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Where have all the Anglo-Catholics gone, long time passing?

Where have all the Anglo-Catholics gone, long time passing?

By Fr. Steven Kelly
July 28, 2014

When I was a young curate at Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA I remember gathering with the SSC priests regularly (there were A LOT of them from NY down to DC back then) and they would talk about the "Anglo-Catholic chessboard". Fr. So-and-so was leaving/retiring from St. BigCity parish, and the priests would start talking about who should be moved where. St. BigCity parish would get a priest who was a rector at a mid-sized suburban (or maybe urban) parish and a curate at St. Big City parish would head to that mid-sized vacant parish. The Cardinal Rectors recommended their former curates to each other, and vestries/search committees coveted the advice of these fine senior priests.

What made me think of this today was the announcement that the Rector of Good Shepherd Rosemont (who has been there 2 years) Fr. Richard C. Alton has accepted the position at St. Clement's in Philly (the first married priest there, ever). That priest has now been rector of THREE parishes that at one time would have been considered Anglo-Catholic shrines that in the past would be final destination parishes for a senior priest; St. Mark's Locust Street, Good Shepherd Rosemont, and now St. Clement's.

Of course, the church has changed. Most of the great Anglo-Catholic shrines have changed and become 'affirming' of the innovations on holy orders and/or human sexuality. Few, if any, use the old missal/1928. Those going/gone affirming or teetering include St. Mary the Virgin in NYC, Ascension St. Agnes in DC (received woman bishop), Advent Boston had a gay marriage, St. Paul's K street has the retired bishop of Minnesota as interim and he has invited women clergy to guest function, Mt. Calvary Baltimore stayed theologically solid but then left for Rome.

St. Clement's has become an affirming haven with the retiring rector (and a former curate) flaunting the new religion at the Gay Pride Fest in Philly. Good Shepherd Rosemont hardly seems like it can survive with its diminished membership after the Fr. Moyer debacle, and is less than sound now from what I read on her Facebook posts. And the rector who is leaving for St. Clement's is a member of the Society of Catholic Priests, the newest incarnation of the old Affirming Catholic movement. I can't imagine the Diocese of Pennsylvania will allow a solid catholic priest into the diocese to revive it.

And let's not forget the many parishes in NYC that were once catholic bastions but have now gone soft; St. Ignatius & Transfiguration to name just two more (and let us not forget that not too long ago being in the Diocese of Long Island was a badge of honor for catholic clergy).

During this time when I was curate I was sitting with Bishop Br. John Charles Vockler and looking at 1950s photos from the old Valley Forge Conference (the pre-cursor to the St. Michael's Conference for Youth). Br. John Charles and the host for dinner that night who was a counselor at the conference named nearly all the priests and monks in the photos. I recognized so many of the names from the stories and legends: Fr. Lander, Fr. Joiner, several renowned priests of the Order of the Holy Cross. After naming them all, Br. John Charles sat back, and with a sigh pronounced, "ICHABOD - The glory has departed."

The glory has departed. Can the catholic movement in the Episcopal Church be saved?

Fr. Steven Kelly is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan. The article was originally published as a discussion on Facebook


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