Saturday, October 14, 2006

In All Things, Charity

I would like to draw readers' attention to a pastoral letter here,
jointly signed by the bishops of the Anglican Province of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church in which they plea for greater unity among traditional Anglicans.

In particular, it draws attention to the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas here, which it says "has been created to allow separate organizational structures.

The letter says that, "through FACA we want to forge a deeper union between us. It will facilitate growing into the unity that we possess."

In addition to the APA and the REC, the federation also encompasses the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Mission in America.

I am not nearly the theological expert that are Fathers Hart and Kirby, but it would seem to me that the FACA might provide the vehicle for the unity we so desperately need within the continuing movement, at least in terms of full inter-communion and cooperation in evangelistic and charitable works, if not full structural unity. In short, that it might prove to be the haven to which those now preparing to flee the apostate Episcopal Church might flee.

In that respect, I direct your attention to a recent speech">details here to the Forward in Faith synod in London by the Rt Revd Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy.

This piece says, in part, "outlining the difficulties Anglo-Catholics face in North America, Ackerman said there were 53 separate denominations of continuing churches, with some wanting to be in communion with Canterbury, but not all. 'It is difficult for us to know the path we are to take.' (my emphasis)

"The Anglo-Catholic bishop said that half of his class from Nashotah House is now with the Roman Catholic, Antiochian and numerous continuing churches. "There is not a place for the Anglo-Catholic."(my emphasis)

Bishop Ackerman's lament is not the first such comment I have heard, particularly within the Church of England, where there seems to be little awareness even of the existence of the continuing movement. But I have also heard it from America. A very orthodox TEC priest I know there recently commented that he saw his only options as Rome and Constaninople, because there was "nowhere else" for him to go.

I am raising two questions here, the first in two parts. Could the FACA serve as a prototype for a sort of Alternative Anglican Communion, and are the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King giving thought to joining it? Secondly, as I so often ask, without ever getting much response, why is it that the continuing movement is so poorly known, and so often belittled when it is known?


albion said...

As a discussion starter, the FACA charter states that it is a "Federation of Anglican Provinces or Jurisdictions in North and South America which hold to the primacy of Holy Scripture, the Ecumenical Creeds and Councils, adhere to the 39 Articles of Religion, and the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral."

It makes no mention of the Affirmation of St Louis, a seminal document for continuing churches.

Should this be an obstacle to communio in sacris?

William Tighe said...

I don't make these comments as a "spoiler" -- but:

(1) the "Affirmation of St. Louis" affirms, among other matters, the ecumenicity and , hence, the binding force of the (first) Seven Ecumenical Councils. It is well known that Dr. Toon has of late been polemicizing against any affirmation of the "binding force" of the Seventh Council as "unAnglican" -- although he personally has no objections to it theologically. What is the view of the REC and the APA on the Seventh Council? If it rejects it, or embraces Dr. Toon's position, can Catholic Anglicans go along with it?

(2) I am reliably informed that some bishops of the REC admit Protestant clergy who join their denomination to the exercise of a pastoral/sacramental ministry without any form of reordination. This had been their traditional practice since their begining in the 1870s, although I have been told that in recent years many of their bishops have begun to receive such men as deacons, and subsequently ordain them to the presbyterate. Is this in itself sufficient to prevent communicatio in sacris? (REC bishops used routinely to authorize deacons to conduct the Lord's Supper in the absence of a presbyter, but I have been informed that this sort of thing no longer takes place.)

albion said...

Mr Tighe,

Good to see a comment from you after such a long time, though I see you are a fairly regular reader.

As to your second point, has there not also been some question about the validity of bishops' orders in the REC, or have I confused that with something else? Perhaps Fr Chad of the AFP might clarify that, and any other related points for us.

Further the REC, there is at least one person there who holds no truck with the alliance with the APA because of its "popish" ways, witness the following web site:

albion said...

Sorry, meant to say APA not APF.

poetreader said...

I'm a member of ACA, and thoroughly committed to the proposition that is is sinful not to seek full union of the Continuing churches. An attitude that says, "well, we've got it right. There's no need to reach out to the other jurisdictions," appears to me to be a major error.

However, That doesn't lead me to be satisfied with union on a less-than-orthodox basis. I would not favor full communion with the REC at this point, becuse there is a widespread denial of basic Catholic theology in the matters of Baptismal regeneration, of Eucharistic Presence, and of Apostolic Succession. It does appear that this is changing and that the ones who cannot accept the change will probably break away. Yet these attitudes are so central to their history that, if a union were eventually possible, I would want to see at least a conditional ordination of their clergy. I would be unwilling also to unite with the AMiA at this time due to the presence among them of female 'priests' even though they have pledged not to ordain more. There thus are distinct obstacles in place with regard to these bodies. Due to the closeness of their relationship with REC, I'd also hesitate to unrestricted intercommunion with APA, though not having objections to them in themselves.

