I have been thinking some more about the Catholic theology of bishops. What does this mean for us in the Ordinariate? Our diocese is non-geographical. We have local groups spread over the country. We have an Ordinary who embodies the mission of the Ordinariate, given to him by the Holy Father as our shepherd. As I said in one of my reflections on Lourdes, it was necessary for us to spend time developing relationships within the group at the start. However, we have all become more and more aware of what we are a part of- in the local sense with the Ordinariate, and in the sense of the wider Catholic Church.

Being part of a ‘local church’ in the form of the Ordinariate means several things. Firstly, Jesus, via the Holy Father has given a specific mission to the Ordinary to care for those of us who are called to be part of the Catholic Church via the Ordinariate. The mission is still being discerned and it is early days. We are very blessed to have a Shepherd who writes and speaks with such gentleness, kindness and wisdom. He listens and also leads us, fulfilling his responsibilities so well. As our individual callings develop, here in Eastbourne, these contribute to the overall mission of the Ordinary. For me, knowing this makes me feel very much a part of a larger whole. Sometimes, for whatever reason, in the Anglican Church it felt as if we were close to one another as a community, but pretty much on our own. A links between deanery and parish or Bishop and parish didn’t often make us feel as if we were fulfilling a shared mission, partly because Anglican theology on Bishops is different to that in the Catholic Church. Investigating this, since last year, I feel as if we are not doing things on our own. Also, our individual calling has a context, not in a vague sense to the vast universal church but the context is embodied in a person. At the moment that person is Keith Newton.

This context also determines our relationship to the Catholic Community, here in Sussex and around the World. Our diocese is non-geographical so we live in an area where another bishop presides. In some senses we are guests here. Some people have asked why we don’t just join the local diocese. The answer is because we have been called to fulfil a particular mission, the mission of the Ordinary. Those who join the Church via the diocese are called to fulfil the mission embodied by the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Each diocese, through their bishop or Ordinary has a particular character or charism to their mission. Each builds up the body of Christ and therefore their particular charisms complement one another.

Bishop Kieran, the current Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, has been very welcoming and supportive, as have the diocesan priests in this area. When they support us in all that we do, as they have so wonderfully, they support us in our work for our Ordinary. When we work along side the diocesan congregations we help them in fulfilling the mission of Bishop Kieran.

Sometimes, if you read some of the commentary on the Ordinariate on the Internet (not always a wise thing to do) there is a suggestion from some people that there is a sense of competition between the Ordinariate and the Dioceses around the country. Yet how can this be if each is fulfilling their particular mission, given by The Good Shepherd?

Bill Huebsch, in “Vatican II in Plain English: The Degrees and Declarations” writes:

“Even though the decrees [on Bishop’s Pastoral Office in the Church] necessarily speaks of the “power” of Bishops, its tone suggests almost the opposite: that bishops stand among their people as servants. This document calls for self-denial and self-sacrifice on behalf of the faithful and repeats over and over again that the guiding principle in the organisation of the Church is the care of souls.”

In Lumen Gentium, before mention is made of the role of bishops, a detailed description of the Gospel is given. Whatever the specifics of a particular mission given to a particular bishop, or Ordinary, each contributes to furthering the Gospel. What God in started in the Incarnation is now made manifest in the Universal Church. We are one Body and we have one Good Shepherd, Christ himself.

Last Sunday’s Gospel talks of Christ being the Vine, on to which we are grafted. Our mission flows with life that comes from Christ. A bishop’s mission finds its life in the Life of Christ. There is a wonderful icon, which shows Christ as the vine and the apostles as the branches. In the context of the readings of this season, competition is non-sensical.

This awareness helps us understand our identity, as a small group or as individuals. We fulfil ‘our vocations’ as part of a whole. We can’t pursue ‘our ministry’ or ‘our vocation’ outside the context we have been called into. If our leaders have to take on the mind of Christ in relation to their calling then so must we:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!” Philippians 2: 5-8

So, the mission of the Ordinariate is embodied in the Ordinary. Our mission is part of a greater whole. Bishops and in our case, the Ordinary need to be servants and shepherds who lead and care for their flock. We likewise need to pray for the mind of Christ in all that we do. Thus we will all be fulfilling the mission that Christ gave to his Church.