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Keith Newton

faux bishop?

Keith Newton

This is not a photo of a bishop.

This is a photo of a Roman Catholic priest in a Roman Catholic church. Although not a bishop, he is dressed like a bishop. Roman Catholics call that the “Anglican Ordinariate”.

This man, Keith Newton, has been playing dress-up. He has been dressing up like a bishop since 2002. At that time Keith started dressing up as the “bishop” of Richborough of the ecclesial community, the “Church” (sic) of England. He has not been able to stop.

Keith joined the Church™ on 1 January 2011. Twelve days after joining the Church™, on 13 January 2011, he was ordained to the diaconate™, and two days later, on 15 January 2011, he was ordained to the priesthood™ by Vincent Nichols, Archbishop™ of Westminster, in Westminster Cathedral. On this date Pope™ Benedict XVI appointed Keith as the first ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales.

Because Keith is married, obviously he cannot be a bishop™. But the pope™, who always tries to allow for each man’s proclivity, is allowing Keith to continue to dress as a bishop even though he isn’t one. And cannot be one. This is part of what the pope calls the “Anglican patrimony”. Anglican patrimony in the Roman Catholic Church consists of a five-fold mission statement (very Anglican!):

  • dress up as much as possible
  • have lots of titles (“Ordinary”, “Monsignor”,…)
  • use olde Englishe languagee, or at leaste wordse thate no one else usese muche anymoree (this part of Anglican Patrimony is now spreading into regular English-speaking Roman Catholicism)
  • rule number one – no poofters
  • rule number two – no ordaining women

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49 thoughts on “faux bishop?”

  1. Wonder if the pope would allow a woman with proclivity for dressing as a bishop to do so. It’s what’s under the dress that counts!

      1. I know of a new bishop (Anglican), Meredith, who felt a bit weirded out about wearing a mitre. One priest suggested he should just wear it around inside his home. When he replied that he would be concerned he might forget about it and answer the door with it on, he realised that was the very point.

        Occasionally I see “historical” movies (Luther springs to mind) where the bishop is wearing a mitre outside of ceremonial/liturgical context. I wonder if that is historically accurate? Anyone?


  2. Just from the picture, I was convinced that Ordinary Newton was the real thing. Think about it. Ordinary Newton could hardly let the fancy dress hang there unused. What a waste that would be!

    And our Presiding Bishop could not wear her mitre in England. But that was another church…

    June Butler

  3. Yes. It is a very odd and confusing take on ‘Anglican patrimony’ for those of us who are Anglican. I see little I recognise, and think it says more about distortions of Anglican identity than anything particularly authentic.

  4. To be fair, Fr Bosco, not all people entitled to wear mitres are bishops – mitred abbots and abbesses, for example.

    That said, give me the Anglican Church, for all its faults, over the Ordinariate or the Church of Rome, any day!

    1. Quite right, Robert. I am very conscious of abbots who wear a mitre – but thought that adding that point might confuse the post [Keith is not an abbot – so the post would become: Keith is dressing as a bishop or abbot… well, I think we can agree, he is dressing as a bishop, not as an abbot]. I wonder how many Roman Catholics are aware of abbots wearing a mitre? As to abbesses wearing a mitre – are you aware of a single contemporary RC abbess who wears a mitre? Any reader comment? I will tweet the question also, as I am not. The history of mitred women is fascinating, complex, and with conflicting opinions. Blessings.

    1. I wonder if there is a world record for the number of denominations a person has become ordained in? Can they be cumulative?? For that matter, what denominations accept the ordinations in other denominations to such an extent that they allow a priest/minister from another denomination to do tasks reserved for (whatever is the name in their denomination for the same thing)? A Salvation Army Major and a Presbyterian minister might not have the training to know some bits of Anglican liturgy by rote, for example, but what are they allowed to do without becoming doubly-ordained?

      1. If you poke around links from a search for “episcopi vagantes”, Mark, you will find a whole movement of people who appear to spend a lot of their lives concerned about the “validity” of their orders and getting themselves ordained yet again when they encounter someone with a different “lineage” to what they have collected so far. Blessings.

      2. Most Anglican churches would likely ask them to do training in Anglican Studies. But since Anglicans also require an ordination at the hands of a bishop in a valid, recognized line of succession, someone who was not so ordained would need an episcopally administered ordination as well.

  5. Mgr Newton’s wearing of the pontificals has nothing to do with him being a former Anglican (although that possibility is countenanced in Anglicanorum Coetibus and/or the complementary norms).

    It has everything to do with his Ordinary authority. Because Bishop/Ordinary is the same person 95% of the time, some of the vestments we assume come with the rank of Bishops are in fact signals or Ordinary authority.

