Archbishop John Hepworth
What has been most troubling to many continuers in the TAC/ACA and around the world are revelations concerning Hepworth’s personal life. It has been revealed that he was once a Catholic priest and later resigned his orders to join the Anglican Church in Australia. He has also divorced and remarried.
These facts, known to Rome, are undoubtedly one of several major roadblocks to the acceptance of these continuers. Another charge is that Hepworth is guilt-ridden by his departure from Rome and is desperately seeking union with Rome to obtain a Catholic annulment of his first marriage and, as an Old Testament styled peace-offering, wants to present the TAC as an atonement to Rome for his sins. Whether this is true or not, the facts remain that many of his bishops are thinly educated and would not meet the high standards Rome sets for its clergy.
Furthermore, TAC bishops would be reduced to lay status in the hope that they would qualify first for the Diaconate, then the priesthood. They would never again be bishops. (All five Church of England bishops renounced their orders, were laicized and had to start from the bottom. Three have now been made Monsignors).
One of the unsettling aspects of the “Heinz 58” varieties of continuing Anglican jurisdictions in the US is the “purple fever” that dogs many of them.
Authentic Anglo-Catholics in the US, such as those found in Forward in Faith including bishops John-David Schofield, William Wantland, Keith Ackerman and Jack Iker who have fought and left The Episcopal Church over its moral and theological innovations, have preferred to remain Anglicans. In an interview conducted with VOL, Bishop Ackerman said that it is rather difficult to characterize an Anglo-Catholic. “The vast majority may well agree that an Anglo-Catholic is one who believes in the reality of the continuation of a pre-1540’s Church in England and as with a number of the principles of the Oxford Movement. Moreover, the vast majority of Anglo Catholics in the Americas have always believed and taught that they are Catholics but not Roman Catholics. Gathering all Anglo Catholics together is often an opportunity to see a variety of divisions.”
Whatever the future holds for the Traditional Anglican Communion and its Archbishop John Hepworth, Rome’s silence speaks volumes. The future of TAC bishops like Campese and Moyer (the latter faces the prospect of being tossed out of his Episcopal parish in a lawsuit instigated by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania) are tenuous at best.
For the American branch of TAC – the ACA – the jig is “up” as far as the Ordinariate is concerned. The question now is: what other alliances might be forthcoming that could strengthen Continuing Anglo-Catholics? For the present, a group of Continuers has divided, yet again, leaving the unanswered question, is there more that divides Anglo-Catholics than unites them? Perhaps this is now an opportunity for greater unity among Continuers. – David Virtue –
This is just part of a very long solioquy by the host of ‘virtueonline’ on the problems which now beset the various branches of the ‘Traditional Anglican Church’ – a schismatic group of High Church Anglicans which, in Australia, and elsewhere in the world, broke away from their Anglican Roots, mainly because of the decision by the Church to ordain women.
Archbishop John Hepworth, of Australia, became the head of TAC in that country, and eventually of all the various TAC branches around the world. Hepworth was one of the first to approach the Pope, to obtain some sort of relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. It is thus all the more ironic that TAC should have been left out of the welcome given by the Pope to Anglicans, for instance in the U.K., to join what he has been pleased to call the R.C. Ordinariates.
It is no secret that the various TAC groups around the world have been at war amongst themselves – mainly over the prospect of some who are wanting to join the Ordinariates, while others want to retain more of their Anglican characterisitics than Rome is willing to allow. This has to be seen against the background of the fact that, though the new Orinariates have been allowed to retain some of their Anglican liturgical rites; they still have to pledge allegiance to the Pope. This is something not all TAC members would be happy about.
The Australian branch of TAC has probably suffered from the fact that Abp. John Hepworth was once a Roman Catholic priest – before he joined the Anglican Church, married, was subsequently divorced and remarried. As Head of TAC, these are not the best credentials for one who hoped to bring TAC into the new Ordinariate in Australia.
One should realise that the particular ‘Anglo-Catholicism’ of TAC is not necessarily identified with run-of-the-mill Anglo Catholics – who are not necessarily addicted to the 39 Articles, misogyny or homophobia. TAC in Australia, for instance, has quite a minority membership, with few parishes and little influence among modern Anglo-Catholics, who are not interested in submitting to the Roman Magisterium.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch