Bishop Michael is a man of very considerable erudition. But what stands out and marks him as different from most of those who enter into full communion with the See of Peter is his links with, and ministry to, Anglicans throughout the world of an Evangelical background.
This is most welcome. S John Henry Newman, in his biglietto speech after being made a Cardinal, made clear that he saw his entire life, his theological development since his early 'Calvinist' conversion, as being a single unbroken continuum. The Enemy had always been the same: the errors of liberalism and indifferentism and subservience to the Spirit of the Age.
Bishop Michael could make this same noble boast.
After the events of the 1990s and the invention of the Flying Bishops within the Church of England, when that mighty pontiff John Richards was gathering together a faithful remnant out of the ruins, he was proud that his Ebbsfleet Jurisdiction included Evangelicals.
In 1983, our great Anglican Catholic Magister Catholicae Veritatis Eric Mascall had written: "Stated as simply as possible, the question is thus: Is the Christian religion something revealed by God to man in Christ having an unconditional claim on our obedience, or is it something to be constructed for us by ourselves in response to our own desires and the the pressures and assumptions of contemporary culture? It is in accepting the former of these alternatives that traditional Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism stand side by side against the liberal modernist relativism and and naturalism."
A man who might be called the theological godfather of the Ordinariate, Fr Aidan Nichols O.P., wrote (both before and after the erection of the Ordinariate) of such a body as representing "not only the distinctively Catholic teachings of the Tractarians but also the emphasis of the Evangelicals on the Atonement, and in fact the Tractarians and the Evangelicals are not wholly to be separated out when we bear in mind the Evangelical roots of some of the Oxford Fathers."
Some years ago, I took part in some private theological discussions between Catholic Anglicans and Evangelicals (mostly of the Calvinist variety). One of the latter said to me afterwards "I can see why, under this present pope [Benedict XVI] you are so keen on the papacy. But what if a different sort of pope came along ...".
It turned out to be a fair question! But I pray that, at least in the next pontificate, a vibrant Catholic-Evangelical synergeia will again become possible. In the meantime, I believe we could all benefit from a rereading of the document Dominus Iesus, in which the future Pope Benedict, Founder of the Ordinariate, asserted against all comers the unique and salvific Lordship of Christ our Redeemer.
All may be not quite perfect at the moment in the Catholic Church. But at least we can be sure that we are fighting the right battle in the right place.