Protestant Croydon flock follows vicar to Catholic church
A Croydon congregation has taken an extraordinary leap of faith by switching their beliefs to follow a popular preacher.
Parishioners at a Church of England parish church have converted to Catholicism after their vicar left to join a neighbouring Catholic church six weeks ago.
Father Donald Minchew, together with 69 of his previous congregation - almost half his flock - and three new members, were received into the full communion at St Mary's Church, in Wellesley Road, on April 3.
Former Anglican bishop, Monsignor John Broadhurst, received and confirmed the group, who will now form the Croydon Ordinariate.
Father Donald was the vicar at St Michael's and All Angels Parish Church in Poplar Walk, Croydon, for 16-and-a half years.
He resigned in February because he disagreed with decisions being made by the Church of England, including the ordination of female priests and bishops.
Speaking after the service, Father Donald said: "These people are very brave because they have answered the call of God and the indignation of Pope Benedict and done it at a great cost.
"I think the reason they came across during the Ordinariate is because they don't quibble over things like the clergy, but I think there is a great comfort in the Catholic church, you know what you believe and what the church teaches.
"In the Church of England you don't know what the church believes from one synod to the next.
"What we would have taken for granted for 30 years you can't now, but in the Catholic church it's not changing.
"You know what you are getting in to."
The Ordinariate will participate in Catholic services at St Mary's church and at the start of June Father Donald and Father Ken Berry - also formerly of St Michael's church - will be ordained into the priesthood.
They will then take services for the Croydon Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Father Donald added: "The Anglican bishop, Bishop Christopher of Southwark, the Archdeacon of Croydon, the Diocese and secretary have been extremely supportive and encouraging.
"There has been no animosity from them at all, and you thought there might have been but there wasn't and I've been quite comforted by this in this pastoral journey."
Parishoner Barry Barnes served for 15 years on the General Synod of the Church of England.
He also left St Michael and All Angels for the Ordinariate after being part of the congregation with his wife for about 30 years.
Mr Barnes said: "We saw where the church was going and decided we could no longer stay in the Church of England and it was about the same sort of time the Pope made the offer of the Ordinariate.
"My wife and I decided the Church of England was no longer where we wanted to be and we joined the Ordinariate for a number of reasons.
"Their [the Church of England's] attitude towards homosexuality and in light of the possible ordination of women as bishops, neither of us can accept that.
"If it hadn't been for the Catholic church, we would possibly have considered the Orthodox church."
Another parishioner, who did not want to be named, said she also joined the Ordinariate because she was unhappy with the way in which the Church of England was going.
She said: "They [gay marriage and the ordaining of female bishops] are the two main reasons most people have gone over, it's just not scriptural teaching.
"I couldn't have stayed in the Church of England.
"I have been considering what to do ever since they came out with the announcement and then the Pope made such an incredible offer."
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark said: "Father Minchew and some members of his congregation felt it was right for them to continue their Christian life within the Ordinariate.
"While we regret that we are losing them as Anglicans, we wish them well for their future Christian journey."