Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Anatomy of Error II

Last week I provided a link to the first installment of An Anatomy of Error from New Directions, published in 2003. This week I present the second, a gloves off bit of theological apologetics. Here is an excerpt:

But the ‘problem’ of Jesus need not be framed in radical feminist terms; it is, in fact, endemic in the whole movement. Since it is axiomatic for supporters of women’s ordination that a male priest cannot adequately represent women, the question naturally and inevitably arises: how can a male incarnation?

Read the whole thing, and feel free to comment here on The Continuum.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


John 6: 5-14
I recall specific miracles that I have seen with my own eyes. For years my mother carried around before and after x-rays of her spine, sort of the way some people have before and after pictures to show the results of a diet. Before we prayed for her spine, every vertebra was out of place and the whole spine was crooked. Afterward, immediately afterward, the whole spine was perfectly straight (I recall watching her move in response to what looked like reactions to invisible hands under an aqua colored blouse quickly rearranging each vertebra). I remember in 1976 a lady who had a deformed left shoulder, in the town of Westminster Maryland, whose husband was an alcoholic that always drank away half their income. Through a camel colored blouse, I saw the left shoulder instantly straightened and rebuilt during a prayer. The real punch line to that story is that her husband, seeing the obvious result of a miracle, sobered up and became very serious about his Christian faith. The last time I saw them was twelve years later, and they were doing very well. I don’t want to sound at all like one of those faith healing television evangelist types; but, I do want to make it clear that I am an eyewitness to miracles, and could not have a problem accepting as literal fact the miracles of the Bible, including the one we just read about, even if I wanted to.

In the 1960s it was rather trendy to try to explain away the miracle in today’s Gospel, using the Stone Soup theory. Of course, there would be no point in telling this story at all unless it was for the purpose of reporting another miracle of Christ. People who need to try to explain away miracles really do not need to be reading the Bible, since they cannot make sense of any of it. Either believe the story or don’t; but don’t play with it.

The problem is partly a philosophical void: the Rationalist cannot use his mind rationally. Anyone who notices that the universe just happens to exist, is living all the time with the evidence of the first miracle of the Bible, the Creatio ex nihilo. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” To make everything out of nothing is much more impressive than the multiplication of existing material, a little bit of bread and fish to feed thousands. I believe that we need not fear that the Church will vanish away from the earth, or that the Gospel of Christ will disappear. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, we have a Divine promise that His word will always be taught faithfully. “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15).”

Notice, in today’s Gospel the miracle came at a time of need, since there was no food for the people in the wilderness, just as there had been no food when the people came out of Egypt and were in that wilderness. The manna came in the days of Moses, and Jesus fed thousands of people on this day with next to nothing. In scripture, we often see miracles coming in the time of need. Imagine the people with Pharaoh’s army behind them, and the Red Sea before them. This was a perfect setting for God to show the power of His hand. The people who seemed to be in the greatest danger were the ones who, as it turned out, lived through the experience; safer to be one of those escaping slaves on the shore than to be in the mighty army, because everything was in the hands of God. The former slaves went forward on dry land in the midst of the sea, forward into freedom and the Promised Land; and the mighty army drowned.

The fact is we all are on the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptians coming up after us. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Cor. 15:19).” We all need a miracle, because we shall most surely die- unless the Lord returns first. Even so, those who are alive at that time will have to die to this life, and shed their mortal nature.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Cor. 15: 50-54).”
To share in Christ’s resurrection is our only hope; unless the waters of that sea part, we are doomed. So, we must believe in miracles in order to have the hope of Christians, and we must believe not only that miracles can still happen: we must look forward in anticipation of the greatest miracle of the future, which roots our hope in the past. Christ rose from the dead after bearing away our sins on the cross. Saint Paul reminded the Church at Corinth that Christ's appearance to witnesses after His resurrection, was an essential part of the Gospel as he preached it. Because they died rather than change their eyewitness account, the word “martyr”- that is, witness- has come to mean someone who dies for his testimony. The shed blood of the early martyrs is a guarantee that they have left to us that we may always have hope, knowing that the dead are to be raised. So we call it “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.”

Among Satan’s ministers, preaching in many pulpits today, the mission is to destroy your hope and joy, and to restore to you the terror of the grave. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 15:57).” We have the food and drink of eternal life, given to us by Christ Himself. When we read on in this sixth chapter of John, after Jesus walked across the lake, the multitudes came and met Him on the other shore.
“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world… I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.’ ”

Ultimately, that is the greater message of this Gospel passage. The Lord Jesus multiplied these loaves and fish because He was teaching, by this miracle, that He Himself is “the True Bread that comes down from heaven, which, if man eat thereof, he shall live forever.” He taught that His flesh is food indeed and His blood is drink indeed, and that by Him we are nourished with eternal life.

He commanded that the fragments left over from this miracle be gathered up and that nothing be lost. In this world, first by His creation, and then even more so by His coming in the flesh as fully God and fully Man, material things can take on the quality of holiness. This bread was too holy to be treated with disdain and left to spoil. And, it was only a mere symbol of this bread and wine, which will become the Reality of His Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of this altar. If you wonder why we go to so much trouble not to profane the sacrament, to preserve it set apart in the tabernacle, remember this story. It was a miracle that only served to shadow this greater miracle that will happen here today; it was used by Christ to teach that we must feed on Him, and do so in faith, to have His risen life within us.

The miracle of His resurrection is our hope for the future. We depend on the God of miracles to give us our share in Christ’s resurrection.

What Could He Be Talking About?

The Telegraph's story on the pope's upcoming visit to Turkey ended on this enticing note:

The Vatican is clear that the trip's main purpose is religious. The Pope will meet and pray with Patriarch Bartholomew I, one of the leaders of the Orthodox Church.

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, a bishop who works on ecumenical issues, said "there are no doubts that news will be announced" about the relationship between Rome and the Orthodox faith during the trip.

What could the good monsignor be talking about?

PS to journalist Malcolm Moore: It is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and he is ever so slightly more than one of the leaders of the Orthodox Church. He is the spiritual leader of the Orthdox world.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Collect

Next week is the First Sunday of Advent, abbreviated as Advent I, and the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Catholic church.

With the intent of broadening the spiritual content of The Continuum, we will inaugurate on Advent I a new weekly feature -- The Collect.

Each week, we will post the collect for that week, along with a short commentary. The commentary will, whenever possible, include some history on the background of that particular prayer. It will also include some reflections on what the collect is saying and how we might make it a part of our own lives.

I am inaugurating this series as part of my own ministry, and hope to write many of the weekly commentaries. However, I am also looking forward to my co-hosts contributing, and would also welcome any reader of The Continuum to offer to take on the work for a given week. Any readers so interested are invited to contact me by email.

In the meantime, as we prepare ourselves for this new venture, here is a bit of background on collects and what they are all about.

Those of you who grew up in the Anglican tradition, or have come to it from the Roman Catholic and other liturgical churches, will be familiar with the use of the collect in the Mass and in the Daily Offices. But even you might find edifying the following article, in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which traces the history of this type of liturgical prayer.

Francis Procter in A New History of the Book of Common Prayer (revised and rewritten by Walter Howard Frere) tells us that a collect is "a form of prayer with special characteristics of its own; these stand out the more clearly by contrast with two other types of prayer, viz., Litany, which is prayer in dialogue, and Eucharistic prayer."

