Two "flying bishops" have been consecrated for orthodox Anglicans in the United States of America and Australia. Bishop David Moyer (Rector of Good Shepherd Rosemont in Philadelphia) and Bishop David Chislett (Rector of All Saints' Brisbane in Queensland) were consecrated on 16 February this year in Bishop Moyer's Parish in the USA.
The chief consecrator was Archbishop John Hepworth, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion (who lives in Adelaide), who was joined by TAC bishops as well as two diocesan bishops of the Anglican Communion. One of these was Bishop Maternus Kapinga of Ravuma in Tanzania, and Bishop Ross Davies of The Murray Diocese in South Australia.
This is an unprecedented move within Australia as Bishop David Chislett in particular was consecrated to be a bishop to both TAC parishes and Forward In Faith parishes. (FIF is a traditionalist organisation created to protect and minister to Anglicans who in conscience cannot recognise the ordination of women as priests and are no longer in full communion with bishops who have broken Catholic faith and order).
The Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, has suspended Bishop Chislett.
In 1992, when women priests were introduced in the Church of England, an Act of Synod was passed as well as Church canons which protected orthodox Anglicans. They were provided with "flying bishops", that is, bishops who upheld the classical and historical position on Catholic orthodoxy and who had not broken with the tradition in the matter of holy order. These bishops (called officially "Provincial Episcopal Visitors") continue to minister to a scattered and often persecuted minority of Anglicans in the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately, in places like Australia, despite constant pleading by groups like FIF, the bishops of our Church have never given us any hope of being provided for in the same way as the Church of England.
Consequently, FIF and the TAC last year unanimously requested that Fr David Chislett become a bishop to provide alternative Episcopal care in a theologically liberal and deeply hostile environment. He has risked his livelihood, job and future as Rector of All Saints' Wickham Terrace in order to provide the apostolic ministry of the Episcopate to a suffering minority of Anglicans in our Church.
Importantly, the Archbishop of Canterbury was notified of Fr Chislett's election and told that if he requested, the consecration would not go ahead. He chose not to do so.
Since 16 February, some notable things have happened:
* Archbishop Aspinall of Brisbane Diocese has suspended Bishop Chislett on the grounds that his consecration for both the TAC and FIF constitutes his "leaving" the Anglican Church of Australia.
* A "pastoral letter" has been read at All Saints' asking for written submissions to the Archbishop on the matter.
* Bishop Ross Davies of The Murray has made a public statement outlining his desire for alternative Episcopal care to be provided to orthodox Anglicans and
* Bishop Ross has furthermore licensed both Bishop Chislett and Bishop Moyer as bishops in The Murray.
* While Archbishop Aspinall is seeking to prove that Bishop Chislett has left the Anglican Communion, Bishop Davies' licensing muddies the waters somewhat, because whatever outcome the Brisbane hierarchy achieves, Bishop Chislett remains a bishop of the Anglican Church of Australia through the fact of his official licence to an Anglican Bishop within Australia.
* On an international level, the Primates of the Anglican Communion (national Church leaders) have requested that alternative Episcopal oversight be provided for orthodox minorities.
It is important for readers of AD2000 to take note of this most recent event for two main reasons:
* First, both these "flying bishops" have been consecrated, not in an act of schism, but in an attempt to restore Catholic faith and order to their Church.
* Second, by being part of a network of Anglicans (those pushed out of their normal church life into continuing churches like the TAC and FIF Anglicans) who wish to pursue unity with the wider Church, Catholics can see in these two Anglican bishops allies in the current culture wars. Both of them are credally orthodox, both are evangelistic in outlook and both of them are rock-solid on matters like the ordination of women, the moral law, the sanctity of life, etc.
As official Anglicanism seems to disintegrate, the liberal bishops of Australia have a unique opportunity now to care pastorally for orthodox Anglicans. They can choose either to work with the new bishop and help overcome the damage of their own brutal treatment of orthodox Anglicans, or they can spend energy on tearing apart the last vestiges of communion we have with them.
For orthodox Anglicans who are concerned about the consecration of Bishop Chislett as to its catholicity or its timeliness, one can only answer that they ought to re-read the history of previous "flying bishops" like Athanasius or Eusibius. Once a bishop has broken Catholic faith and order, any other orthodox bishop has the right and responsibility to "fly" in and protect the orthodox remnant that remains.
- Fr Nigel Zimmermann SSC is assistant priest in Murraylands parish and Bishop's Chaplain to Bishop Ross Davies of The Murray.
- To read published statements from the Bishop of The Murray, the TAC or FIF, please go to the FIF international website at www.forwardinfaith.com/default.htm