Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Richborough

To priests and people in the Richborough Area


I imagine most of you will already know that I have resigned as Bishop of Richborough as from 31st December and will not be conducting any public episcopal services between now and then. I will, in due course, be received into full communion with the Catholic Church and join the Ordinariate when one is erected in England, which I hope will happen early next year. This has been a very difficult decision and has not been taken without much thought and prayer over the last year. For more than 8 years I have enjoyed being Bishop of Richborough; I have particularly valued the many visits to parishes for confirmations and other occasions. I am more grateful than I can say for the warmth, friendship and support I have experienced from so many priests and faithful lay people. I did not deserve it but I thank God for all I have received from you.

I am sure it will be said that I am leaving because of the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate. While it is true that this has been an important factor in my thinking it is not the most significant factor. The publication of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, just one year ago, came as a surprise and has completely changed the landscape for Anglo Catholics. Since the inception of the ARCIC process, set up by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in the 1960s, most of us have longed and prayed for corporate union with the Catholic Church; union which in our own time has seemed less likely because of the new difficulties concerning the ordination of women and other doctrinal and moral issues affecting the Anglican Communion.

Although we must still pray for sacramental and ecclesial unity between our Churches that now seems a much more distant hope. The creation of Personal Ordinariates within the Catholic Church provides an opportunity for visible unity between Anglicans and the Catholic Church now, while still being able to retain what is best in our own tradition which will enrich the Universal Church. This is a hope which has been expressed many times by Forward in Faith and many others within the catholic tradition of the Church of England So I hope you will understand that I am not taking this step in faith for negative reasons about problems in the Church of England but for positive reasons in response to our Lord’s prayer the night before he died the 'they may all be one.'

Some of you, of course, will be thinking that I am leaving just at the time when episcopal leadership for our parishes is vital. I have great sympathy with this view but there are a number of ways of understanding leadership. Some may think the leader should stay to the bitter end like the captain of a sinking ship, but the example in scripture is that of the shepherd and every instructed Christian knows the eastern shepherd leads from the front rather than following the flock from behind. This is what I hope I am doing. I am leading the way and I hope and pray that many of you will follow me in the months and the years ahead.

However, I know many of you will wish to remain in the Church of England if that is at all possible and for some they will do so whatever provision General Synod eventually adopts. For those I could not continue to be your bishop with any integrity. My pilgrimage is now leading me in a different direction and I can no longer provide the episcopal leadership you need and deserve. You need a new Bishop of Richborough who has the same vision as you have and one for whom a solution in the Church of England is a priority. My priority is union with the Universal Church.

For those whom I have let down and disappointed, I ask your forgiveness. I am only to well ware of my own failings and inadequacies but I have tried, though often failed, to be a loving and faithful bishop for you. I hope you will continue to pray for Gill and me as we take this significant step in our own Christian pilgrimage, as we will continue to pray for all of you.

May God bless you now and always,

Yours in our Blessed Lord,

+ Keith
Bishop of Richborough

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