Procter says the "Collects were originally the summing up of the private silent prayer of the congregation: the officiant propounded certain subjects for prayer in the form of a bidding."

He goes on to explain that the "typical Collect of the old Roman sacramentaries, from which collections a great number of the Collects of the Prayer Book is taken, has also a structure, which is markedly its own, being distinguished by unity of thought and terseness of expression. It generally consists of (i) an introductory address and commemoration, on which is based (ii) a single central prayer: from this in turn (iii) other clauses of petition or desire are developed, and (iv) the whole concludes with some fixed form of ending.

What we will be focusing on in this series is one type of collect, the Eucharistic one, and specifically the one that precedes the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. Some of these collects are ancient in composition, and were translated by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in the process of his producing the first Book of Common Prayer, which was introduced in 1549. Others were written by Cranmer and his collaborators.

These collects, which like the rest of the BCP are profoundly bibilical in content, focus on the themes of the seasons of the liturgical year -- Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity -- or on specific occasions within the year, such as a saint's day.

Their liturgical significance is manifold. Firstly, they serve to do just what their name implies -- focus the prayers of the faithful around the world and throughout the ages on one single theme. Secondly, they serve as a devotional tool, by giving us a theme on which to focus our study, prayer and meditation on that given day or week. And finally, and taking into account the centrality of how Anglicans worship as a reflection of what they believe (lex orandi lex credendi), the collects contribute to the safeguarding of sound Christian doctrine.

I pray that this series will be a blessing to us all -- those of us who produce it and those who read it.

Justitia Facta Est!

"British Airways is to lift its ban on workers openly wearing small crosses after an unprecedented backlash from MPs, bishops and customers," The Times reports.

"BA made the decision after 100 MPs and 14 bishops joined a campaign of support for Nadia Eweida, a check-in worker who lost an employment appeal to wear a tiny cross. It comes after condemnation by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a threat from the Church of England to sell its £9 million stake in the airline."

Read it all here

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Anatomy of an Error

Forward in faith/UK has been publishing New Directions for several years. The magazine is mostly the work of Anglo-Catholics in England, but its relevance extends beyond that country. I have written for the magazine in the past, and so have friends of mine such as William Tighe, David Mills and Patrick Henry Reardon. In 2003 the magazine ran a series about the subject of women in Holy Orders called The Anatomy of an Error. I recommend it as a good place to begin discussions here at this blog. From the first article in the series, here is an excerpt:
The House of Bishops of the Church of England turned to the consideration of Scripture and the Tradition (how adequately readers will judge for themselves) after they had considered the details of actual legislation...The appeal to Galatians 3.28 invariably takes the passage out of its context in the Pauline writings, out of its historical context in both first-century paganism and Judaism, and out of the process whereby ‘the Christian community has reflected on it and interpreted it through history’. It requires the passage to be read in conflict with other Pauline passages; it requires us to suppose that Paul stood in judgement on Jesus himself, who had appointed no women as members of the Twelve; and it foists upon Paul notions of sexual equality unheard of before the European enlightenment of the eighteenth century.
Read it all here.

No News is ... No News (II)

Judging from the underwhelming number of comments to the first post of this title, I figure that the silence must be attributable to one of two things: a) the powers-that-be in the Anglican Continuum are not reading this blog or b) they are satisfied with the extent and quality of their exposure in the press.

There is, of course, at least one more possibility -- that they are reading and are concerned but choose not to comment. For the benefit of all two of you, here is a good set of pointers found on GetReligion:

So how do the journalistic “usual suspects” become the “usual suspects” who get rounded up in news report after news report?

1. Outright bias
The reporter has an agenda, and calls the expert he knows will give him the quote he wants to spin the story a certain way. If, for example, you want to make Evangelicals come across in a certain way, you will call Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, even though their influence on the broad swath of Evangelicalism has long been waning.

2. Laziness, or expedience

No reporter can be expert in everything, and all reporters work under strict deadlines. Lots of times they’ll do a Google or a Nexis search to see which expert in which given field has been previously cited by reporters. “Norman Ornstein” turns up a lot. He’s an American Enterprise Institute scholar who knows a lot about Washington politics. Nothing wrong with his advice, but one reason he’s so widely quoted is . . . because he’s been so widely quoted.

3. Ignorance
This is closely related to No. 2. A reporter who means well, and who has the time to research a story, may be unaware of the nuances of a particular field, might not understand that the favored expert is not really expert. She’s going on past reputation as a guide to present expertise. The difference between this and No. 2 is that she really may be trying to do the best job she can, and not cut corners, but her ignorance of the subject area leads her to fall back on the usual suspects, thinking she’s gone to the leading expert.

4. Media-friendly sources
Nothing makes a source rise to the “must-call” list of a reporter faster than the source’s willingness to take the reporter’s call, or to call him back as soon as possible. Again, it’s a deadline thing. A lot of the experts you see quoted so often build up their reputation with the media by being helpful and accomodating. It’s hard to express to those not in the business how helpful that is to a reporter on deadline. (This is why it’s good to remember that if a reporter calls you for a quote, if you intend to speak to the reporter at all, call her back as soon as you can; she’s got a story to file, and if you don’t get back to her promptly, she’ll go to somebody else who will.)

These tips come from an article by Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my fellow Americans, whether they are at home or, like me, abroad.

I nearly forgot, as it is "just another day" here in Cyprus, and my mind was occupied with all the horrors of the news in this part of the world -- the biggest sectarian slaughter yet in Iraq since the end of the war, the funeral in Beirut of an assassinated cabinet minister and the Palestinians' first Granny Bomber.

There is so much that we have to be thankful for, and I trust our prayers are with those who are enduring so much suffering.

I also have a personal anecdote to share -- and I can't think of a more appropriate place to do so than on this Anglocatholic blog.

As it happens, I am a descendant of one of those Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony, and my middle name -- Winslow -- is in honor of him, Edward Winslow.

But I think if Edward knew about my churchmanship, the poor fellow would spin in his grave. You see, he was very much a Cromwell man.

Here is a potted biography of Edward Winslow, from mayflowerfamilies.com:

One of the first to step upon the shores of the new land, Edward Winslow was elected governor of Plymouth in 1633. He was called a printer of London and is believed to be the principal author of Mourt's Relation (1622) and the author of Good News From England, A Relation of Things Remarkable in That Plantation (1624), Hypocrisie Unmasked (1646) and New England's Salamander (1647).

He returned to England several times, and in 1624, his first trip, brought back the first cattle of the colony. In 1635 he was jailed in Fleet Prison, London, for seventeen weeks--persecuted for solemnizing marriages as a magistrate. Winslow was the son of Edward and Magdalene (Oliver) Winslow, and the eldest of five sons, all of whom came to Plymouth. His first wife, Elizabeth Barker "dyed in the first winter," and he remarried Susanna White, widow of William White, a fellow Mayflower passenger and who also died in 1621. Of five known children, Josiah ("Josias") and Elizabeth were the only surviving children mentioned in his will.

