Bishops accept resignation of Archbishop John Hepworth
Archbishop Samuel Prakash of India elected Acting Primate

By David W. Virtue

The end came swiftly for Archbishop John Hepworth in Johannesburg when the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) College of Bishops accepted the resignation of their leader following a long battle with the wounded, self-inflicted Australian Primate who had sought entry for himself and his church into the Roman Catholic Church.

A majority of the TAC College of Bishops met at St. George Conference Center outside Johannesburg, February 28 – March 1, 2012 to discern a new direction for the embattled Communion. They elected Indian Archbishop Samuel Prakash as Acting Primate.

Twelve of twenty active bishops voted in session that the TAC would remain fully Anglican. A news release said that while it receives, with thanks, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus from the Holy See, the TAC College of Bishops has voted as a Communion to decline the invitation.

Before he left the US for South Africa, Presiding Bishop Brian Marsh wrote VOL to say that he fully anticipated a course would be charted that is unambiguously Anglican under leadership that will uphold and teach, by word and example, the faith of Christ crucified. “You may be certain that I will do my best to ensure that any decisions provide for the spiritual safety of God’s faithful people.”

Every Bishop and Vicar General in the Traditional Anglican Communion was invited to attend this meeting. Of the twenty active bishops, twelve voted in session. Nine of the twelve churches were represented.

“This meeting of the College of Bishops was long overdue,” said the bishops. “Over the past two years, several members of the College of Bishops had requested of the Primate an urgent meeting of the College. Anglicanorum Coetibus or the Apostolic Constitution had never been discussed or debated within the College of Bishops. Meetings of the College of Bishops had, in fact, been scheduled at least twice over the past two years. Most recently, a meeting was called by the TAC Primate for mid 2011. This meeting was canceled abruptly by the Primate. Accordingly, the meeting in Johannesburg was voted to be the overdue meeting of the College of Bishops.”

The College of Bishops voted unanimously to accept the resignation of John Hepworth as TAC Primate via a resolution that states: “it is resolved that he cease to hold the office of Primate immediately.”

Archbishop John Hepworth vacates the Office he has held since 2003, along with the individual appointments that are the prerogatives of that Office. Such offices and positions are now vacant and subject to reappointment.

Archbishop Samuel Prakash, as the senior active Metropolitan, was elected Acting Primate by acclamation. In so doing, the entire assembly expressed complete confidence in Archbishop Prakash, who was consecrated Bishop in 1984 and currently serves as Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of India. Archbishop Prakash was one of the original founding Bishops of the TAC.

Bishop Michael Gill of Cape Town was appointed Secretary of the College of Bishops. During its three-day meeting, the College of Bishops passed several resolutions relating to the International Anglican Fellowship, Episcopal Oversight and Ecumenical relations between Continuing jurisdictions. The College of Bishops resolved to commit itself to Mission and Evangelism, recognizing that the central purpose of God’s people is to bring others to Christ.

Earlier in February, Archbishop Hepworth, sensing that his day was done as leader of the TAC, issued a “Pastoral Letter” over the pending split accusing some of his fellow bishop of “bullying” and canceling arrangements they had entered into.

“Clergy and laity have been bullied and threatened with expulsion.” He also accused them of schism. “A minority of the bishops plan to meet shortly in South Africa with the openly published agenda of expelling all those who are at the various stages of discernment of the offer of the ‘fullness of Catholic Communion’ contained in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Benedict XVI.”

However, it was a majority of the college of Bishops who met in Johannesburg. They were unanimous that Hepworth must go.

Hepworth had charged that Bishop Marsh was a high-ranking member of a virulently anti-catholic Lodge of Freemasons, and claimed Marsh had successfully influenced Roman Catholic authorities to reject the TAC and its bishops as a credible ecclesial communion.

“There is absolutely no truth to this statement,” Marsh told VOL. “Conspiracy theorists are often taken in by such nonsense.”

Hepworth pled for tolerance noting that Anglicanism has always aspired to tolerance. “Even the persecution of Catholics in England was balanced by tolerance and respect in missionary regions. Anglo-Catholics and Evangelical Anglicans sustained a mutual respect and restraint in spite of vigorously asserting their positions. Opponents found this a weakness. Those of us who experienced it found it a strength.”

However, Hepworth’s battle with Rome along with his charges three priests homosexually seduced him have hardly endeared him to Rome’s leaders. He also blasted a Canadian archbishop for interfering with his parishes in Canada. In the end, Roman Catholic officials told him politely that he could enter the Roman Catholic Church as a layman. Hepworth refused the offer.

Hepworth says the majority of TAC remain loyal to their oaths and promises on doctrine and discipline and to himself. “They are determined to protect their people and minister to them as they make decisions and undergo processes that cannot be hurried any more than outcomes can be foreseen.”

He included bishops and senior clergy, in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Torres Strait, Australia, Africa and India, who are determined to continue their ministry, to respect the ecclesial bonds that exist between them, to sustain their Christian friendship even as some of them succeed (with their clergy and people) in being pioneers of Ordinariates that will grow, if they are of God.

Hepworth said they would meet with him shortly to celebrate their bonds of Christian commitment, and will take steps to protect their ecclesial identity.


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