Sunday, June 24, 2007

Unity or Schism?

The following is from David Virtue:

The Bishop of the Eastern States of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, (APCK) the Rt. Rev. Rocco A. Florenza has written a letter to his clergy and people declaring that "a state of genuine unity and full communion" now exists with the Anglican Church in America (ACA).

Bishop Florenza's unilateral action has neither been approved nor disapproved by the other bishops of the APCK, a denomination which stands at a crossroads.

The timing of this announcement comes as Archbishop Robert Sherwood Morse has said he will step down as the head of the Continuing Church body.

The election of his successor is scheduled for the end of June.

The staunchly Anglo-Catholic APCK was formed in 1977 following the Affirmation of St. Louis because of fundamental changes by the Episcopal Church at the 1976 Episcopal Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota to accommodate new beliefs and practices i.e. the ordination of women to the priesthood and the adoption of the revisionist 1979 Prayer Book.

The Right Rev. George Langberg is President of the ACA. This Continuing Church body is a constituent member of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) whose Archbishop is Australian-born John Hepworth.

In his letter, Florenza sharply criticized what he called "the brokenness of our witness for Christ as traditional Anglicans.

"Now, some thirty years after the Affirmation of St. Louis...the traditional Anglican expression in the U.S. has grown increasingly fragmented. At present between 20 and 40 groups calling themselves "Anglican" stand divided; and the few major groups whose roots are grounded in the Denver Consecrations, despite sharing communion and in some cases clergy, remain apart." Florenza said the divisions were "man-made."

"How is it possible to remain divided if we share the same apostolic origins, the same theology and the same Sacraments? Such divisions contradict the will of Christ [and] present a stumbling block to out work for Him in this world, and inflicts damage on our witness as traditional Anglican Christians."

Florenza then wrote, "It is in the interest of unity of the Body of Christ that the Diocese of Eastern States, Anglican Province of Christ the King, has renewed its commitment to ever-closer work with those who share the same origins, theology and sacraments."

Florenza then said as "your diocesan bishop I have pledged to increase our cooperation and fellowship with the Anglican Church in America (ACA), a respected body that has been in real and visible communion with this diocese and with the province. Therefore, I now declare openly a state of genuine unity and full communion with these our brothers and sisters who hold fast to the same eternal truths as do we."

A source told VOL. "Bishop Florenza is moving unilaterally toward unity with the ACA because he feels it is right and he has grown tired of the solitary status quo."

"If Florenza encounters opposition from his fellow APCK bishops to his agreement with the ACA, he has the option to move his entire diocese into the ACA," said the source. "Bishop Florenza's letter is a Godly challenge to the current direction of the APCK and is a much needed breath of fresh air and vitality."

I was tipped off to this development early last week, but chose to wait until it actually occurred. I wrote to Bishop Florenza, asking for confirmation and comment, but received no reply.

My source had the following to add: "There is no specific declaration of secession from the APCK, but the idea is that +Morse and the other bishops will take this much as a bull takes a matador's red cape, and go after +Fiorenza to depose him; and then the diocese and most of its clergy and parishes will decamp for the ACA."

We would welcome comment from those involved, particularly Bishop Florenza and Archbishop Morse.

26 comments:

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Sigh.

Now, I am pretty much an ecumaniac, but this kind of behaviour makes me scratch my head.

Since when is acting unilaterally and presenting your brother bishops with a fait accompli being ecumenical? How can you be deliberately non-collegial as a bishop and put it in the category of positive ecumenism?

If he is trying to "challenge" the other bishops, did he start by discussing the issue with them and attempting to bring them to a common mind, which he would clearly be obliged to do? And if he has done that, why would he need to make a big deal about acting unilaterally?

If this action is, as many suspect, not representative of the common mind of the APCK College of Bishops, why would he do this except to force a choice: "keep me and accept that you are at least in mediate communion with the ACA, or get rid of me"? If the final result is him leaving the APCK with his Diocese (or most of it) to join the ACA, how has unity been fostered? Will there not be just as many jurisdictions as before? Will he not have increased rather than reduced tensions between two of the major Continuing Churches?

D. Bunker said...

I sincerely hope the ACC will make and overture to Archbishop Morse's successor and the College of Bishops of the APCK to forge closer ties. Given the distribution of dioceses and parishes of the two jurisdictions a working relationship such as that just promulgated by the ACC and UECNA would do much to strengthen the Continuum's presence.

An Anglican Geek said...