Edward Winslow was twenty-five years old when he arrived at Plymouth in 1620, and he was thirty-seven when he became governor some twelve years later. One of only two men to alternate as governor with Bradford (the other being Thomas Prence) during the 1630s and 1640s, he was probably the most aristocratic of the Mayflower passengers in upbringing, and certainly in outlook (his correspondence with Bay Governor Winthrop shows a thorough underlying belief that some by birth were intended to govern).

Winslow became the colony's main emissary to England, and he engaged in numerous diplomatic and trade negotiations with the other New England colonies. In 1646 he was chosen by Governor Winthrop and the Bay Colony magistrates to go to England as their representative to defend the Bay General Court from the charges being made to Parliament by William Vassall and Robert Child .

At the time Bradford ended his History, Edward Winslow was still alive in England, and the last words of the History are "So as he [Winslow] hath now bene absente this 4 years, which hath been much to the weakning of this govermente, without whose consente he tooke these imployments [that is, Parliamentarian service] upon him," a double lament.

While in England for the last time, Winslow accepted employment in Oliver Cromwell's government and in December of 1654 was appointed commissioner, along with Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables, of the ill-fated expedition to the West Indies to capture the island of Hispaniola from the Spanish. After the defeat at Santo Domingo, Edward Winslow died of a fever on the voyage from Hispaniola to Jamaica and was buried at sea. "He fell sick at sea betwixt Domingo and Jamaica and died the eighth day of May, which was about the sixty-first year of his life."

Statements by Rowan and Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams today shared worship together at the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The worship followed a formal Audience in the Papal Library.

Following are the texts of statements made by each of them, as well as a joint declaration, published by the Anglican Communion Office:

Text of Archbishop's greeting

Your Holiness,

It gives me great pleasure to be able to greet you in this city, which was sanctified in the very early days of the Christian era by the ministry of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and from which so many of your predecessors have borne noble witness to the transforming Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Early in my ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury, I was able to visit your much loved and venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and to bring to him the greetings of the worldwide Anglican family of churches of some eighty million Christians. Pope John Paul had inspired many throughout the world by his dedication to Christ, and, as you know, had won a special place in the hearts of many beyond the Roman Catholic Church by the compassion and steadfastness revealed in his ministry to all.

As we meet on this occasion, we are also recalling and celebrating the visit forty years ago of my predecessor Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI, when this encounter between the leaders of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches initiated a process of reconciliation and friendship which has continued to this day. The ring that I wear today is the episcopal ring which Pope Paul gave to Archbishop Michael, this cross the gift from Pope John Paul II, symbolic of our shared commitment to work together for the full visible unity of the Christian family.

It is in that same fraternal spirit that I make this visit now, since the journey of friendship that they began is one that I believe that we should continue together. I have been heartened by the way in which from the very beginning of your ministry as Bishop of Rome, you have stressed the importance of ecumenism in your own ministry. If the Good News of Jesus Christ is to be fully proclaimed to a needy world, then the reconciliation of all Christians in the truth and love of God is a vital element for our witness.

I say this, conscious that the path to unity is not an easy one, and that disputes about how we apply the Gospel to the challenges thrown up by modern society can often obscure or even threaten the achievements of dialogue, common witness and service. In the modern world, no part of the Christian family acts without profound impact on our ecumenical partners; only a firm foundation of friendship in Christ will enable us to be honest in speaking to one another about those difficulties, and discerning a way forward which seeks to be wholly faithful to the charge laid upon us as disciples of Christ. I come here today, therefore, to celebrate the ongoing partnership between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, but also ready to hear and to understand the concerns which you will wish to share with me.

However, there is a task which is laid upon us both as pastors of the Christian family: to be advocates of reconciliation, justice and compassion in this world – to be ambassadors for Christ – and I am confident that an honest exchange of our concerns will not be allowed to eclipse what we can affirm and proclaim together – the hope of salvation and healing found in the Grace and Love of God revealed in Christ.

Feast of St Clement
23rd November 2006

Message from Pope Benedict XVI to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Your Grace,
Dear friends,

Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ! Your visit here today brings to mind the important custom established by our predecessors in recent decades. It also reminds us of the much longer history of relations between the See of Rome and the See of Canterbury which began when Pope Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine to the land of the Anglo-Saxons over 1400 years ago. I am happy today to welcome you and the distinguished delegation accompanying you. This is not our first meeting. Indeed, I was grateful for your presence, and that of other representatives of the Anglican Communion, at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, and again at the inauguration of my pontificate a year and a half ago.

Your visit to the Holy See coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the visit of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, to Pope Paul VI. It was a visit filled with great promise, as the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church took steps towards initiating a dialogue about the questions to be addressed in the search for full visible unity.

There is much in our relations over the past forty years for which we must give thanks. The work of the theological dialogue commission has been a source of encouragement as matters of doctrine which have separated us in the past have been addressed. The friendship and good relations which exist in many places between Anglicans and Catholics have helped to create a new context in which our shared witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been nourished and advanced. The visits of Archbishops of Canterbury to the Holy See have served to strengthen those relations and have played an important role in addressing the obstacles which keep us apart. This tradition helped give rise to a constructive meeting of Anglican and Catholic bishops in Mississauga, Canada, in May 2000, when it was agreed to form a joint commission of bishops to discern appropriate ways to express in ecclesial life the progress which has already been made. For all of this, we give thanks to God.

In the present context, however, and especially in the secularized Western world, there are many negative influences and pressures which affect Christians and Christian communities. Over the last three years you have spoken openly about the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the future of the Communion itself. Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations. It is to be hoped that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue be taken seriously in your discernment. In these deliberations we accompany you with heartfelt prayer. It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity.

The world needs our witness and the strength which comes from an undivided proclamation of the Gospel. The immense sufferings of the human family and the forms of injustice that adversely affect the lives of so many people constitute an urgent call for our shared witness and service. Precisely for this reason, and even amidst present difficulties, it is important that we continue our theological dialogue. I hope that your visit will assist in finding constructive ways forward in the current circumstances.

May the Lord continue to bless you and your family, and may he strengthen you in your ministry to the Anglican Communion!

Common Declaration of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI

Forty years ago, our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, met together in this city sanctified by the ministry and the blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They began a new journey of reconciliation based on the Gospels and the ancient common traditions. Centuries of estrangement between Anglicans and Catholics were replaced by a new desire for partnership and co-operation, as the real but incomplete communion we share was rediscovered and affirmed. Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey undertook at that time to establish a dialogue in which matters which had been divisive in the past might be addressed from a fresh perspective with truth and love.

Since that meeting, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have entered into a process of fruitful dialogue, which has been marked by the discovery of significant elements of shared faith and a desire to give expression, through joint prayer, witness and service, to that which we hold in common. Over thirty-five years, the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has produced a number of important documents which seek to articulate the faith we share. In the ten years since the most recent Common Declaration was signed by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the second phase of ARCIC has completed its mandate, with the publication of the documents The Gift of Authority (1999) and Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ (2005). We are grateful to the theologians who have prayed and worked together in the preparation of these texts, which await further study and reflection.