If, as it appears to me, FACA is, first of all an instrument for practical cooperation on things our tiny jurisdictions cannpt easily do for ourselves; and secondarily a venue for seeking the true union that is not yet possible, I support it unreservedly. If, however, it would come to be seen as some sort of super-jurisdiction oir to imply acceptance of what cannot be accepted, I would join a clamor for ending the relationship.

It looks like a good start, and one that has to be made, but one that needs to be watched very carefully indeed.


Alan said...


You asked why the Continuing Church movement "can't get no respect?" I will give you some thoughts on that, as a 58 year old cradle Episcopalian who attends a CC. I think that in most cases the problems are more practical and perceptual than theological for the orthodox. The comments below are essentially distilled from many discussions with Episcopalians, both clergy and laity, and represents largely that viewpoint rather than my own.

Anglican's tend to be "organization men and women." They are used to a large organization with the faults but also the security and "quality control" which that implies. Rome and the Orthodox Churches are the same. In the US, the Catholic Church is currently beset by years of ignoring the problem of predatory priests, but this can be seen as one of many failures by individuals, not the larger organization.

By comparison, the CCs have a track record which does not inspire confidence to those who by personality or experience are organizationally oriented. The CCs are often driven by personalities as much as faith, and because of their small size, this has a far greater result. Over the last 30 years or so, something like 40+ CCs have sprung up. A CC diocese can change from one to another at the whim of a single bishop, and have. These CCs range from single churches complete with bishop, to the largest, APCK, which nationally has about the same number of parishes and communicants as a single middle to large TEC diocese. Or 1-2 mega churches. Years ago, the people at IBM, AT&T, Ford, RCA, Intel, and many others didn't pay much attention to a bunch of upstarts from Japan at first, either.

Most CCs are what Peter Toon+ calls "Traditional Language" parishes. Recently, he spoke at a local CC, and in response to a question remarked that he had been working on a book about growing TL parishes. He paused, and commented to much laughter that first, he needed some examples. (I recalled that comment the following Sunday. The parish is a member of one of the larger CCs, and been in existence since about 1992. There were 16 cars at the Sunday service, including the rector/bishop's. My previous TEC parish, 10 years old, has that many cars for the 8 AM Communion service, the smallest of 4 services.) He talked readily about modernized language but not theology versions of the classic formularies and 39 Articles, large screen projections so that the parishioners did not need to juggle multiple books, the advances of desktop publishing, and even praise music. (Shudder!!) Compare this with the universal image outside the Continuum, and sadly often within as well, of a bunch of aging "Frozen Chosen" worshiping the 1928 and 1940 books, or the national equivalent. He remarked that if you were happy with growth of a few people a year, you could get by with educating people into the old style, but if you were planning on several people a week per parish, as the Global South does, this just doesn't work.

In other parts of the world, in a very few countries, the CCs have a size and presence rivaling the recognized branch of Anglicans, Inc. In the US, relatively few people have ever seen a CC, and if they have, probably have not recognized what it was. That is changing rapidly these days. I used to travel for a living, and always tried to find a CC when I found myself away on a Sunday. I am aware, from the Internet, that there are exceptions, but I have never personally found a CC which was not in a unimpressive small building which was difficult to find. Marketing presence does matter.

Of a very practical nature, consider the average age of Episcopal priests. It is in the 50s, and rising. Additionally, many of these priests, and even an increasing number of TEC bishops, are second vocation. They left behind secular careers to serve the Lord. Few have any sort of retirement from their previous careers, and certainly they do not have much discretionary income currently to invest for retirement. It is easy to write this off as worshiping an unholy trinity of Property, Position, and Pension. I am retired from a secular industry and came close to losing my retirement completely. I can understand the view of someone who, perhaps subconsciously, reasons that he gave it all up completely once to serve the Lord, and by continuing to serve faithfully for just a few more years in TEC, he and more importantly his family will be secure. As a result, and it is very human, there is a tendency to justify one's own actions by looking for all the things which make alternative actions undesirable. Dismissing the CCs as a bunch of amiable eccentrics does that nicely!

I am going to be a bit vague here to protect both the innocent and the guilty. Relatively recently, I found myself socially with some very influential and powerful people. They attend a major TEC church, which recently split, and were talking about how that came about. The discussion was about church politics, money, influence, and whether the traditionalists should be prosecuted under the RICO organized crime law. Did I mention, there were lots of lawyers present? At no point was any theological issue raised. I am not saying these were not good people, or even Christians, but they didn't think in the terms that those who departed did. This blind spot made it impossible for them to understand much of the larger picture, and why it was really happening. But it did give them great comfort in their own actions. (In passing, those who in this case did depart included parishioners who were very wealthy, and so there was no question about being able to build or buy a new building immediately, as well as maintain salaries.)

Likewise, those of us who think primarily in theological terms often seem oblivious to the fact that others don't and often can't. Faithful parents who can find an orthodox parish with all the various services that includes are more likely, in good faith and Faith, to chose that as a place to pass on their beliefs to the next generation. The same can be said of many faithful priests, who see the opportunity to guide hundreds instead of handfuls. My previous TEC parish is an example of these choices.