    The Abbot example is very apt – Abbots don’t wear mitres because they are Abbots, they wear them because they are the Ordinary of their community. Just like Mgr Newton is the Ordinary of his community of former Anglicans.

    Nothing to see here…

    1. Thanks, Tommi (please don’t use a pseudonym here – the culture of this site is to be open about who we really are). We’ve already discussed the abbot and mitres. I don’t think you are suggesting that Keith is actually an abbot? Are you suggesting that Religious provincials (who, obviously, are ordinaries) wear a mitre? I’m also not in agreement with your high percentage (95%). I haven’t counted – but I suspect in many places there are more non-episcopal ordinaries than episcopal ones. Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Matt. Appreciated. This is an appendix referring to the choir and street dress of prelates. Hence, there is no reference to mitres. 1206 (which you refer to) is expanded and explained in 1207-1209 – they need to be read together, and within the context of the whole appendix. Blessings.

  6. I visited Jamberoo Abbey in NSW regularly throughout 1996/1997 and the Abbess there had a mitre which she wore for the major Hours on Sundays, and at Sunday Mass too. She carried the crosier in procession as well. I was never present for Feast Days so cannot report what happened then.

    I recall one occasion where she was in full array for Sunday Mass while two local bishops, at the abbey for a meeting, sat in choir looking very plain.

    This isn’t quite the contemporary example you seek, but the Abbey still exists and still has an Abbess, so unless the discipline has changed, you might see your mitred Abbess there.

  7. I was under the impression that wearing of mitres was a romanising innovation in Anglicanism at the end of the nineteenth century. Am I incorrect?

    1. I would not think it is an innovation, Rhys, but it does seem there was a period in Anglican history when the mitre was less used – possibly not at all. Sounds like a good subject for a doctoral thesis. I will tweet the question. Blessings.

  8. My own reaction to this is obviously very different from yours, Bosco! My initial (and abiding) impression of the Apostolic Constitution’s grant of pontificalia to the Ordinary, regardless of whether he had been re-ordained only to priest’s orders, was that its effect was to affirm, rather than to undermine, the view that he was continuing a role that he had already filled within a community of (former) Anglican Christians, not taking it up de novo. Fr Hunwicke (what a sad story that is…) had a nice reflection on this very question a while back (including the matter of how some Catholics hold the invalidity of Anglican orders to be the “central datum” of their faith), concluding that “it is the continuities that will strike them rather more than some little technical discontinuities of which they may have been informed”:


    The Ordinariate is not for me, and I too find its underlying premise (that our churches are no churches at all) to be very grating. But given the realities of the Roman Communion as it has been in the past and as it is today, it’s hard to imagine how the pope could have done better for those Anglo-Catholics who petitioned for corporate reception than he did with Anglicanorum coetibus; and I can’t bring myself to feel anything but good will (and even admiration) for these folk who have been willing to risk a lot for the sake of their principles, even if I don’t share them.

    That sense of good will heightens my irritation at the unimaginative way in which the Ordinariates are being implemented locally by bishops who seem to expect (and hope) that the whole thing will be a flash in the pan. I had romantically imagined that the Ordinariates would be a genuine gift to all of Anglicanism: first, as showing us what those outside our tradition genuinely value about our tradition; and secondly, as getting a Trojan horse of Anglican practice and divinity through the Roman gates. But, alas! that’s not how it’s turning out at all… (I have friends locally who are, prospectively, Ordinariate-bound, and they have suffered terribly with the whole process.)

    Meanwhile, I can’t help but think that we would have had at least a marginally better chance of persuading our fellow (former) Anglicans that our bishops, all of them, are true bishops, if our bishops — male and female — would be more willing to show that they intend to be bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church by vesting recognizably as true bishops (as Mgr Newton somewhat ironically does!), and were a little less inclined to “dress up” as if episkope were a party game, like, say, this (http://smecsundaymorningforum.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/elo_111211_budde_md.jpg) or, just to show I’m not playing favourites, this (http://www.flickr.com/photos/general-synod/5733850627/). (And of course, their brother bishops in the Roman Communion are not immune to fashion disasters: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_lc54S7qQAOs/RuL3jW-G92I/AAAAAAAAA6M/05Tbk21fq8E/s400/ugly.jpg)

    1. Reading your comment, Jesse, I cannot affirm your suggestion that “[your] reaction to this is obviously very different from [mine]” as I’m nodding through most of what you are writing. I think you can read what I write in one tone (as some might), or you can read it, knowing me well, lightly, with a Gin (or Chartreuse) in one hand in a friendly evening conversation after a good meal. I think that the RC document removing “church” as a title from others was unnecessary and unhelpful. I think that the validity of Anglican orders (though I really don’t want to have a debate about that here – it leads no where) could be revisited after inter-communion with Old Catholics (women in orders notwithstanding), and the alterations to the RC ordinal since Vatican II making conservatives publicly dubious about the validity of RC orders & sacraments. Blessings.