True ecumenism goes beyond theological dialogue; it touches our spiritual lives and our common witness. As our dialogue has developed, many Catholics and Anglicans have found in each other a love for Christ which invites us into practical co-operation and service. This fellowship in the service of Christ, experienced by many of our communities around the world, adds a further impetus to our relationship. The International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) has been engaged in an exploration of the appropriate ways in which our shared mission to proclaim new life in Christ to the world can be advanced and nurtured. Their report, which sets out both a summary of the central conclusions of ARCIC and makes proposals for growing together in mission and witness, has recently been completed and submitted for review to the Anglican Communion Office and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and we express our gratitude for their work.

In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue. We are grateful to God for the gifts of grace which have accompanied them. At the same time, our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that in renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous.

As Christian leaders facing the challenges of the new millennium, we affirm again our public commitment to the revelation of divine life uniquely set forth by God in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that it is through Christ and the means of salvation found in him that healing and reconciliation are offered to us and to the world.

There are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer co-operation between us: the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world marred by conflict and the threat of terrorism; promoting respect for life from conception until natural death; protecting the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of children in the context of healthy family life; outreach to the poor, oppressed and the most vulnerable, especially those who are persecuted for their faith; addressing the negative effects of materialism; and care for creation and for our environment. We also commit ourselves to inter-religious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters.

Mindful of our forty years of dialogue, and of the witness of the holy men and women common to our traditions, including Mary the Theotókos, Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury, we pledge ourselves to more fervent prayer and a more dedicated endeavour to welcome and live by that truth into which the Spirit of the Lord wishes to lead his disciples (cf. Jn 16:13). Confident of the apostolic hope "that he who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion"(cf. Phil 1:6), we believe that if we can together be God’s instruments in calling all Christians to a deeper obedience to our Lord, we will also draw closer to each other, finding in his will the fullness of unity and common life to which he invites us

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wanna Add a Question or Two?

Some wag recently expressed surprise that those tough hacks who have been grilling Katharine Jefferts Schori over her faith left out some of the most probing questions, such as "what is your favorite color" and "is Bob Dylan as good as he used to be."

Seriously, though, Terry, a commenter on Amy Welborn's blog Open Book, had the following to say: "Bishop Jefferts Schori’s interviews always feature softball (or even NERF-ball) questions. Here are some questions I would like to see a reporter ask her (I can dream can’t I...):

In your papers and press releases prior to your election as Presiding Bishop, you made a big point of “el buen Samaritano” and your deanship of the “Good Samaritan School of Theology.” Yet, you have admitted both of these were inflated terms. They have also disappeared from any post-election materials (such as the Episcopal page ‘Who is the Presiding Bishop?’). Why did you lie on your resume?

Why were you elected? On paper, even with your inflated claims, you were clearly the least qualified candidate. Were you elected solely because of your gender?

During your tenure as Bishop of Nevada, you used the Kairos Prison Ministry materials inappropriately. This organization considers the breaches significant enough that they are suing the Nevada Diocese for copyright violations. Would you care to comment?

The Kairos organization feels that their approach of gender-specific ministers for prison populations is both sound Biblically and practically? Would you care to comment.

What happened to “el buen Samaritano?”

Reporters seem to be very impressed by your experience as an oceanographer and as a pilot. Why are these relevant?

During you tenure as Bishop of Nevada, how much did the diocese grow? In that same period how much did the state of Nevada grow? Why do you think the Episcopal percentage is so much lower?

Jesus said, “No one comes to the father except through me.” What does that mean?

The Episcopal Church has been losing members for many years, why?

Do you really think, as you said in a New York Times Magazine interview, that the conservatives (such as Catholics) are “outbreeding” the Episcopalians?

Is it not possible that the liberal social gospel and ordination and promotion of gay ministers bears some responsibility for the membership loss?

In recent memory, two ministers confessed to breaking their wedding vows, one left his marriage and one did not. Why has one been made an Episcopal bishop and the other has resigned his position in disgrace. Compare and contrast - Vicki Gene Robinson’s marital breakup and Ted Haggard’s fall.

You state in the New York Times Magazine interview that we “are all hypocrites.” Isn’t the Christian belief that “we are all sinners?”

What is sin?

The Episcopal Church in America was at one time named the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. With this Protestant background, how is “deeds-based evangelism” consistent with the Protestant principle of “faith alone?”

Why was one of your first acts as Presiding Bishop the formation of a committee to make sure property does not leave the TEC when parishioners leave the TEC?

Why does all material related to the issue of gay sexuality refuse to include references to Dr. Gagnon’s work. For example, the study guide prepared by the association of Episcopal Seminary Librarians has expressly excluded Gagnon’s work. This is so, even though Biblical scholars consider it a masterful treatment of the Biblical issues.

If the Millennium Development Goals are so important, why is the TEC allocating only seven-tenths of one percent of its budget to them?

If the MDGs are a sign of our deeds-based evangelism, how do you justify the buildings, salaries, and budget of the TEC bureaucracy?

Why have you singled out eight dioceses as “problem dioceses?” What exactly is the problem?

Has the Dennis Canon ever been tested and upheld in a court of law?

You and your supporters often criticize the African Bishops for turning a blind eye to polygamy. Where is the evidence of this?

You have an “honorary” doctorate from CDSP. The African Bishops, as a group, have a significant number of earned doctorates from major Western theological schools. Why should we listen to your theology rather than theirs?

Why is the Episcopal Church in Nigeria one of the fastest growing churches anywhere on earth?

Who is Jesus?

In what way is threatening churches consistent with deeds-based evangelism?

Two churches in Virginia have just proposed leaving the TEC. Their Average Sunday Attendance exceeds that of the entire Nevada Diocese. Shouldn’t their concerns be taken seriously?

In your New York Times interview, you discuss the relative childlessness of Episcopalians in terms of stewardship of the Earth’s resources. In light of this stewardship, what percentage of the TEC budget could be reduces if the offices at 815 were moved to say, Topeka or Omaha? In this day of instant communications and the Internet, surely a less expensive and wasteful location could be found for the headquarters of such an environmentally responsible church.

Why should I be Episcopalian rather than sleep in on Sunday morning?

I understand your mother became an Orthodox Christian in the 1970’s. What was that like?

You have criticised some for placing God in a “little box.” Jesus speaks of the “eye of the needle” and the “narrow way.” Compare and contrast your and Jesus’ viewpoints.

Why has the outreach to LGBT individuals been such a failure in terms of growing the Episcopal Church?

A significant portion of Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) does not allow women to be priests. What is your response to this fact?

At your investiture, I noticed that none of the major celebrants nor you had any cross symbols on their vestments. Was this intentional?

What is the Resurrection?

Do you think Terry has missed anything that needs to be covered? If so, feel free to add to the list.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Women and the Ministry: A Document (II)

Those of you who read the first post in this series may have asked yourselves why it is not rather entitled Women and the Priesthood. The answer is quite simple -- the priesthood is only one narrowly focused form of ministry. It is so firstly within the context of Holy Orders, which also includes the diaconate and the episcopate, and secondly in the broader ministry of the laos, or the people of God.

The priesthood can only be properly understood in the context of the ministry of all believers, and that within the paradigm of the Church as the mystical body of Christ, who is its head, and its many parts, or members: the faithful.

The second document we will publish in this series is Mulieris Dignitatem, an Apostolic Letter issued by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1988.In it, the pope speaks of the full measure of what women can and must be doing in the life of the Church.

