Fr. Anthony Chadwick has a long post on the ongoing rift between former Traditional Anglican Communion primate Archbishop John Hepworth that includes a letter from Bishop Craig Botterill that lays out the concerns of those bishops who remain.
God give you peace:
Thank you for your inquiry. Archbishop Hepworth was not deposed. That would suggest that he had been “removed from office”. His Grace resigned as Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion just prior to Easter and the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, meeting at Johannesburg, elected Archbishop Prakash (Metropolitan of India) as interim Primate until the full nomination and election process provided for in the Victoria Concordat (the T.A.C. constitution) can take place.
During his Primacy Archbishop Hepworth had publically declared in many media interviews that the T.A.C. approved and ratified the process set out in Anglicanorum Coetibus by which Anglicans could make individual, personal conversions to Roman Catholicism. Archbishop Hepworth did not convene a meeting of the College of Bishops to consider this matter although several bishops repeatedly requested that he do so. After several of the Dioceses and Provinces of the T.A.C. voted not to follow Anglicanorum Coetibus, Archbishop Hepworth took responsibility for the failure of this sincere attempt at unity and resigned.
When the College of Bishops met for the first time since the Holy Father issued Anglicanorum Coetibus they unanimously voted to decline the invitation to become Roman Catholic and wrote to the Holy Father of the resolution of the Traditional Anglican Communion to remain Anglican. Thereafter, and contrary to the resolution of the College of Bishops, Archbishop Hepworth (having resigned as Primate) continued to advocate that our Dioceses be disbanded and that our members become Roman Catholics. He wrote to the bishops and clergy of the T.A.C. urging “loyal bishops” to join him in a new Society of Saint Benedict, dedicated to the implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus. This caused distress amongst some members of the College of Bishops, and seven bishops signed an indictment alleging that Archbishop Hepworth was engaging in activity contrary to the fundamental principles of the Victoria Concordat (which, incorporating the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral mandated intercommunion with other Catholic denominations, but not absorption by them).
Acting Primate Archbishop Prakash struck a disciplinary tribunal, as provided for in Article 10 of the Victoria Concordat and suspended Archbishop Hepworth from episcopal ministry until the tribunal could meet. Archbishop Hepworth ignored the suspension and called a Synod of the Australian Province. This was contrary to the will of the Vicar General of the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia, who, during Archbishop Hepworth’s suspension, was the apostolic administrator of that Province.
The Acting Primate, chaired the disciplinary tribunal. The Victoria Concordat provides that the tribunal shall consist of three members – the Primate, a bishop appointed by him, and a bishop appointed by the accused bishop. The T.A.C. retained solicitors in Australia to formally serve Archbishop Hepworth with notice of the charges and the dates of the disciplinary tribunal. They retained a bailiff who personally served the documents, which included a request that Archbishop Hepworth appoint a bishop to the tribunal, and cautioned that should he fail to confirm his attendance at the disciplinary tribunal (to be held in New Delhi) by a date certain (so that airline arrangements for all concerned could be made) the tribunal would convene by telephone conference and proceed in his absence.
Archbishop Hepworth ignored his summons, did not appoint a bishop to the tribunal, and did not participate in or attend the proceeding. Archbishop Prakash asked me to serve on the tribunal, as I was not one of the bishops who signed the accusation, and as it was commonly known that I consider Archbishop Hepworth a dear friend. The Acting Primate appointed Bishop Brian Marsh, presiding bishop of the Anglican Church in America, as the third member of the tribunal.
When the tribunal met we concluded that Archbishop Hepworth had engaged in activity contrary to the fundamental principles of the T.A.C. and the Acting Primate imposed the penalty of expulsion from the T.A.C. College of Bishops. This effectively means that Archbishop Hepworth may not engage in public ministry within the Traditional Anglican Communion, but does not affect the status of his Holy Orders as a deacon, priest, and bishop. I will accord him the respect due to any bishop of the Church. He has given many years of devoted service to the Church and I pray that he will be able to embrace his retirement from episcopal ministry and turn his energy to his family and his passion for sailing.
