Discover more from Fr Calvin Robinson
Ordained to priesthood in the presbyteral order
Catholic orders, Anglican patrimony
[Update] This article has been slightly updated to clear up areas that may have caused confusion. It is my intention to provide clarity and unity. Please read in good faith. I am open to questions in the comments or via email.
On the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo, the year of our lord two thousand twenty-three, I was ordained to the priesthood. Thanks be to God.
Fr Calvin Robinson is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I would like to thank everyone who prayed for my ministry and those friends and family members who were able to attend my ordination and/or First Mass. God bless you all. You made me realise how truly rich I am – surrounded by such loving people – absolutely blessed.
It has been a long and somewhat challenging journey from ordinand to priest. But trials and tribulations are formational and can be sanctifying. I appreciate all the support I have received from friends and strangers over the years. It is very humbling and a reminder that none of this is actually about me. It is about our Lord and how we can bring people to Christ through our ministries. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; he is our mediator with the Father; he is our salvation. All praise and glory be to God.
My circumstances are not particularly ordinary, and I appreciate quite a few people have questions as to who ordained me, who is my bishop, which denomination I belong to, which church I will serve in, etc. So, I will attempt to answer those questions here.
[Skip down to Holy Orders if you would rather avoid a history lesson]
I do not think the language of denominations is helpful. Not that I am non-dom – far from it. But the fact that the first question people often ask is which denomination do you belong to is quite a sad sign of the state of the Church at present. There is one Church of God. The Church is Christ’s body on earth. For the longest time, the Church was united. The Great Schism tore his body in half, and since then, the enemy has been splintering and dividing us, mocking our Lord. Both the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics lay claim to being the ‘one true Church’. The truth is all Christians baptised in water and the Holy Spirit, who repent of their sins and have faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour are members of his body. We are all united in communion with each other and with Christ, sanctorum communio. The Church Militant here on earth is imperfect because it is made up of fallen individuals, but we worship together with the saints in the Church Triumphant, and we pray for the Church Penitent. So, whilst we are pilgrims here on earth, I think it is important not to attempt to own Christ’s body or to attempt to own his truth; we are to become members of his body and to seek his truth. We cannot let pride sink in. I know my stance will trigger some of the Reformed Calvinist types and the Rad Trad Catholic types alike, but I do not buy into the niche Rad Trad view that there is no salvation outside of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church any more than I buy into the Calvinist view that there is a pre-determined selection of saved and damned. There is no salvation outside of the Church, but the Church has a broader meaning historically, in accordance with Sacred Tradition and the Church Fathers, than many would like to admit today.
On that note, to provide balance, I do believe the Reformation was a mistake. Reform is important, and the Church should always reform, but the Reformation failed in that task. The Church wasn’t reformed; instead, it splintered again. The Church in England became the Church of England, and we were separated in many ways from our brethren in Christ. I cannot see how this could possibly be a good thing. It has bred a strange anti-Catholic mindset in many of our low-church brethren, who forget we all profess to be catholic, and reform wasn’t an attempt to divorce ourselves of catholicism but only to help heal wounds of error, rid the Church of perceived superstition and avoid heresy. I have no time for puritans who protest that Rome is the whore of Babylon or protestants who seem to believe Catholics are not Christians. Both are absurdities. The reformers did not intend to create a new Church; there cannot be a new Church, there is one Church, the body of Christ. What they did by leaving Rome was split the Church. Surely, this hurts our Lord.
Why is any of this relevant? Well, because as an Anglo-Catholic, I always attested that Anglicanism is the English expression of the Catholic faith. Anglicans are Christians; therefore, Anglicans are Catholic. Anglicans profess the Catholic Creeds, adhere to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and separation from Rome and the Eastern Orthodox is not a thing to be celebrated but to be mourned. I would argue the split was more political than theological and that most Christians continued to practice the Catholic faith as they always had. There are some theological/doctrinal differences, just as there are between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, but that does not make them different/new religions. We are all of one faith.
The problem is that Anglican orders were deemed null and void by papal bull in 1896. I would probably argue that Apostolicae Curae was a political decision rather than theological, too, and I have seen better theologians than I debunk it quite easily. But the fact remains that those who see the Pope as supreme and absolute leader of the Church are bound to follow and obey his directives, therefore, those in full communion with Rome have no choice but to deem Anglican orders null and void. Regardless of whether Apostolic Succession has been kept, regardless of which Rites are followed and regardless of faith, intent, matter and form. It is a shame, and it is an issue I pray is resolved sooner than later, but it is the state of things.
As Christians, I understand that we all pray for Church unity. How that might look may differ in our minds, but I am sure our Lord’s plan is miles apart from what any of us humble mortals could possibly imagine. The point is we should be working to bring each other back together, not pushing ourselves further apart. The Church of the East and the Church of the West must aim for Christian unity.
My small contribution to that has been focusing my ministry in ecumenical areas. The platform I have been gifted has meant I get the opportunity to speak with Christians across all denominations, with many theological/doctrinal differences, who all believe in our Lord’s death on the Cross for us, and his offer of eternal salvation if we repent and follow him, and are born again through baptism of water and the Holy Spirit. I have prayed with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, High-Church Anglicans, Low-Church Evangelicals, you name it, and it is wonderful. There is beauty in our joint faith in Christ. The world needs more Christ right now, not less.