The letter begins:

THE DIGNITY AND THE VOCATION OF WOMEN - a subject of constant human and Christian reflection - have gained exceptional prominence in recent years. This can be seen, for example, in the statements of the Church's Magisterium present in various documents of the Second Vatican Council, which declares in its Closing Message: "The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at his moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling". This Message sums up what had already been expressed in the Council's teaching, specifically in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Trinity XXIII

The Epistle. Phil. iii. 17f

The Gospel. St. Matt. xxii. 15f

The Gospel for today sometimes makes me think of Gary Cooper as Sgt. York, sitting on the mountainside with his Bible, looking for answers. The words “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” solved, for him, the question of conscience about taking up arms for his country. Whether or not this verse should be thought of that way is not within the scope of this sermon; but what we can affirm is that he was right to inform his conscience with the word of God.

Often people want to render unto Caesar the things that are God’s, and that includes the conscience. We are taught by Saint Paul to be subject to the authorities, and, if we may put modern American terminology to the Apostle’s teaching, to be model citizens (Romans 13:1f). In every way we obey the law, pay taxes, and respect the offices of those in government. In this way we render unto Caesar what is his due. However, the fact is that Saint Paul was a fugitive writing to other fugitives, or at least to other criminals. In the Roman Empire, from Nero until Constantine (about 250 years), the crime of being a Christian was punishable by death. Is there a built in flaw, a self-contradiction in Saint Paul’s words? Why would law-breakers hold to a doctrine that requires them to be law abiding, model citizens?

To answer that question, we need to understand the boundary line, and that boundary line is the conscience. Furthermore, for a Christian, the conscience cannot be simply a matter of taste, or of feelings. We are required to inform the conscience by the word of God. When I see a “keep off the grass” sign I want to walk on the grass simply because of the sign: but that is not a matter of conscience. When I think the speed limit is too slow I want to break it, but that is not a matter of conscience either. This applies to all authority, even in the Church. When I was in Maryland my bishop made it a matter of obedience that I was to go on a diet and lose weight; I thought long and hard searching for a reason why a diet would violate my conscience; but I could not find one.

The conscience of the Christian is supposed to be informed by the word of God, and so it is the duty of every Christian to learn the scriptures and to learn the meaning of the scriptures from the Tradition of the Church. When the conscience finds itself pitted against authority, it ought to be for a very clear and very real reason. When Saint Peter was before the Sanhedrin, they ordered him and his fellow apostles not to preach the Gospel. But, the risen Christ to whom was given all authority in Heaven and Earth, had commanded them to preach His Gospel to all Judea, and then to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Therefore, speaking with respect and humility, they made it clear that they were determined to obey the Higher Authority: “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5: 27-29) This was not rebellion; it was men under authority clarifying why they must obey God. When we speak of the role of the conscience, it must be based upon this very thing; obeying God, even if it must be “rather than men.”

Totalitarian regimes want to take the place of God. Tyrants want to displace the conscience. In the last Century Christians were subjected to more injustices than during the Roman persecution (and we see no sign that things are getting any better). In the 20th century more Christians died as martyrs than in all previous centuries of the Church combined. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Sadam Hussein, the Ayatollahs and Sheiks of radical Islam, all wanted to be obeyed absolutely, to dominate the conscience of their subjects, to be in the place of God. And, so it remains in this century. The Christians who have been killed for their faith knew something we need to know: We ought to obey God rather than men. When Jesus gave this answer, it was to a hostile question (sort of like a Presidential Press Conference). The question was meant as a weapon, a clever no win scenario. But, the answer teaches us the priorities by which we order our lives as men under authority. Honor the king, however, with Thomas More, be ready to die as the king’s true servant, but God’s first.

In the Epistle we see the very high standard set for the clergy, that we are supposed to live as examples to be followed, just as Saint Paul said in another place, “Be followers of me, as I am of Christ”- a tall order, and one that we cannot disregard. We all know about the scandal a few years ago in that other denomination up the road, in which a man was elected to become a bishop even though he was living in “that kind of relationship” with another man. As I pointed out in the pages of Touchstone, before it ever got to that point, he ought to have been defrocked simply for leaving his wife, and abandoning his child. The priesthood has at its very core the sacraments, and also essential to it is the ministry of the word of God. How can a man represent the sacraments and the word of God by his life, when he becomes notorious for violating and despising the sacrament of marriage, and thereby the whole sacramental ministry and life of the Church, and also thereby lives in open disobedience to the word of God in scripture?

But, understand that he was elected not in spite of these sins, but because of them. He ran as if it was a political election, campaigning on the basis of something called “gay rights.” Why did these allegedly Christian people vote for him? Because of what Saint Paul speaks of here: they are enemies of the cross of Christ. They are not enemies of Christ, but of His cross. Just as those words seemed to be so kind- “far be it from thee Lord; this shall not happen unto thee”- it is Satan who expresses a false love for a weak Christ with a lesser mission. Saint Paul warned the Church in Corinth of those who preach another gospel, another Jesus, and have a different spirit. A false version of Christianity exists, one in which there is no cross. In fact, some churches want to remove the cross from their buildings because it causes offense.

Of course it causes offense. It is supposed to! “The offense of the cross” was very real to the Apostle Paul, because he made the meaning of the cross very clear by his preaching. We must take up the cross in order to follow Jesus Christ; we must die every day to our own desires whenever they are against God’s revealed will. Also, the cross tells man, even the most self-righteous person, just how displeased God is with his sins. It forces him to face the truth about himself, from which he would rather shield his eyes. It gives us the objective standard of divine judgment that each of us deserves. I see Jesus Christ suffering and bleeding, and I see the just punishment I deserve. All pride is gone at the foot of the cross, as is all self-deception.

But, just as we see the sentence of divine judgment, it is only in the cross that we see mercy. It is there that we finally see the love of God fully revealed. In all human history, there is one event in which God has shown His love more than in any other time and place. A few months ago a young couple was in my office because they wanted to find a church that, as they put it, matched their own values and beliefs, and where they could bring up children accordingly. But, they had come here thinking, for some reason, we had something to do with the Episcopal Church; they were looking for a place that blessed “gay” unions, has women priests, and affirmed everybody in his chosen life style. They wanted “feel good” religion, with no cross at its core. Their definition of “love” was not from the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, but rather seemed to be all about physical satisfaction and gratification of desire. I asked them to tell me where, in the whole history of the world, we see the love of God more than in any other? They had no answer, so I had to provide the answer for them. I hope the Holy Spirit will use the words I spoke to trouble their hearts and lead them to the truth. The idea that “God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)” was brand new to them, a completely strange idea as if from another world.

The love of God in the cross tells us that His love is not an easy kind of love, filled with unconditional acceptance. Instead, it is a very demanding love. It not only forgives, but calls us to a higher and better place, giving every believer the vocation to become a saint. Love that is spoken through pain and suffering, scourging and spear, thorn and nails, shakes our world to its very foundation, making us start over and implore Him to make all things new. This is the love that is the offense of the cross. And, when we see this, we may begin to render unto God the things that are God’s.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Women and the Ministry: A Document (I)

A great deal of heat has been generated on The Continuum this week over the question of women and the priesthood. Concretely, the continuing churches were attacked for their "retrogade" stance on the question, and we were asked to state the grounds upon which we base our rejection of the ordination of women to Holy Orders.

