When my wife and I left on our trip to South Africa in December 2009, we never dreamed that, a year later, we would no longer be members of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (ACCA).
A few months before our departure, the Vatican had issued an Apostolic Constitution and Complementary Norms which set out how Anglican clergy and groups of Anglicans could be reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church.
I was troubled by what I read. It seemed to me that what was being asked of Anglicans (and of course, Anglican Catholics) was nothing other than conversion to Rome. We would be Roman Catholics singing “Anglican” hymns from a hymn book approved by Rome and using an “Anglican” liturgy, also approved by Rome.
However, it was clear that some further documents would be published and I decided to reserve my final decision until such time as these were available.
Upon our return, pressure was put on me to make a decision and as a result I analysed the available documents thoroughly and came to the conclusion that my initial impression was correct: what was being asked of me was to convert to the Roman Catholic Faith and to subscribe to dogmas which were not part of the doctrine and faith of the ACCA when I joined her, or when I was ordained, and which I could not accept.
In 2003 Archbishop Hepworth had assured the National Synod of the ACCA that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) was not seeking “to become Roman Catholics”, that it was “close to clearing the hurdle on the validity of orders”, that it was “a requirement of the TAC that we will be received as a complete community”, and that a “Communion agreement is being seriously pursued by both sides.” In Perth, Western Australia, in 2005 he reported to the local Synod, “[T]he TAC was forging ahead with its plans to become a Church in communion with the Holy See”; we would be “in communion and using our own liturgy.”
This is not what we were offered.
It also greatly concerned me that I would have to be re-confirmed and re-ordained – this I could not accept because the Church has always taught that to be re-confirmed is a sacrilege and to be re-ordained is to commit a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
At a meeting of the Management Committee of the Perth Synod, Bishop Entwistle said that those who did not want to endorse the decision of the Diocese “to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church” should consider whether they should serve on the next Management Committee. According to him, there could not be a “continuing” Continuing Church and those who did not wish to enter an Ordinariate “would have to decide where to go”: clearly, there was no room in the ACCA for those who did not want to become Roman Catholics, and no provision would be made for them.
Bishop Entwistle also made it clear to me that he did not want me on the next Management Committee, but I did not see why I should be prevented from serving on it, should I be elected by Synod to do so.
State Synod was to be held on 16 October. On Thursday, 14 October, I received a letter from Archbishop Hepworth, posted by express post by Bishop Entwistle (they wanted to make sure that I received it before Synod!), advising me that my licence was being suspended with immediate effect.
To say that I was a tad upset when I received the letter, is putting it mildly. My first reaction was that I should take legal action because, in my view, I had not done anything which would entitle Archbishop Hepworth to suspend any licence I might hold.
In any event, after discussing the matter with my family, Fr Robert Burn and parishioners, I decided to resign, which I did on the Friday. I did not think that it would be fair to put my family and my parishes through a court case when it was evident that I was no longer welcome in the ACCA.
Basically, the Archbishop suspended my licence because of what I had written in my parish magazines.
He also asserted that I had been organising an alternative church affiliation while continuing to hold his licence, an assertion which is totally unfounded.
One of the matters with which the Archbishop charged me was that I was in public dissent from major teachings of the ACCA. I should point out that the doctrine and faith of the church in Western Australia are contained in the Constitution of the National Church and in the Constitution of the Church in Western Australia.
The Constitution of the National Church provides:
This Church, being derived from the Church of England and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, retains and approves the doctrine and principles of the Church of England as found in Australia on the thirty-first day of December, 1961, embodied in the Book of Common Prayer together with the Form and Manner of Making Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and in the Articles of Religion sometimes called the Thirty-nine Articles as well as in the Declaration made by loyal Anglicans gathered in the Congress of Saint Louis in the year 1977 generally known as the Affirmation of Saint Louis [Rule 3.1]
The standard of Faith and Worship of this Church is that expressed in the Book of Common Prayer in the following editions:
(a) The Church of England edition of 1662; and
(b) The Anglican Church of Canada edition of 1962. ….. [Rule 3.2]
The Constitution of the Church in Western Australia contains similar provisions [Rule 3.1 read with Rule 32.9].
These Rules have never been repealed and are still of full force and effect today. That being the case, in my view, any bishops of the Church who purported to change the doctrine and faith of the Church in Western Australia by means other than amending the relevant Constitutions of the Church, have acted unconstitutionally and consequently, their actions would be ultra vires and would not be binding on the members of the Church.
Also, section 4.5 of The Traditional Anglican Communion Concordat of 1990, as amended (Concordat), provides:
4.5 Other than the final authority to determine questions of Catholic Faith and Apostolic Order (which authority resides by virtue of the nature of the Episcopal office in the College of Bishops acting, however, not independently of the whole Church but with the counsel and advice of the clergy, and with the assent of the whole body of the faithful), this Communion …
The words of the Concordat are unambiguous: the College of Bishops cannot independently “determine questions of Catholic Faith and Apostolic Order” without “the consent and advice of the clergy, and with the assent of the whole body of the faithful”. The consent of the clergy, at least in Western Australia, to change the faith of the Church has never been obtained and certainly, “the whole body of the faithful” in Western Australia, has never assented thereto.
Clearly, if the College of Bishops has changed the faith of the Church in Western Australia, it has acted contrary to the Concordat and therefore its actions are, as Pope Leo XIII would put it, “absolutely null and utterly void” and not binding on the faithful in Western Australia.
I have never, in my parish magazines, or anywhere else, dissented from the doctrines and faith of the ACCA as set out in the relevant Constitutions, nor have I publicly advocated others to do likewise. In my view, it is some of the bishops of the ACCA who, by adopting the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the official doctrinal statement of the Church, have dissented from the doctrines and faith of the ACCA.
The Archbishop also asserted that I was prepared to assist others in removing the property and assets of the ACCA from the control of its synods. What I in effect said was that, despite the claim of Bishop Entwistle to the contrary, parishes are entitled to their temporalities, and indeed, this right of parishes is enshrined, not only in The Affirmation of St Louis, but also in the Constitution of the National Church, the Queensland Constitution and the Western Australian Constitution. I do not have copies of the constitutions of the Church in the other States; it would surprise me if they did not contain similar provisions.
The College of Bishops of the TAC (of which the ACCA is a member church) subsequently unequivocally declared that the TAC would remain Anglican and both former Archbishop Hepworth and former Bishop Entwhistle are no longer members of the ACCA.
On 1 March 2013 I was licensed as a priest in the ACCA.
The Revd Fr Brian Tee