Friday, May 05, 2006

The 2006 Anglican Use Conference

For those of us who appreciate the beauty of traditional sacred architecture, traditional liturgics, and also of the poetic beauty of certain forms of the English language, as typified in the likes of a William Shakespeare, and then put to music by such composers as William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, or later, the likes of a John Rutter or Healey Willan we can appreciate numerous aspects of the Anglican liturgical tradition.

Of course, in that appreciation, we also can feel torn about this in much the same way as had the likes of so venerable an individual as Cardinal Newman. After all, while we might appreciate that liturgical aspect, we would take issue with various matters of theology, ecclesiology and such.

The good news is that with the advent of the Anglican Use in the Latin Rite, Catholics may all the more fully and freely appreciate this tradition in a context that is in full communion with the Holy See.

The St. Thomas More Society has announced the schedule of the 2nd Annual Anglican Use Conference coming up on June 5th-6th.

(Readers of the NLM might be interested to read the 2005 Conference address given by none other than Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP., A Personal View of Anglican Uniatism.)

More on the 2006 Conference (from the St. Thomas More Society website):

Three Prominent Converts to Catholicism to Headline 2006 Anglican Use Conference

For the second year in a row the Anglican Use Conference will be held in Scranton. When the Anglican Use Society and the St. Thomas More Society of St. Clare Church decided last year to host the this event, Scranton was the natural choice, as a new Anglican Use community had just been formed there. The St. Thomas More Society members met each Sunday night in St. Clare Church in Green Ridge to pray Evening Prayer, while Sunday afternoons were spent in catechetical instruction under the tutelage of Fr. Charles Connor, the Rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral downtown.

Fr. Connor now celebrates Mass for the St. Thomas More Society, and he uses the Sacred Liturgy from the Book of Divine Worship. Their Confirmation having taken place on October 31st, the St. Thomas More Society’s Evening Prayer service has given way to the weekly celebration of the Anglican Use Mass. Therefore, while we were able last year to share only Evensong with conference participants, this year’s conference will culminate with the celebration of the Anglican Use Mass, an opportunity for those who have never experienced the beauty and power of this liturgy to assist at it themselves.

To come to Scranton, then, is the chance to see a group of recent converts progressing towards their goal of establishing a Pastoral Provision Personal Parish of the Anglican Use in a place that just two years ago even we did not imagine such a thing would happen. At least one person who came to Scranton for the conference last year has since ‘swum the Tiber’. Fr. Martin Carter flew in from Prince Edward Island to join fifty other clergy and laity from eight states and three different countries, drawn by keynote speaker Fr. Aidan Nichols, as well as the guarantee he would meet former Anglican clergy that had been ordained Catholic priests. On December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Martin Carter was received into full communion with the Catholic Church, shortly after renouncing his orders as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. He has been in contact with the local Catholic bishop, and we await news about whether he might also be called to the priesthood in the Catholic Church.

Martin’s entry into the church after his presence at the first Anglican Use Conference helps demonstrate an important point. The St. Thomas More Society of St. Clare Church began as a local ministry dedicated primarily to the conversion to Catholicism of a group of Episcopalians from Scranton. However, their journey into the Church has had more than a local impact, in fact influencing people far a field from their own neighborhood. That is, what starts locally often issues in nationwide, or in Martin’s case, international implications. Since our story went public I have spoken with and helped to encourage men seeking ordination to the Catholic priesthood in Tennessee, Kentucky, New Mexico, and New Jersey. These men heard about us and have sought to see the Pastoral Provision implemented in some measure in their locale.

The same principle applied to the formation of the St. Thomas More Society of St. Clare Church. Not only did I have extensive telephone conversations with Fr. Allan Hawkins, Pastor of St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas, prior to our departure from the Episcopal Church, the members of our Society had already been encouraged by Fr. Hawkins’ story, as well as what they’d heard about St. Athanasius Congregation in Boston. My Episcopal parishioners at the time appreciated knowing that somewhere else the Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II had worked, and hence there was no reason why we could not try to make it work in Scranton.

We would like very much to see this trend continue. We intend and hope that the 2006 Anglican Use Conference, once attendees have met members of successful groups firsthand, will inspire those considering taking advantage of the Pastoral Provision in their hometown to take the plunge, to garner the courage required to begin the journey home to Rome. Indeed, as their experience of the Anglican Use Mass causes conference participants to contemplate its evangelical potential where they live, so we hope the men who celebrate that Mass will be to Anglican and Episcopal clergy an example to follow.

Quite simply, we want to spur conversions. Thus, the theme of the Second Anglican Use Conference is ‘Conversion to Catholicism’, the focus of our speakers’ remarks, as they recount their own journeys into the Church and offer thoughts about what makes conversion compelling. The keynote speaker this year is Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Theology at Fordham University. He will be joined on the dais by David Mills, the editor of Touchstone Magazine, and formerly a professor at Trinity Episcopal Seminary in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Finally, we will hear from Fr. Carleton Jones, O.P., Pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City, and the past Assistant Provincial of the Dominicans in the Northeast Province. All of these men, now prominent Catholics, were once Protestants, and they will offer their words in the hope that by God’s grace they may be the instrument by which some of our separated brethren will seek to be united to the Mother Church.

As the leader of the St. Thomas More Society I have made clear to our members that we must understand the purpose of the Pastoral Provision decision issued in 1980 as evangelical in its scope, handed down to help facilitate the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17. In the same way, our desire to increase awareness of the Anglican Use through this conference arises from the impulse to share with others the good thing we have in our Catholic Faith. Most succinctly stated, if the existence of this liturgy in a particular locale makes it easier for Anglicans to make the transition to the one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Pastoral Provision will have achieved its greater purpose. Though we in the St. Thomas More Society are certainly grateful that we have been able to retain elements of our liturgical heritage as we worship each Sunday, we are even more grateful that our existence as a group has been and will be the means to bring more people into communion with the Holy See, under the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

As we move forward in the coming years with the promotion of the Anglican Use Liturgy – for we are certain the 2006 Anglican Use Conference will not be the last – we who enjoy this treasure would all do well to emphasize this point: our first motive is evangelization, not preservation. In other words, our objective is not to see new Anglican Use communities spring up so that this liturgy will be maintained solely for the edification and enjoyment of Catholics who have come from the Anglican tradition. Rather, our objective is to make converts, and when we as Catholic converts from Anglicanism remain faithful to the missionary zeal of the Church throughout the ages, Anglican Use communities will spring up, and we will see the good portions of our heritage preserved. Pray, therefore, that next year we will be able to support a new community of converts by our presence with them. Sure, we here in Scranton would very pleased to host the conference again next year, but we’re hoping that by then our work has borne more fruit, that our desire to bring others into the Church has issued in the establishment in a new community of converts, amongst whom we can celebrate our faith and invite still others to be part of the celebration.


The 2006 Anglican Use Conference promises to be an excellent event in the service of evangelism. Please come to hear three very interesting and erudite speakers. But may your first motive be to share with others your passion for the Truth inherent in the Church Christ founded, that in some small way you might help to facilitate the conversion of those seeking their true home.

[SRT: Final note: For those interested in learning more about the Anglican Use, I'd highly recommend going over to Our Lady of the Atonement, which is one of the flagship parishes of the Anglican Use. Take a look at some of the parish architecture, such as the lady chapel and the sanctuary. You may wish to also get a sense of the Anglican Usage itself as a liturgical rite.]

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