That is a more than reasonable request, and one that over the course of a number of posts we shall fulfil.

I need to begin by stating that the position of the continuing churches on the role of women in the ministry is not one that we formulated, but one that we inherited from the universal Church -- founded in Holy Scripture and witnessed to by 2,000 years of Holy Tradition. This, indeed, is one of the reasons we adopted the term "continuing church" to describe ourselves: our purpose was to remain true to the faith as we had received it and not to attempt, as others were, to do something we believe we are not entitled to do.

As a preliminary, I shall post some key documents from the Roman Catholic Church, which set forth its position on the matter. With the Orthodox world being more disparate in terms of ultimate authority, the task is a bit more complicated. But I also intend to post documents from that tradition, once I am satisfied that they are more or less universally accepted within it.

We will then look at specifically Anglican sources of doctrine, all of which have grown out of this broader catholic perspective, though some -- naturally from our point of view -- have distorted that perspective.

The first document is the Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on October 15, 1976 at the instruction of Pope Paul VI.

Pope John Paul II, writing 18 years later in the Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, had the following to say:

"When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: 'She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church.'"

The 1976 declaration begins as follows:

"The Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women. A few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: This innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church. It is true that in the writings of the Fathers, one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to woman, but nevertheless, it should be noted that these prejudices had hardly any influences on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction. But over and above these considerations inspired by the spirit of the times, one finds expressed -- especially in the canonical documents of the Antiochan and Egyptian traditions -- this essential reason, namely, that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense, the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles."

The full text of the declaration can be found here.

Cantuar Heads to Rome: An Interview

The Church Times has published an interview with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams ahead of his trip to Rome and a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

Read it here

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Brood of Vipers

We here at The Continuum, myself particularly, have been taken to task this week for daring to question the orthodoxy of the new presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. (I refer you to two threads here: 'Schori is Not a Christian' and 'Welcome to Anthony Paul Smith').

For having done so, we have been accused of being throw-backs, buffaloes and reactionaries, labeled sarcastically as true believers and charged with speaking sexist and racist bullshit.

We have also been labeled as a brood of vipers. I like that one, because it is at least biblical.

For anyone who spends more than five minutes in the Anglican blogosphere, it is obvious that there is nothing that has been said here that has not been said elsewhere. Moreover, it is being said not just by us "throw-back" continuers, but my members of Schori's own church and by others in the wider Anglican Communion.

Just today, courtesy of Brad Drell, an active and deeply concerned Episcopalian, I found a link to the following.

Perhaps, to borrow the terminology referred to in that piece, I have been too polemic, something I am prepared to consider. So, for the sake of balance, I commend to you this more irenic approach.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Solemn Joy

November 15, 2006. I’m serving our regular midweek Mass. Old Father Davis is celebrating and there are a total of four in the chapel. I start out a little distracted, but we come to the words of the General Confession, and, while accusing myself in the following solemn words, I am suddenly convulsed with a holy laughter.

“Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry, for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us, The burden of them is intolerable …”

Solemn Joy

I know my sin,
I hate my sin,
and yet I sin,
and I say the words,
and mean the words,
and feel the words,
of confession,
and sorrow,
and self-accusing,
and declare that I have earned
and everlasting pain,
and my lips begin to smile,
and my chest begins to heave
with silent rocking laughter,
with the blossoming of joy,
as, unworthy, there I kneel,
unworthy, waiting to be fed
with food I have not earned,
have not deserved,
and yet desire,
and I laugh,
because I know
Your Love
that does not give me what I earn,
but that which once forever
He has earned,
and in the Sacrifice we here present,
has bought, has owned,
and done away,
my sin,
my grievous sin,
condemning sin,
yet gone,
and on the Cross
and in the Loaf
and in the Cup,
I am free,
I am loved,
I am washed,
and in the rivers
of the everlasting Joy,
I laugh.

Hell and Justice

One of my present "projects" is writing a longish paper on Hell. It is very much speculative theology and may in fact brand me a dangerous revisionist in the eyes of some, I suppose. Indeed, I freely acknowledge I could be wrong, although I am trying to remain within the bounds of Holy Tradition and am happy to submit my thoughts to the judgement of the Church. To start that process I am linking to a preliminary excerpt from the paper. I would welcome feedback here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Welcome to Anthony Paul Smith

I'd like to welcome one of The Continuum's newest readers, Anthony Paul Smith. I don't have a clue who he is, but I wanted to share with you his take on the debate about the future of The Episcopal Church under a presiding bishop who is not a Christian.

I discovered it linked from a site called adamkotsko.com/weblog:

Question for all the real theologians out there.

Why the hell would you want to have debates like this? To all the throw back Anglicans, is not your church going the way of the buffalo? And don't you think it a bit convenient for you, the true believers, to have the "priestess" as scapegoat? Fuck that noise. I'll take paganism over this sexist and vaguely racist bullshit any day. I wonder what hope there is for any kind of catholic and orthodox Christianity today to escape from this kind of reactionary bullshit.

I would love to respond, but I'm not really quite sure what it is he's on about.

Perhaps Anthony Paul would be kind enough to elucidate.

What is the Continuum?

There is some interesting discussion in the blogosphere (see the Continuing Anglican Churchman and Philorthodox, as well as Sacramentum Vitae) on just who comprise the continuing Anglican movement.

I am new to the movement, and have adopted without any sort of rigorous academic examination what has appeared to me to be the most obvious definition of a continuing church -- that it adheres to the principles of doctrine and morality set forth in the The Affirmation of St Louis.

That, I am pleased to see, is the the approach that would seem to be suggested by Wikipedia, which traces the growth of the continuing movement out of the 1977 meeting which adopted that document.

But are Wikipedia and I correct?

That is ultimately a rhetorical question, because we have no ultimate authority to pronounce on it.

What does matter, however, is what criteria will be applied when individual jurisdictions consider moves toward intercommunion and even unity. As many of you know, this is already an issue in the developing merger between the Anglican Province of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church.

So, as a discussion starter, what do you say? Are Wikipedia and I right?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Christian Episcopal Church of Canada?

These folks are new to me. I wonder if they have any connection with the Buddhist Episcopal Church of Canada.

Seriously though, folks, isn't a bit tautological to refer to an Episcopal Church as Christian? Silly me. I suppose these days it is not only not tautological, it is absolutely essential in order to differentiate oneself from the TEC.

Using official documents and quoting Anglican theologians, Anglican Bishop, Robert Redmile, sets forth the argument that traditional Anglicans share the same Sacraments and ministerial Orders as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthdox Churches, and sets out in detail various lines of Apostolic Succession within the Anglican Communion and other smaller Anglican jurisdictions.

Read it all here

Christian Charity Bans Christmas

Here's the lates madness from, you guessed it, the Islamic Republic of Britain, courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Operation Christmas Child, run by the charity Samaritan's Purse, sends festive packages to deprived youngsters in countries ravaged by war and famine.

Donors are asked to pack shoeboxes with a cuddly toy, a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and flannel, notepads, colouring books and crayons - but nothing to do with Christmas.

Stories from the Bible, images of Jesus and any other Christian literature are expressely forbidden - in case Muslims are offended.