      1. Fair play, Bosco! All the same, I think I’d need a few shots of Newfie Screech to accompany that level of scorn 🙂

        Funny, I’ve always thought that the concession in Unitatis redintegratio that there could even be such a thing as “ecclesial communities” outside The One True Church was actually a rather positive development!

        I’m coming to agree with an erstwhile pro-Ordinariate blogger (himself a “continuing Anglican”) who has suggested that ecumenical dialogue with Rome ought now to remain polite and inert until Rome and Constantinople finally get their σκύβαλα together.

  9. I seem to recall reading that the mitre fell out of use in England after the Reformation, and was resurrected by the Oxford Movement in the mid-late 19th century.

    1. Maggi, in broad brush strokes, that appears, as I understand it, to be the case. It would be interesting to get some more specific detail on that: who/when was the last mitre to be worn in CofE. I suspect that such detail would reveal that this was later than many might think, and that the non-use of mitres might be shorter than many suppose. Further, did during this period, the mitre fall out of use on the church’s heraldry? Blessings.

        1. Thanks for your visit and comment, Malcolm. You appear to be replying to the line on the history of the mitre in Anglicanism. If you poke around this blog a bit more, I think you will find much that you would regard as neither ugly nor bitchy. There may certainly be other parts you disagree with, in tone or content. Blessings.

    2. And let’s not forget that the mitre is a relatively recent innovation anyway (11th century in the West, 15th century in the East). The ODCC informs us that English bishops continued to wear mitres at coronations “down to that of George III”, but very seldom, if ever, at other times.

      The heraldry question is interesting. Doesn’t the Archbishop of Canterbury’s coat of arms still include the pallium? (I remember reading a homily by an Anglo-Catholic cleric who thundered that it was time for the pallium to come off the coat of arms and onto the archbishop’s shoulders.)

  10. I submit that the proper attire signifying Christian authority is humility. See an example in John 13 – footwashing.

    For a post on a bishop (to be) who exemplifies this, click my name above.

    The whole business of bishops appearing to be members of an imperial court reminds me of how often in the Old Testament, we are assured that God is the “King” and only assented to earthly kings because of human desires for one (so long as God, speaking through a true prophet). And, even then,how often did that work out? Deuteronomy offers clear guidelines for the behavior of such a God-authorized kingly authority. Among the guidelines is a shunning of gold and other trappings of worldly wealth and power.

    Apologies for the pseudonym, but Bosco knows me. (ultimately I may rectify this, but I’m not sure how… given my blogs under this name)

    Yes, I know I’ve wandered far afield here, but to me the church should demonstrate values which are more biblical than worldly. And the fancy dress, to my mind, has no precedent in the king and high priest who entered Jerusalem on a donkey only to submit to death on a cross, following a mission in which walking, eating, mingling with the poor and the ill and the outcast of both sexes!

    This is not to suggest that people should never wear vestments. But humility is the clothing of Christ!

    1. Thanks, TheraP. Without my thinking too hard, there are two or three who I allow to comment here pseudonymously – each for a different reason, and, as you point out, I know who you are. Discussion around this post forms a good example. There have been strong comments, including about my tone and content here. On many other sites the comments would have degenerated to more heat than light. In this community I think some interesting lines have been opened up and explorations begun. I credit that, in part, to our willingness to be open and ourselves online.

      Humility is central to the Rule of St Benedict – its significance is a helpful point you are making here. What startles me, in NZ, when I saw this photograph, is that I do not think it would be possible to find this image, or anything like it, anywhere in NZ (RC, Anglican, Orthodox,…). One of the functions, surely, of vestments, is to attract attention away from individuals not towards them. In the photograph (and the others that I link in the source) that is not the experience I have. Perhaps I am unusual in that, and others (the majority?) find in these photos attention is directed away from the individual wearing the vestments.

      Thanks for moving the discussion forward positively.


    2. As someone put it:

      Let holy charity
      Mine outward vesture be,
      And lowliness become mine inner clothing.

      It’s impossible to deny the “imperial” origins of much ecclesiastical vesture. But over time they acquired some spiritual advantages distinct from their origins: they can, at least sometimes, be a sign to both priest and people that any dignity attached to the ministry is Christ’s alone, and nothing especially to do with the qualities or personality of the minister him- or herself.

