The Vatican has announced the opening of a new Roman Catholic Church for disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians located in Houston, Texas, on Sunday.
Serving as the equivalent of a nationwide diocese, Episcopal priests and other converts can enter the new church together as intact groups and show alliance to the Pope.
Although the new members must oppose contraception and abortion, they will maintain their beloved verses from the Book of Common Prayer. Also, in what a Catholic leader said is “an act of generosity,” priests who are married will be excused from the Catholic requirement of celibacy, while they may not become Bishops.
The new church, called Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, will be led by Rev. Jeffrey Neil Steenson, who is a father of three and a Catholic convert. Church officials said that Father Steenson will be a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and will report directly to the Vatican with the title of Ordinary, The New York Times reported.
In 2007, Steenson, 59, stepped down as the Episcopal Bishop of Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as the Episcopal Church elected the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The Associated Press reported Steenson having said he was “deeply troubled” about the direction of the U.S. denomination, and that he described the Catholic Church as the “true home of Anglicanism.”
The Anglican fellowship is comprised of 77 million members and has roots in the Church of England. The Vatican first created an ordinariate of this kind in the U.K. last year, and others are being considered for Australia and Canada. More than 100 Anglican clergy have applied to become Catholic priests in the U.S. ordinariate, according to AP, and church officials said more than 1,400 individuals are seeking membership.
The small but notable event between the Vatican and the Anglican Church is being celebrated by Catholic leaders and former Episcopalians.