None of the issues discussed are primarily ones of theology, and all have some or several "yes, but" responses and counter examples. However, my own experience is that they are the reasons why most people do not give the CCs the respect you, and I do. In most cases, a consolidation of the existing alphabet soup that the Global South rightly complains about, and the grace of time, will resolve these issues.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent discussion! The APA has received assurances that the REC has ceased the irregular practices with which it has been historically associated, namely, the invalid celebration of Mass by Deacons and the reception of protestant ministers without the benefit of episcopal ordination. However, one point of difficulty which continues to exist is the use of a special rite for the reception of non-episcopally ordained ministers, entitled logically 'The Reception of Presbyters,' in which episcopal hands are imposed on the minister with an imperative formula of authorisation for service in the REC, but with which neither direct prayers of ordination to the presbyterate nor any recognisable ordination forms, such as 'Receive the Holy Ghost,' are utilised. This rite is almost always used in the reception of ministers in Presbyterian 'orders.' I am disconcertingly uncertain of the sacramental validity of the rite in question and I desire very much that the REC would simply follow the universal post-1660 practice of the Anglican Communion and use the Anglican Ordinal for the conferral, first, of the Diaconate and then, the Priesthood. In 2003 my own father-in-law, a former PCUSA minister, was confirmed in the APA and subsequently deaconed and priested with the Anglican Ordinal, as our canons and consistent Anglican tradition require. Aside from this one point of concern, the REC has made great strides in correcting its formerly irregular sacramental practices.

God bless you!

albion said...

It would be fallacious to conclude from the few comments on this post that there is a groundswell of support for unity in the continuum, but not to say that it should be our goal.

I would think it incumbent on the primates of each jurisdiction to have developed, in consultation with their bishops, a policy on the question and to communicate that openly and clearly to the faithful. And there should be a formal mechanism to pursue that end. If that is not the case, it is incumbent on the faithful to demand it.

We know for a fact what the TAC's policy is toward Rome, but I do not recall seeing anything of a formal nature on the policy toward Constatninople or the rest of the continuum. We also know about the formation of FACA, whose website is still under construction.

Could those of you in the TAC and the other jurisdictions perhaps tell us what the situation in your case?

Conceptually, FACA seems to be a step in the right direction. It would be nice if someone among the organisers would speak with us here. In fact, I would be happy to publish any statement or commentary as a separate post.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


You have asked two questions, and I quote: "Could the FACA serve as a prototype for a sort of Alternative Anglican Communion, and are the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King giving thought to joining it?"

The answers are no and no. With all charity, I cannot accept the eagerness with which some Continuers want to refer to the REC as "the first Continuing Church." It was a Protestant revolt against the belief that bishops are necessary, and therefore a revolt against an orthodox belief in Holy Orders. It is impossible for them to have valid sacraments unless they renounce The Declaration of Principles, which rejects the priesthood and the Real Presence, and Eucahristic Sacrifice in no vague terms. I am happy with the thought that they have a group within their ranks who want to do so, but, as of yet, it is not a done deal. Furthermore, because the Sacramental Intention for Holy Orders has been absent among them from the start (not even with the "Minimal Intention" of "doing what the Church does", but, rather a radical rejection of Catholic Orders), we cannot recognize any of their ordinations, and we cannot be deluded into considering their relay race as genuine Apostolic Succession.

As for the AMiA, as has been stated above, they remain compromised as long as they have priestesses at a couple of their altars. One would be one too many. The idea that heresy can be "grandfathered in" is ridiculous.

You also said: "Secondly, as I so often ask, without ever getting much response, why is it that the continuing movement is so poorly known, and so often belittled when it is known?"

Let's ask another question. How can a valid CC be recognized when any simonist vagante can sell any knucklehead the kit to start up a church in his garage? As long as we have freedom of religion, there will be vagante CCs, and vagante "Orthodox" as well as vagante "Old Catholics". One vagante "Orthodox" "bishop" used the title "Shepherd of shepherds and Master of the Universe" - which sounds like he must have been violating a copyright by the Marvel Comics group.

I believe that we have to be willing, on this Site, to help people identify valid CCs. Somebody has to do it.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I see that I made a typo on the word "Eucharistic."

poetreader said...

Basically I'm with you,
Father. While I can see the FACA as a constructive practical program and as a way to keep the unrequited goal of unity before everyone's minds, I can't see it as an approach to unity in itself. The REC's Declaration and its history stand too firmly in the way, a situation that can only be resolved by complete rejection of the Declaration and, at least in the interest of removing doubts, the submission of all its clergy to reordination (either de novo or conditional). APA I could accept readily, if it were not for the question of whether the man at the altar was actually ordained by them or by REC. And AMiA has those lady 'priests'. Yes, unity is a very high priority for Christians, because it is a very high prioroty for Our Lord, but it has to be obtained on His terms. It is good and proper to be on friendly terms with these others. It is good and proper to cooperate with them as far as possible, but unrestricted intercommunion is still far awy.


Doubting Thomas said...

What are the prospects of at least the ACC and APCK reuniting?