The Archbishop of Canterbury has accepted the resignation of a traditionalist “flying” bishop who wishes to convert to the Catholic faith.
Bishop Jonathan Goodall of Ebbsfleet will on Wednesday step down as an Anglican bishop after eight years following a period of reflection which, he said, was “among the most testing periods of my life”.
His decision represents the highest-ranking defection to Rome since John Goddard, the former Bishop of Burnley, was received into the Catholic Church in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, in May of this year.
Bishop Goodall, a married father-of-two, made his announcement in a statement posted on the website of the Diocese of Ebbsfleet, set up in 1994 to serve Anglo-Catholic parishes which would not accept women as priests.
“I have arrived at the decision to step down as the Bishop of Ebbsfleet in order to be received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church only after a long period of prayer, which has been among the most testing periods of my life,” he said.
“Life in the communion of the Church of England has shaped and nourished my discipleship as a Catholic Christian for many decades,” he said.
“This is where I first received – and for half my life have ministered, as priest and bishop – the sacramental grace of Christian life and faith.
“I shall always treasure this and be thankful for it. I trust you all to believe that I have made my decision as a way of saying yes to God’s present call and invitation, and not of saying no to what I have known and experienced in the Church of England, to which I owe such a deep debt.”
In a statement released by Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Welby said he had accepted Bishop Goodall’s resignation “with regret”.
He said he was “deeply grateful” for the ministry of the bishop, who had also served as ecumenical secretary to successive Archbishops of Canterbury, and for his “many years of faithful service”.
He said: “My prayers are with him and Sarah, both for his future ministry and for the direction in which they are being called in their continuing journey of dedicated service to Christ.”
He added: “With regard to the see of Ebbsfleet, we will be starting a process of consultation with colleagues and others — including the parishes to whom Bishop Jonathan ministers — to determine what the next steps will be.”
Bishop Goodall, who is based in Reading, Berkshire, has yet to reveal where he will be received into the Catholic and by whom, or if he wishes to exercise a ministry within the Catholic Church.
He will be the second Bishop of Ebbsfleet to cross the Tiber, following in the footsteps of Mgr Andrew Burnham who resigned in 2010 to join other former Anglicans in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former Anglican bishop and royal chaplain to the Queen who was received into the Catholic Church in Shrewsbury Cathedral at Christmas 2019, welcomed the announcement by Bishop Goodall.
He described the bishop as a man “held in respect, affection and admiration by many people, not least because of the expertise and integrity that he brought to his engagement with ecumenical relations beyond the Church of England during his long and distinguished ministry”.
“He joins a steady stream of Anglicans, both the distinguished but also the faithful pilgrims unknown on any public stage, who have responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to heal the 500-year-old schism and wounding of the body of Christ by returning to full Communion with Peter and his successors,” said Dr Ashenden.
“His reception into full communion with his mother Church will not only bring him great joy and peace of mind, but will encourage so many others by example.
“It will constitute one more small but significant element in the healing and the renewing of the Catholic Church and the deepening of our fidelity to the Kingdom of God in this troubled age.”
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