      1. Thanks, Jesse. Since you suggested there was a level of scorn in my tone, did you, looking at this photo, see the postures, gestures, and vesture here being “a sign to both priest and people that any dignity attached to the ministry is Christ’s alone, and nothing especially to do with the qualities or personality of the minister himself”? Blessings.

        1. Always nice to find myself in conversation with you, Bosco! I confess that, yes, that’s exactly how I felt when I first saw the photo — which is probably why the accompanying text felt so violent when I first read it.

          Images like this conjure up in my mind what I (romantically and unrealistically) tend to imagine when I read accounts of the mighty and saintly bishops of the Early Church, and not a few of their medieval successors. The pastor moving among his people, attended by his deacons. Adorned, not with his own fine clothes, but with the splendid garments that the people have given to endow the liturgy with the “beauty of holiness”. One hand holding the staff that is a sign both of his authority and of his terrible responsibility as Christ’s minister. The other hand open in blessing over heads bowed in humility and gratitude to receive it as from Christ himself. Loving the people, who, knowing they are loved from his heart, love him jealously in return.

          I don’t know whether any of that describes the priest depicted here (or, indeed, whether it accurately captures an Ambrose or a Chrysostom)! But it’s how I feel about my own bishop, at least on my good days, and why even my Anglo-Saxon distaste for outward show can’t overpower my urge to incline my head to him when he passes at the conclusion of the liturgy. (And that has nothing to do with his particular gifts or personality…)

          Perhaps I feel strongly about these things because I was raised as a non-denomination evangelical and have experienced first hand the deficiencies of a model wherein a street-clothes preacher leads by the sheer force of his [sic] personality. Coming into a tradition that valued a certain amount of “liturgical anonymity” was great relief (notwithstanding the criticisms of this tendency in, e.g., Robert Hovda’s “Strong, Loving and Wise”, pp. 56-7).

          1. I appreciate our conversations also, Jesse. I think, then, as you have expanded your points, that this has a cultural/experiential component. As I have said elsewhere in comments to this thread, it would not be possible IMO to take a photo like this in NZ – in any denomination. Hence (and you acknowledge that your images are romantic, unrealistic constructs) when I read the accounts you mention I do not imagine a replica of this photo. Your paragraph on the dangers of the opposite extreme is important also. But, for me, the two are just that – extremes.

            As to the “violence” of my text – I think it may be read differently to my intention (I’ve already alluded to that) outside of a larger frame of wit that I take for granted (and others who know me, I hope, would too). There is also the tendency to hold with humour that which is held most dear – a tendency that is both catholic and post-modern.

            That having been said, I glance again at the core of what I wrote. Keith Newton was an Anglican bishop who, in joining the RCChurch in this manner, acknowledges that previously he was not ordained at all, certainly was not a bishop, in fact the Church of England is not a church at all. I think pausing in some way about that, and wondering about his now dressing as a bishop (which he isn’t) no differently to what he did when he would now say he wasn’t a bishop (in the CofE), is not inappropriate. Just as when I questioned the final act of John Broadhurst as an Anglican being a Eucharist, when, in joining the RCChurch in the manner he did, he was acknowledging that he was not ordained, and that that eucharist had no validity.

            I do not think it at all inappropriate to move from one denomination to another. I do not have an answer to how one acknowledges the efficacy of God working through us when the receiving denomination runs things differently. I might have chosen to be more serious, less frivolous, more in the genre of an academic paper presented to a scholarly panel to offer my questions than the Monty Pythonesque approach that you found so violent – but I still think that the questions and issues I am here highlighting are worth asking and drawing attention to.


          2. Being a little brown guy with very indigenous roots I find all of the photos that you shared delightful, especially the one of AB Hiltz, Jesse. I imagine that his cope was a gift of the First People’s of Canada, although I do not know that for a fact.

            I find the vestments that you seem to mock beautiful.

  11. No poofters? I don’t think, other than Fr Newton, I know a single straight man who’s gone to the Ordinariate! Lol, and they’re welcome to it while it lasts (give it 3 years)

  12. To use pontifical insignia can be a privilege of Apostolic Protonories, which Monsignor Newton is.
    Also, to be an Ordinary you don’t necessarily have to be a Bishop.

      1. Precisely. And that’s why abbots can use mitre, pectoral cross and crozier.
        This is patrimony of the Universal Church, as archrpiests and archmandrites as well as abbots from the East also wear mitres.
        So answering your article, yes: as an Ordinary, Monsignor Newton has a rank immediately below a Bishop, which is suitable for his canonical mission.

  13. Check your facts. Historically some Msgrs. Are given specific permission of the Pope to make use of Pontificals.

    1. Thanks, Justin. It helps discussions if you actually provide the facts rather than ordering people to search for them. Blessings.

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