It's difficult to know how to write about certain matters because to write seems to risk trampling upon private grief that one ought not be privy too. St Agnes Church, Kennington Park is one such case. However, it's local to our patch, so it would be an omission to say nothing. A reader drew my attention to an article in last week's South London Press about the Kennington church to ask about the story. The article states that Fr Christopher Pearson, and half of the congregation of St Agnes' (Anglican) joined St Wilfrid's, Lorrimore Road on Ash Wednesday to begin their journey into the Roman Catholic Church. There's a brief mention on the Independent Catholic News site too.
St Agnes was until 2010 under the care of the Bishop of Fulham, but when the Church of England voted in favour of women bishops, the Bishop of Fulham stated his intention to become a Roman Catholic. A number of parishes (St Agnes among them) likely considered that having a woman appointed as their bishop risked breaking the line of apostolic succession. That means that they do not believe that women bishops can be validly ordained and therefore, cannot have the gift of ministerial priesthood conferred upon them and therefore that their sacraments aren't valid, and thus consequently, they aren't fully "church". Parishes with such views could always rely in the past, upon the validity of the Bishop's orders (and just sort of ignore women priests, whose ministerial priesthood they didn't accept). However, the possibility of a woman bishop (or several) made it impossible for some parishes to continue in that vein, and many of them joined the personal Ordinariate, a group set up by the Pope in 2009 to welcome Anglicans. (Of course, that annoyed a few Roman Catholics who would want their denomination to accept women priests, but the Pope has the final say...)
Most outsiders, many insiders and a few with one foot in the door simply look on in an entirely bemused manner and label the refusal to accept the ministry of bishops and priests on the basis of their gender "misogyny". There is reason indeed to believe that many Christians are misogynists. However, Fr Pearson claimed not to be in the SLP article, stating, "I have no real problem with women priests or civil partnerships, but they are a bar to unity...". One might wonder whether the Pope would share the "no real problem" view, but that's another matter. What should be noted is that an exit from their beloved and cherished denomination is heartbreaking for many Anglicans, who believed they would still be assured of a place in the Anglican church, even after the decision to ordain women in 1992. That's what I mean about this article being an intrusion on their grief... Disagreements amongst communities sometimes tear those communities apart, and within small parish settings, seem to divide close neighbours... Sky News recorded a piece at St Agnes' Church, recording the views of those who intended to leave.
I had been wondering for a while what might become of the church building, and the rest of the congregation (presuming that they weren't all to become Roman Catholics). Their website wasn't informative, so I was hoping there might be a notice outside. This being the Anglican church, the offline guess proved correct. It seems that St Agnes have formed a new parochial church council (PCC) and appointed new officers and hope to appoint a new vicar, but are (unsurprisingly) missing many congregation members who would perform such duties as Readings and Intercessions on a Sunday morning. They want to contact any old members who have slipped away and would wish to return. In the highly unlikely event that there are people reading Lurking about SE11 who either wish to return to St Agnes or wish to join a church, it's likely that St Agnes would very much welcome your gifts at the current time. (And in the interests of fairness, I should probably say that it's likely St Wilfrid's would extend a welcome too).