I really don't understand these people. Why don't they distribute these gifts during Ramadan, which is when God revealed the ultimate Truth to us in the Koran. Rename the operation Ramadan's Child. Problem solved.

Read it all

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Happy Birthday to us

I was trying to think of something profound to say for this occasion. I looked at various articles in early draft form to try to find one that could be quickly finished and published. Then I thought about writing something not so theological, or something off on a tangent. But for various reasons I have decided against that, for now.

So, I will just say this: I am glad Albion invited me to participate in this weblog and thank him for the opportunity. I'm sorry I have not contributed much lately. I'll try to make what I do contribute substantial and edifying. I hope and pray the 'blog will continue to grow in readers and make a difference ecumenically.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

TRINITY XXII The parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matt. 18:21f

The parable of the Unforgiving Servant should remind us of words that the Lord spoke earlier in the same Gospel, in the sixth chapter:
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:9-15)

Later today in this holy Mass we will be bold to say “Our Father.” Following the Prayer Book translation of 1549, we will use the word “trespasses” instead of the word “debts” from the King James Bible, published later, in 1611. However, the word “debts” is actually a more accurate translation of the Greek word opheilema .

The servant owed the king ten thousand talents, but was owed by his fellow servant a mere one hundred pence. The difference is staggering, sort of like a man who was released from a debt of a million dollars demanding full payment from another man who owed about, as one hundred pence suggests, ten dollars. Frankly, the use of absurdity is a method of humor that Christ employed in His teaching (“ye strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” - a perfectly ridiculous picture). But, the fact is that both men in this story were too poor to pay, and could have faced a lifetime of debtor’s prison or slavery unless they were given mercy.

When the Lord Jesus addresses the issue of our sins He forces us to face the fact that we are much too subjective. We do not look at the world objectively, but rather as it affects us, and how we feel. So He compares the act of repentance from our cherished sins to the pain of self-mutilation, an act of amputation. Go back to chapter five:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee (i.e. if it makes you sin), pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:27-30)

For people who are fond of their sins, to repent can feel like self-mutilation, as hard as pulling out an eye, or cutting off a hand. That bit of lust, that secret desire- how can they live without it? Now, after considering the humor in our Lord’s words, let us look as well at the terrifying side of what He says. The price of holding on to sins, including cherished sins, is far worse than being maimed, loosing an eye or a hand. It is an eternity of separation from God. The danger is that those who do not repent in this life could cling to their sins forever, growing more attached to them, going only further into darkness, into Hell.

The same subjectivity that deceives us about our sins, and makes repentance seem painful (painful, that is, until we have done it and realize that we are free), is the same cursed subjectivity that distorts the truth about the offenses that others have committed against us. And so it is that the mercy that was just shown to us, the mercy that forgave us our million-dollar debt, seems small compared to the ten dollars that other guy owes us. That is what sin does to our common sense; that is how it distorts our perspective.

You see, we cannot pay God the price for our sins. It has been paid already; the King Himself to Whom we owed our hopeless debt said, upon the cross before He gave up His spirit and died, “it is paid in full.” The debt is impossible to pay ourselves because we cannot redeem ourselves, and because God is infinite in His Divine Majesty. Yet, it was paid in full, and we are frankly forgiven all. But, whatever offense has been committed against us has been committed against a finite creature by another finite creature. It has been committed against one sinner by another sinner. It has been committed against one creature made in God’s image by another creature made in God’s image. It has been committed against someone for whom Christ died by another person for whom Christ died. It has been committed against one object of God’s love by another object of God’s love. It has been committed against one person called to share in Christ’s resurrection by another person called to share in Christ’s resurrection.

I hope this puts the million-dollar debt against the ten-dollar debt in perspective. Furthermore, we have three classes of wrongs. Some wrongs are very real, for if you live in the real world, somebody somewhere, perhaps even somebody close to you, has hurt you or wronged you. These are the real offenses against you. Other wrongs are simply perceived wrongs, but they seem to be real. Perceived wrongs can be accidental, or maybe even things others have done innocently or even quite correctly because they had to; but from our perspective they appear to be wrong. A third category is the grudge, the wrong we refuse to forgive. Be it real or simply perceived, be it a wrong done to us, or a grudge we bear out of loyalty to another person who bore his own grudge, and for whose sake we must carry on the grudge so as not to feel disloyal to a friend, one who may be dead or alive. Whatever, if we bear a grudge for own sake or for the sake of someone else, it kills us, it brings death into our own spirit unless we cast it off.

I know, I know, it feels like a bigger debt than ten dollars. Bad enough those strangers who hurt you, but if it is a person close to you… That person ought to be dropped into boiling oil, because his ten-dollar debt is so big, so much bigger than the million you once owed the king before he frankly forgave you all. There it is, the curse of subjectivity. Do you know why you are asked to forgive your debtor? For the same reason that God your Father forgives you your debts. You must forgive for the sake of the One Who shed His blood to atone for every sin against God. He bought their forgiveness from the Father, and for His sake you must pray for their salvation.

What will you really mean when you pray today, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us?” Taken in one sense you might not want to ask such a thing. Who would want to limit God’s mercy to the smallness of our mercy? To understand the meaning of this prayer, look at the version of the same prayer from the Gospel of Luke: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4)

And so we see that what this prayer actually says includes your forgiveness being pronounced upon everyone who has hurt you. “Forgive us our debts, as we here and now forgive everyone who is our debtor.” You are pronouncing your forgiveness in the very words of this prayer. And, this brings us to that last problem of subjectivity. You are not forgiving because your emotions agree with the need you have to show mercy. Indeed, your emotions may not agree. But, like that repentance that may seem to be as impossible as cutting off a hand, the pain is not real. The freedom that follows the effort, once the deed is done and the decision made, outweighs the pain we had imagined. Destroy your resentment, cast if off, have done with it, and find your freedom.

In the Old Testament Chronicles, a prophet named Zechariah (not to be confused with the later prophet of the same name), suffered this fate:

And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, “The LORD look upon it, and require it.” (II Chron. 24:20-22)

However, in the Book of Acts, we read of the same fate being suffered by the first Christian Martyr, Saint Stephen centuries later. Notice the difference.

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:57-60)

Saint Stephen had an advantage that Zechariah, centuries before, did not have. We do not criticize Zechariah for demanding justice when he died, because, unlike Saint Stephen, he could not look back to Jesus Christ on the cross. We all know the words from the Gospel of Luke, spoken by Jesus as He was hanging upon the cross: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 24: 34) The Word made Flesh, God the Son in His human nature, showed us what mercy truly is. We already knew that God, from heaven, forgives sins. God cannot be harmed, wronged or deprived of anything. Yet, as a Man, it is God who was mocked, beaten and crucified by sinful men, and who pronounced forgiveness. No angel can preach on this subject as well as I can, for it takes human frailty to speak of forgiving those who can cause us to suffer.

So we do not criticize the holy prophet, Zechariah, of the Old Testament; Instead, we see that Saint Stephen had even more grace, for he could look back to God the Son, in His human nature, forgiving the very men who were murdering Him, who were enjoying the spectacle of His suffering, as they displayed the depths of schedenfreude. Saint Stephen could recall God in the flesh forgiving genuine pains that were inflicted upon His Person.

