was in Christ. I therefore felt that there was nothing I needed to repent of – save perhaps asking forgiveness of myself for not coming to terms with how God had created me to be earlier.

But they are right of course – I have not actively sought their forgiveness for being part of the church that has sought to deny the humanity of a significant part of our Christian family. Nor have I publicly repented of being so fearful of rejection I that I had failed to challenge those in authority. I’m trying to do my best now, at some cost, but I know that there are hundreds if not thousands who could have been helped if I – and others – had found a voice sooner.

I’m truly sorry for the pain that this has caused, and the way that evangelical churches I have been part of have demeaned and marginalised those who are not born heterosexual. I hope that somehow they can find it in their hearts to forgive me, and know that I am now trying to do all I can to right that wrong.

Interestingly, this was a point that Archbishop Justin also chose to make in front of a packed St Aldate’s in Oxford last month. To an astonished congregation he declared that it was critically important that the Church recognised that it had got things “deeply, deeply wrong” in the past with regards to sexuality, and that it had often treated LGBT community as “sub-human”.

Both he and the authors of the Pilling Report have urged the Church to take steps to repent and say sorry for how they have collectively treated this important part of Christ’s family – but we have yet to see much action.

Saying sorry for the pain the Church has caused and the rejection it has knowingly and unknowingly inflicted is, I believe, a prerequisite for any meaningful Shared Conversation. Without it words will sound like clanging cymbals, where prejudice is seen to speak to angry hearts that are deaf to listen.

What would it take, I wonder, for churches across the land to find a day when they could openly repent of the pain the Church has caused, ask forgiveness for the rejection that it has inflicted and look to embrace the LGBT community that has so bravely continued to worship with dignity and grace in its midst? Then, and only then, might we be able to find a way through all of this.

But we’d have to say sorry from the depths of our hearts – and really mean it!


I, too, have a confession to make. I never thought I would find an article like this in the evangelical Church of England Newspaper. I expect this sort of article to be published in the more liberal ‘Church Times’ – a more Anglo-Catholic-oriented newspaper in the C. of E. tradition. After reading this story by Jayne Ozanne – Accepting Evangelicals, I want to say: I’m Sorry – right from the heart, this time, no reservations!

It seems that, quite suddeny, this group of ‘Accepting Evanglicals’ – some of whom happen to actually be part of the Christian LGBTQ lobby in the Church of England – are seen to be punching above their weight in the Evangelical sphere; in the way they are ‘coming out’ to the reality of their place within the Church of England, demanding to be heard above the storm of critics of their way of life from members of their churches.

And this is how the culture of homophobia (not limited to the Evangelical wing of the Church of England) may best be overcome – by speaking the truth in love to those people in the Church who really believe that to be gay is to be in some way defective – not worthy of inclusion in the life and witness to Christ in the Church.

The pattern of overcoming prejudice has now been set in the vitally important area of women in the ministry of the Church. Once people had begun to experience their devotedness as clergy; most Anglicans have now come to recognise their particular value as part of the commonality of the ministry of human beings in and to all parts of our Churches.

In the same way (although there have always been gay clergy in the Church, but because of the threat of scandal they have often kept this reality to themselves) perhaps the Church of England can now open its heart to the reality of the fact that a minority of human beings, though attracted, sexually, only to their own gender – in the case of gays – their lives are no different from those of heterosexual people, except that in the current climate of suspicion, they may find a lack of acceptance by both the local congregation and the Institution of the Church. 

However, what is only now being realised is that one’s sexuality has no political, social or ideological boundaries. It can no longer be taken for granted that Anglo-Catholic are more likely to be accepting of gays and less accepting of women clergy. And, vice-versa. It can no longer be guaranteed that Evanglicals are acceptiong of women clergy but dismissive of gays. And this is one good reason why this article in the Church of England Newspaper is so important. It is helping us all – both Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and everyone in between – to realise that we are all beloved children of God. We are all sinners – with no exceptions – all fallen short of the glory of God; BUT, God loves us all with an amazing love that never ceases to amaze.


Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Former Bishop Kunonga brought to justice

ZIMBABWE: Zanu-PF’s Kunonga Ordered to Repay Anglican Church $430,000

ZIMBABWE: Zanu-PF’s Kunonga Ordered to Repay Anglican Church $430,000
November 18, 2015

PRO-ZANU PF cleric and former Anglican Church bishop for Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, has been ordered to repay some $428,000 looted from the church in a fire sell of assets after he was sacked.

High Court judge, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, ordered Kunonga and his associates to return the money which was realised from the disposal of Church shares in several companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Kunonga sold the share at a give away price of $270,000 but the court ruled that the church was entitled to recompense at the market value of $427,892, plus interest.

The cleric was fired for misconduct by the Anglican Province of Central Africa in 2006 but refused to leave claiming he was being victimised over his opposition to homosexuality and supporting President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

A cheer-leader for Mugabe, Kunonga once described the president as a “prophet of God”.

The dispute resulted in violence across the church in Zimbabwe with Kunonga later establishing a rival (Anglican church) and forcibly seizing control of various properties.

A Supreme Court ruling five years later ended the chaos, ordering Kunonga to vacate the properties.

However, Anglican church lawyers, in the latest case, said Kunonga sold, a huge loss, shares in various companies.

These include:

BAT Zimbabwe – 8 391

Dawn Properties – 1 006 486

Delta Corporation – 150 586

DZL – 122 956

Econet – 6 510

Old Mutual – 5 925

Seed Co – 78 641

TN Financial – 1 909 900

ZPI – 864 833

Sale of shares prejudiced Anglican Church members of $427,892.

