The Society under the patronage of Saint Wilfred and Saint Hilda is the new ecclesial entity within the Church of England, designed to maintain full communion within itself and to strive for communion with the traditional Churches of East and West.
This week the Council of Bishops of The Society has published a Statement of Principles entitled “Communion and Catholicity in the Church of England”. I maintain that this document is intellectually flawed because on the one hand it defines what full communion is, which includes the celebration of the one Eucharist, proceeds to demonstrate how communion within the Church of England is incomplete because of the ordination of women priests and bishops and yet completely illogically maintains that The Society and the remainder of the Church of England are in fact still one Church.
A careful study of the Principles will show that the “ecumenical” relationship described in the document which now exists within the Church of England is hardly different from the relationship with other non-Anglican churches, many of which come from a similar Anglican tradition.
Most of the ecclesiological arguments for the oneness of the Church are indeed not even Anglican arguments but are taken from the documents of the Second Vatican Council and ARCIC.
I believe that this Statement of Principles demonstrates clearly that The Society in itself is an ecclesial body resembling a Church (it might even be argued that it is a Church in the same way as the Church of England always was). It has its own ecclesial structures with an episcopate, and fulfils the criteria for full communion which the bishops themselves have defined.
Maintaining that one is still part of a body which calls itself the “Church” of England is self-delusion. The Society is in everything but name already a Continuing Anglican Church, and if we needed proof of that, this document provides it.
The next set of Principles should perhaps examine what it is that prevents this new ecclesial entity from seeking full communion with those whose documents, theology, liturgy they share (the traditional Church of the West, made visible in the See of Peter). An organisation already exists which expresses this full communion and maintains the Anglican tradition which The Society’s bishops value, and that is the Ordinariate.