May our Lord Jesus, grant to us the joy that comes when we are free to love everyone, including those who have wronged us, with that charity placed within us by the Holy Ghost that makes us perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Amen

The Continuum is One Year Old

It is already November 12 in some parts of the world, so I can honestly say that it was a year ago today that I created The Continuum, never imagining that it would blossom in the way that it has.

For those of you who have never read the masthead, this is what was on my mind at the time: I envisioned a "place where those who live in the Anglican Continuum, or who are thinking of moving there, might share in robust, if polite, discussion of matters theological and ecclesiological."

Not long after, I began to flesh out that idea by proposing to make The Continuum the preeminent site for news about the continuing movement and for discussion about what it is, where it is and where it should be going.

At about the same time, I approached Fathers Robert Hart of the APCK and Matthew Kirby of the ACC, with whom I was familiar from other blogs, to join me as co-hosts. They very graciously agreed to do so, and have been mainstays ever since -- both of them with their insightful theological commentary, and Fr Hart also with what has now become a most welcome and inspiring weekly feature, his Sunday sermon.

Also at around the same time, I got to know Ed Pacht. A poet and a Reader in the ACA, he was one of the first people to become a regular commenter on the blog. So impressed was I by his enthusiasm and sensitivity, that I asked him to come aboard as my third co-host.

We have come a long way since. I am thrilled to say that earlier this week, the blog passed the 25,000-hit mark. While I am sure that some of the blogs linked in the sidebar probably have about that many every month, I am quite pleased that we have made gone so far in such a short time, and with what is probably still a fairly small target audience.

Moreover, there is a sense of family with others, including Warwickensis and Death Bredon, who were regular contributors and who then went mysteriously silent. I later discovered the reason why. There O Cuniculi! and The Patristic Anglican blogs were born not long after mine.

This closeness has been strengthened by creation of the Continuing Anglican BlogRing by the host of another mainstay of our genre, Continuing Home. (I hope he will forgive me for not mentioning his name, but it has slipped my mind and I couldn't find it on his blog).

It is also strengthened by the generosity with which I think we all share our material and our commentary, and I am particularly mindful of Fr Gordon Anderson, at The Continuing Anglican Churchman, whose blog celebrated its second birthday just a few days ago.

I would like to thank all of you, and those others, who have been kind enough to link us on their blogs, and to thank CaNN, whose famous Web Elves have increasingly seen fit to include us in their incomparable digest of news and commentary.

Looking forward to our second year, I can only say that I am still saddened by the dearth of news about the continuing movement, here and elsewhere. I would hope that this will change, and that we here at The Continuum can be a force in making that happen. To that end, I would be most grateful if regular readers would do whatever they can to see that we are linked on their parish, diocesan and provincial sites.

In the same vein, I would renew the invitation I made to one and all early on: if there is an event you want to see publicised or a topic you think should be written about, either by us or by yourselves, contact me offline and let me know about it.

I am also working with Ed Pacht on an idea to include more spiritual and inspirational material in the blog, and hope eventually to make the site a bit more graphically pleasing and technologically sophisticated. The latter will first require me to become more graphically and technologically savvy, so bear with me.

In closing, let me thank all of you, those whom I have mentioned and those I haven't, for helping me to make this a joyous experience. The Continuum is part of the emerging electronic ministry of sharing the traditional Anglican faith across the world, and I thank God for giving us the opportunity to excercise that ministry.

May the Father's blessing be upon us, the most Holy Spirit our constant guide in all that we do, so that we might glorify God in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Albion Land

Friday, November 10, 2006

Anybody Know Why?

Al Kimel over at Pontifications has just run a delightful piece on liturgical crossing and bowing in which he commends Anglo-Catholics for keeping alive within western Catholicism the fullest tradition of crossing oneself.

Addressing himself to his Roman Catholic brethren, he asks "why restrict yourself to the opening invocation, gospel, and closing blessing? Live on the edge! Push the ritual envelope! Make a gratuitous sign of the cross!"

He goes on to say that, "in addition to the three occasions mentioned above, Anglo-Catholics also make the sign of the cross at the conclusion of the Gloria in exclesis ('in the glory of God the Father'), at the conclusion of the Nicene Creed ('the life of the world to come'), at the Benedictus qui venit ('Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'), at the consecratory elevations, and at the presentation of the Holy Gifts to the congregation."

For the first time since Al left the Episcopal Church and crossed the Tiber, I can say that I fully agree with him. These are nine (I think I counted them right) occasions in which it is common to see Anglo-Catholics cross themselves during the Mass. And over the years, I have gradually come to adopt all of them (the one at the end of the Gloria being the latest addition to my repertoire).

But I have always been curious, and always forgotten to ask someone, why we cross ourselves at the Benedictus. Does anybody know why? And while you're at it, feel free to share any amusing anecdotes about your own experiences.

+Haverland on Conservative Anglicanism

Well if this ain't an example of what I was talking about in "No News is ... No New," compounded by the fact that I haven't been monitoring things as closely as I should have.

The metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church, the Most Revd Mark Haverland, made a speech on August 22 to the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen. Only thanks to my tardy check today of the Christian Challenge web site did I only discover this now.

C'mon folks! If you don't blow your own horn, you can be sure no one else will.

But let me not distract the reader from the substance of Archbishop Haverland's excellent address, in which he tackles the question of what conservative Anglicanism has to contribute to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Interestingly, he begins by arguing against the use, not only of the term conservative, but also of orthodox. Instead, he proposes that the word traditional is the most appropriate, even if it is still perhaps too broad and comprehensive.

Here's the full address in PDF.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Are REC Orders valid?

Readers of the Continuum may be interested in a discussion I have been having with a priest of the APA concerning their Concordat with the Reformed Episcopal Church, an arrangement that involves exchange of ministers. I have never been able to regard the REC orders as valid, and Fr. Candler Holder Jones accepted the challenge (in a recent E-mail) to convince me. I am very impressed with his arguments, even though I remain unconvinced. This conversation found its way to the blog ALL TOO COMMON.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Schori is Not a Christian

Katharine Schori, the woman elected to head the Episcopal Church in the United States, cannot or will not affirm one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith -- that Jesus Christ is The Way, The Truth and The Life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. A sad day it is when an institution claiming to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church chooses as its leader someone who does not hold, or is at least incapable of expressing the fact that she does hold, to one of the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. In fact, on rereading, I am not even sure that she recognises Jesus as God. I not only do not recognise her as the head of her church, I do not recognise her as a Christian.

If this sounds incredible, read for yourself these comments excerpted from an interview with National Public Radio:

RY: TIME Magazine asked you an interesting question, we thought, "Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?" And your answer, equally interesting, you said "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box." And I read that and I said "What are you: a Unitarian?!?" [laughs] What are you-- that is another concern for people, because, they say Scripture says that Jesus says he was The Light and The Way and the only way to God the Father.

KJS: Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. Umm-- that is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through... human experience... through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus.

RY: So you're saying there are other ways to God.

KJS: Uhh... human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them.. with the ultimate.. with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. Uhh.. uh..that doesn't mean that a Hindu.. uh.. doesn't experience God except through Jesus. It-it-it says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their.. own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus.

RY: It sounds like you're saying it's a parallel reality, but in another culture and language.

KJS: I think that's accurate.. I think that's accurate.

Read the full transcript here