Monday, December 1, 2014

Is Anything At All Happening In The "Worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion"?

The most recent event of any sort in the TAC was the purge of John Hepworth as its Primate in 2012. Since this took place in South Africa (without Hepworth's presence), we may assume that Bishop of Pretoria and Southern Africa Michael Gill was a major figure behind the move. That year, the College of Bishops designated Samuel Prakash, Metropolitan of the basically nonexistent Anglican Church of India, as the TAC's "Acting Primate". Michael Gill continues as Secretary of the College of Bishops. There appear to have been no changes in the TAC since 2012, and it's hard not to conclude that Gill is the actual man behind the curtain, at least as far as the TAC outside the US is concerned.

Not that there's a great deal to that. My estimate of the TAC's size outside the US, based on published sources, web research into parish and diocesan web sites, and firsthand reportage from occasional correspondents, is that total membership worldwide, in tiny franchises in Canada, South Africa, Australia, and the UK, decimated by departures to Roman Catholic Ordinariates, can't be much more than 1000. (I will welcome credible information to the contrary from Bishop Gill.)

In a series of posts beginning here, I reviewed the origin of the TAC in 1990-91, as basically a maneuver by Louis Falk to withdraw a faction favorable to him from the Anglican Catholic Church and form the Anglican Church in America under the "worldwide" TAC. As far as I can tell, the TAC has never been anything but an illusion of smoke and mirrors. Its Wikipedia entry still gives an estimate, "from the TAC itself", of 400,000, which in my view is beyond wild exaggeration.

I've heard from potentially biased sources on the APA side of Falk-related controversies that Falk was eventually eased out as Primate of the TAC for reasons that may have been connected with the circumstances surrounding his deposition as an Episcopal priest. Although Falk continued to meddle behind the scenes well after his "retirement", the public relations coup that brought the TAC its 15 minutes of fame came from Falk's successor, John Hepworth.

The 2007 Portsmouth Petition to the Vatican for incorporation of the ACA into the Catholic Church created a stir in the Anglo-Catholic community, and it was widely believed that this was the impetus for Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009. However, information that's gradually come to light makes it plain that the apostolic constitution was the result of an initiative from US Episcopalians, including Jeffrey Steenson, to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1993. The document that became Anglicanorum coetibus appears to have been drafted by Steenson during this period and essentially sat in Ratzinger's desk until he could issue it as pontiff -- the timing couldn't have been better for Hepworth and the TAC, but it was utterly misleading.

And in any case, Anglicanorum coetibus wasn't what the TAC bishops had in mind. As soon as they could, they purged the few who sincerely supported it, and then they purged Hepworth, whose own expectations of being re-ordained as a Catholic appear to have been utterly unrealistic.

The other thing that's notable, though, is the non-reaction of Anglo-Catholic bloggers to this story overall. The whole institution of the Anglo-Catholic blog appears to have receded into silence with the apparent decline of the TAC -- which was never anything but a PR ploy in any case.