London, England, Sep 3, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).
A Church of England bishop said on Friday that he was stepping down to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Rt. Rev. Jonathan Goodall, the Anglican bishop of Ebbsfleet, explained that he had taken the decision “after a long period of prayer.”
“I have arrived at the decision to step down as 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 in a statement on Sept. 3, the feast of St. Gregory the Great, the sixth-century pope who launched a mission to convert England to Christianity.
“Life in the communion of the Church of England has shaped and nourished my discipleship as a Catholic Christian for many decades. 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.”
The 60-year-old bishop has served as bishop of Ebbsfleet since 2013, a role in which he acted as a provincial episcopal visitor, or “flying bishop,” supporting Church of England congregations that do not recognize women priests and bishops.
He was chaplain and ecumenical secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, from 2005 to 2012.
He has strong ties to Westminster Abbey, London’s royal church. He was a minor canon, chaplain, and sacrist from 1992 to 1998. From 2004 onwards, he has been a Priest Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
A Sept. 3 press release said that the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, accepted Goodall’s decision “with regret.”
“I am deeply grateful to Bishop Jonathan for his ministry and many years of faithful service. My prayers are with him and [Goodall’s wife] 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,” said Welby, the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian body after the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church.
Goodall is the second bishop of Ebbsfleet to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. In 2010, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Burnham stepped down after 10 years in the post.
He was received into the Catholic Church in 2011 and then ordained a Catholic priest, serving in the newly established Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Today, Msgr. Burnham is pastor of Hendred Catholic Parish in Oxfordshire, south-central England.
Alongside Burnham, two other Church of England bishops were also received into the Catholic Church: the Rt. Rev. Keith Newton, bishop of Richborough, and the Rt. Rev. John Broadhurst, the bishop of Fulham.
In 2019, Gavin Ashenden, a former Honorary Chaplain to the Queen in the Church of England who was consecrated as a bishop in a Continuing Anglican ecclesial community, was also received.
The Rt. Rev. Graham Leonard, bishop of London from 1981 to 1991, became the most senior Church of England cleric to become a Catholic since the Reformation when he entered into full communion in 1993.
Former Church of England clergy such as the now St. John Henry Newman and Cardinal Henry Edward Manning played a prominent role in the revival of the Catholic Church in England in the 19th century.
Goodall, who will cease ministry in the Church of England on Sept. 8, did not indicate whether would seek ordination as a Catholic priest or join the Personal Ordinariate and declined a request to be interviewed.
“I am abidingly grateful to all who have so generously supported Sarah and me in these years, especially the laity and clergy of the See of Ebbsfleet — who have been the focus and joy of my ministry and devotion since becoming bishop in 2013,” he said in his statement.
“It has been an immense privilege. I look forward to serving the Church in the future in whatever way I may be called to do.”