I was ordained by the Old Catholics, a faithful community of former Roman Catholics who were united with Orthodoxy on the basis of the agreed statements named “The Road to Unity” (1987), in which the Anglican patrimony was explicitly appreciated. It was the only way in England that I could take ministry forward to the presbyterate with full integrity. Old Catholic theology is the same as Anglo-Catholic theology. It is a belief in Catholicism of the undivided Church of the first millennium. We see the Pope as the Bishop of Rome, Primus inter pares – the first among equals – but not having universal jurisdiction over the entire Church. Peter’s seat carries great honour that is not to be denigrated, but the Bishop of Rome is not an earthly monarch. There is only one monarch when it comes to the Church, and that is the Lord himself. As Western Christians, we look to Rome for leadership in many ways, but we can and should also look to our brethren in the East. The Old Catholics have close ties with the Eastern Orthodox.
I was ordained by the bishop of the Nordic Catholic Church, who is under the authority of the Archbishop of the Union of Scranton.
The Union of Scranton are theologically sound, believing in male-only Holy Orders and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony being between one man and one woman. For more information, see the Declaration of Scranton.
Old Catholics do not subscribe to the First and Second Vatican Councils and, therefore, the prescribed dogma of papal infallibility. Old Catholics are often described as Catholicism without the Pope. But that would be tongue-in-cheek, as we do clearly recognise the importance of the Bishop of Rome; we just question the nature of his jurisdiction. Old Catholics, rejecting Vatican I and II, also reject the dogmatic pronouncements of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, although not the dogmas themselves. Meaning they remain pious devotions, as they always were, but no one is forced to believe them. Personally, I have always celebrated the Assumption of Mary, as Anglo-Catholics do.
Old Catholics are in limited inter-communion with the Holy See. This means our orders are recognised as valid and sacraments licit. We have a good relationship with Rome. The same canons that apply to Eastern Orthodox apply to Old Catholics, meaning that in particular circumstances, Roman Catholics can receive sacraments from Old Catholics, and vice-versa.
This is important for a couple of reasons. On a personal level, it means that when travelling outside of the country, I will be able to access the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick, which proves impossible otherwise, and no Christian should be without the blessed sacrament. But more importantly for my ministry, it means that we can work on bringing Christians together at the altar rail.
To those wondering about the Ordinariate. It does provide answers to some questions – it provides a way to keep the beauty of Anglican patrimony. But it is still exclusive at the altar. Unless the entire country of England is reunited with our continental brethren, there is still a gatekeeping of God’s children from the sacraments and from communion with each other. Unfortunately, this will not be resolved any time soon. Rome cannot recognise Anglican orders now since the ordination of women in the Church of England. The Church does not have the authority to make such a decision, and the impact at a point in time when ARCIC dialogue between Rome and Canterbury was at an all-time high demonstrates that this was clearly the work of the enemy, causing further splintering and division.
Old Catholics have a good relationship with Anglicans. Until Anglicans started ordaining women and attempting to bless same-sex unions, we were in communion with each other.
So, in answer to the questions:
Who is my bishop?
Bishop Roald Nikolai Flemestad, Bishop Delegate of the Union of Scranton in Europe, with episcopal oversight to the work and mission of the Nordic Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.
Bishop Roald operates under the authority of Prime Bishop Anthony Mikovsky of the Union of Scranton.
Where will I serve?
In a transitional period, I will continue to serve at Christ Church Harlesden, which is an Anglican parish in the Free Church of England.
The Union of Scranton is in dialogue with the Free Church of England, and it is hoped that we could, at some point in the near future, enter communion with each other. The Free Church of England has maintained incredible Apostolic Succession (three Apostles, I believe). For an impression of the Free Church of England’s theology and the history of their relationship with the Union of Scranton, I recommend Prime Bishop John Fenwick’s book, Anglican Ecclesiology and the Gospel.
What does that mean logistically?
I have Old Catholic orders, and I will be acting as minister-in-charge of a mixed group of Anglicans and Old Catholics.. We are treading new ground here in terms of ecumenical relationships. The idea is to bring more Christians together in faith, hope and charity.
We hope this is the start of something special and something far bigger. The Union of Scranton is also in talks with Continuing Anglicans in the United States, currently known as the G3—a group of Anglo-Catholics who understand Anglicanism as the English expression of the Catholic faith.
I hope we can also work with GAFCON at some point in the future, but it would mean them returning to orthodoxy on the matter of holy orders. I pray for my brethren in GAFCON, and I hope that they can find the courage and strength, guided by the Holy Spirit, to do what needs to be done. The REC are founding members of GAFCON, and they have sound theology. There are also an increasing number of sound dioceses within GAFCON, including the Diocese of Fort Worth and San Joaquin. It can be done. The Latvian Lutheran church went back on a 40-year-old decision, thus ruling that women cannot be ordained priests, on a two-thirds majority vote at synod. It seems synods can occasionally produce good fruits!
What am I?
I have always been catholic, but now I am Catholic.
I could still be described as Anglican in the sense that I am English and Catholic, and I appreciate the English expression of the Catholic faith. Whilst I am still Catholic from the Angles – England - I would say I am no longer Anglo-Catholic; I am now Old Catholic.
I am a priest of Catholic orders and Anglican patrimony. I am an Old Catholic for a period of time serving a mixed congregation in an Anglican parish.
I am obedient to and under the authority of Bishop Roald of the Nordic Catholic Church, a member of the Union of Scranton, and will for a transitional period of time continue to serve as a presbyter for a mixed congregation in Christ Church, Harlesden.
I hope this cleared things up somewhat. I apologise if I caused any further confusion. I pray for a day we can all simply answer that question with one word: Christian.
Fr Calvin Robinson is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.