In His Love,
While I don’t agree with everything Fr. Anthony says in his long post, which includes a lengthy letter from Archbishop Hepworth on his reasons for creating the Society of St. Benedict, a life raft for those in the TAC who still wished to remain pro-Catholic but who were unable for whatever reason to enter an Ordinariate at this time, I think his analysis is worth pondering.
Please read the whole post.
Who was to blame for the failure of the TAC to achieve unity as a complete body? My answer would be to share the blame on Rome for outsourcing the process and putting it under the authority of the Episcopal Conferences, the American bishops for being opposed to the entire agenda and Archbishop Hepworth for trying to keep the whole thing on course whilst ignoring the fact that it was impossible other than by allowing the TAC to be destroyed and the “suitable” clergy to be “cherry picked” in a parish-by-parish approach, received as laymen and re-ordained like the clergy leaving the Canterbury Anglican Communion. The ecclesial approach promoted in Portsmouth in October 2007 clashed with the reality of the small non-ecclesial group approach involving individual receptions of persons allowed to keep their social bonds at parish level.
This tribunal against Archbishop Hepworth has been less an attack against his person but what he represented – hoping for ecclesial union and accepting non-ecclesial small group receptions involving the dismantling of the TAC. Bishop Botterill said that Archbishop Hepworth “continued to advocate that our Dioceses be disbanded and that our members become Roman Catholics“. Did the Archbishop say or write that? Can someone quote him, or was this idea simply assumed to be implicit in what actually happened?
Something else miffed the TAC bishops who got together in March 2012 in South Africa for the purpose of halting the dismantling process to which the bishops seemed to have been implicitly committed by signing the catechism and letter on the altar at St Agatha’s. That was the Archbishop becoming aware of the cold reality of fighting a two-front war: against Rome’s deed of having decapitated the TAC to take in clergy and communities as “spare parts” to mix in with those leaving the Canterbury Communion, and against the “survivalist” bishops united around Archbishop Prakash and powered by Bishop Michael Gill and the Americans.
Fr. Anthony asks: “Bishop Botterill said that Archbishop Hepworth “continued to advocate that our Dioceses be disbanded and that our members become Roman Catholics“. Did the Archbishop say or write that?”
When Archbishop Hepworth declared soon after the Apostolic Constitution came out that it was the answer to the TAC’s request, he did not know how Anglicanorum coetibus would be implemented. I recall him saying it was a generous response to our request and that the AC did not represent the starting point for a negotiation. It was a definitive response to our request, not something that could be modified. And he interpreted it expansively.
I believe at this point Hepworth expected a much more generous attitude towards the TAC and the corporate nature of the individual churches that made it up.
Hepworth, however, was excluded from the week-long implementation meeting in the spring of 2010 when the Church of England Bishops met at CDF with Bishop Elliott? to hammer out the details of how this would take place. Implementation favored the Church of England groups which had no property or assets to bring with them. It totally disregarded the corporate nature—even in a legal sense, never mind an ecclesial sense–of the TAC. This is not Hepworth’s fault.
It was only as the episcopal delegates started to roll out the process that Hepworth and the other TAC bishops became aware of that the model was parish-by-parish, with a stress on individual conversion on the front end, with the corporate aspect only on the back end of the process. I believe Hepworth’s realization of how badly implementation was going to affect the TAC only came in the fall of 2010, as he found out through back channels what had happened in Rome at that implementation meeting.
The implementation of the AC was tremendously destabilizing and destructive to the ecclesial bonds of the TAC and I can understand why the bishops who have remained behind are crying foul about that. There is a justice issue here. But I don’t think Hepworth is the right scapegoat. There is blame all the way around, because the early behavior of the American bishops might have persuaded Rome the TAC was not a serious church that was unified on an episcopal model and that Hepworth did not have the support he claimed to have in his College of Bishops. The way this process exacerbated the destruction of our fragile unity is one of the most painful aspects of this whole thing, something I railed against in the run up to our reception last spring and frankly, made the individual choice about becoming officially Catholic a difficult one.
So, anyway, I have some greater understanding of what’s going on.