An audit carried out after the Supreme Court decisive judgment in 2012 revealed that the shares had been unlawfully disposed of.

Harare advocate Thabani Mpofu, representing the church, then issued summons against the breakaway group claiming $529,000.

In his ruling, Justice Mathonsi said Kunonga and his associates should repay $427,892 plus interest calculated from September 2007 to the date of payment in full.

“Clearly, therefore, from the time the first defendant and his followers resolved on August 4 2007 to secede from the plaintiff church, they ceased to have any right over the property of the plaintiff they previously controlled or held in trust,” the judge ruled.


At the time of his despotic rule over the Diocese of Harare in Zimbabwe, Bishop Norbert Kunonga took advantage of his personal friendship with President Robert Mugabe to exercise undue authority over the legal disposition of the property and lives of Harare Anglicans – both in his own diocese and the Anglican Church of Zimabawe.

The extent of Kunonga’s desire to obtain property for his own benefit – rather than that of the Church he was ordained to serve – became clearly obvious, together with his close identification with the Mugabe regime, in its blatant discrimination against the minority homosexual community in Zimbabwe. His identification with Mugabe and other suspicions of mis-rule led the Province of the Anglican Church in Central Africa (of which the Church in Zimbabwe was a part) to relieve him of his diocesan bishopric.

Then, despite his having been replaced by another provincial bishop approved by the Central African Province, Kunonga continued to claim his diocesan position – aided and abetted by President Mugabe and Mugabe’s henchmen – maintaining his episcopal residence and claiming control of Harare Cathedral and other diocesan properties, despite his non-recognition by the official Anglican Church in Zimbabwe and in the Province of Central Africa.

It seems now that his situation; as having usurped the property rights of the Diocese of Harare, and of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe; has been recognised by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, which has ordered the ex-bishop to repay the market value of Church Investments he had mis-appropriated. Justice, at last, can be seen to have been brought about in this saga of injustice to the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe by this deposed, and now discredited, ex-cleric.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand








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Feast of Christ The King – Sunday 22 November


St Matthew's Westminster, Weekly Newsletter 13th February 2015
W E E K L Y    N E W S L E T T E R   | 20th November 2015
Christ the King

The feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. It is commonly held that this was a response to the growing tyranny in Europe, but that is not the case. It was actually founded in reaction to Reformation Sunday, observed rather successfully by the Lutheran churches. But here it is now, on the last Sunday of the Church’s year, and for whatever reason it was instituted it now brings our church year to a close. And what is more, it is a feast that is observed by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, and all churches that share the Common Lectionary.

Some might feel uncomfortable with the notion of kingship, and fear that this feast perhaps smacks of religious imperialism. If Christ is the king, then does his church occupy a privileged position? If Christ is the king, is he in such an exalted place as to be inaccessible to those who do not regularly walk the corridors of palaces?

If Christ is the king, then what kind of king is he, and how does he exercise his authority? The notion of kingship was central to Christ’s mission. The synoptic gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak with one voice in telling us that at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus announced that the ‘kingdom of God’ was drawing near. But at the same time Jesus upended and undermined the established concept of kingship. The kingdoms of this world are characterised by power, glory, prestige; the kingdom Jesus was pointing towards is characterised by service and humility. Kings surround themselves with throngs of fawning courtiers – think of Louis XIV at Versailles, where the nobles were occupied in an endless round of meaningless ceremonies so that they would have no time to plot against the king. In contrast, Jesus surrounded himself with the poor and marginalized. He crossed social, moral, and religious boundaries by accepting women as disciples. His critics charged that he ate and drank with thieves and prostitutes. No lines for him, no barriers to communion. Jesus chooses the lowly, and rejected, as his companions.

In inviting us to enter into this kingdom Jesus opens the door onto a new world of possibility, where common assumptions are subverted, the least regarded are given the place of honour, wrongs are righted and the chains of inevitability are broken. This is where we encounter the kingdom of God, and discover who Christ the king is for our world today.

Fr Philip Chester – St. Matthews Anglican Church, Westminster


Sunday 22 November 2015 brings the Church to the Celebration of ‘Christ The King’ at the close of the Church’s Liturgical Year – prior to ADVENT.

This morning (Saturday, 21 November) I presided at a Votive Mass for the Catholic Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple. The prayers for the Feast reminded us of the fact that Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she was to bear the successor of the Hebrew King David, Christ the Lord, who would one day reign as Christ The King.

In the ”Good Old Days’ at least in the U.K., Anglo-Catholics always celebrated a votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturdays – as a prelude to the Celebration of the weekly Sunday Mass of the Resurrection; connecting the Incarnation of Christ (through his human mother, Mary) with the weekly Feast of Christ Incarnate, crucified, risen and glorified, on Sunday.

Father Philip Chester (Vicar of the Anglican Church of Saint Matthew, Westminster) – around the corner from the R.C. Westminster Cathedral – here presents the background of this important Celebration of Christ as King, Lord of the Church and Redeemer of All.

Interestingly, in its devotion to the Mother of Christ, Saint Matthews, Westminster, is one of those enlightened Anglo-Catholic Churches that supports the Ordination of Women as priests and bishops in the Church of England – on the presumption that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, brought into being from the altar of her womb, the Son of God; in a priestly action   comparable to that of the priest, by the action of the Holy Spirit, presiding over the Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Mass.

Hail to Jesus, King of Glory, present in the Holy Sacrament of the altar.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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