In his letter, Florenza sharply criticized what he called "the brokenness of our witness for Christ as traditional Anglicans.

I fail to see how this action, unless there is more to this story that we don't yet know, does anything to improve the brokenness of traditional Anglicanism. As things stand now, I'd say the cracks are worsening.

I pray that there is more to this story, and that this remainder leads to a happy conclusion.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

There is more to the story, of course. Isn't there always more to the story? (By the way. I am not the oft mentioned source.)

I think that a well placed stick of dynamite here and there, to bring down existing structures by which men have built their own little kingdoms, is a needed remedy. The problem goes back to the first four bishops, none of whom were good enough for the others. The deep theological division between them was really only about who got to be Robin Hood, and who had to be Little John.

Good for Bishop Florenza.

Ken said...

What will this full communion and unity look like?

Will voting delegates from this Bishop be sent to ACA's synods and conventions?

An Anglican Geek said...

I'm all for decreasing the number of petty kingdoms. But unless Bishop Florenza's action somehow leads to the APCK in its entirety seeking organic unity with the ACA, what good will have come of it? Does a border change between two petty kingdoms really improve the realm? Usually, all it does is increase instability.

I hope and pray that we see movement toward unity, rather than an increase in instability, come of this.

Lawrence said...

Yet more rearranging the deck chairs on the ...

Mark Newsome said...

This must undoubtedly be a very good thing. I am not privy to the inter workings of the APCK and I cannot comment on how this may play in the upcoming elections or in the relations between the APCK bishops. But I can say something about the ACA of which my parish is a part and on whose Executive Council I sit (though for neither would I presume to speak or represent). This is a good thing. And will likely be welcomed by ACA clergy and people. The divisions within the continuing churches and all of conservative-traditional Anglicanism are a scandal and should cease immediately. If we unite and turn towards our true foe nothing could stop a right Anglicanism from evangelizing the western world!

anglican said...

Virtue has been hostile to the C C's. for years. His source (whom I know) is reading into & projecting his anxiety, frustrations onto the letter, which if you actually read +Florenza's letter, addresses none of the negative inferences made by the source. Virtue, as a hard rule, requires 2 sources when writing & refused balanced input from a higher placed source in the PCK in his zeal for scuttlebutt on the Continuing Church.

The point raised By Bishop Florenza is simply putting voice to what many have been saying for years when visiting each others parishes or at coffee hour. We are divided by ego and pride of a few keeping us in an uncatholic and sinful state. Can any deny it?

As to Virtue remember he remains a member in good standing in the Episcopal Church and has no problem with WO or the 79' and makes his living off of playing up division- if there be no division he is out of a job- think about that before you take him for an unbiased reporter.

Please do not jump to conclusions or make gossip based on a story that emphasizes second hand opinion rather than the actual content of the letter reported by a guy who has no respect for any of us.

If you must do something please pray for the broken state of the Continuing movement that we might be as Scripture demands- one body.

"A community truly centered in Christ present in the Sacrament cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather it must strive for harmony with other catholic communities. Cooperation among all Christians incarnates that bond that unites them, and reveals to the world the features of Christ the Servant.- Bishop Florenza"

john

Fr. Robert Hart said...

h528Bear in mind that Bishop Florenza is doing what he believes to be best for his most immediate concern, namely, his diocese. I have spoken with him about this enough to know that his own diocese, the churches and clergy that he pastors, have the highest priority in his mind. But, to say more as to why he believes this, we would have to venture into unpleasant territory and become critical. I will enlighten you this far: If any clergyman were offered a position in the APCK, from the other bishops, that involved placing trust in promises, especially from the current bishop in the Southwest, I would advise him not to take the position. He would be gambling with his family's security by trusting the untrustworthy.

Some of us have the scars to prove it, including a respected priest like Fr. Samuel Edwards. I would rather someone buy a used car from Mr. Haney than to gamble with this bunch.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Oh, and John,

I know David Virtue a bit, and I do not believe that hostility is a factor here at all. Yes, he is not one of us, and is not Anglo-Catholic in any sense. But, he is a professional journalist. So far, his reports have been accurate in the recent APCK developments, even though they have been inconvenient for some individuals.

William Tighe said...

Some three months ago, having heard that David Virtue, who had been of more than one mind on the issue for a long time, had finally come out in opposition to WO, I wrote to him to inquire concerning the report. His reply was that he had decided that wO as regards the episcpate and priesthood was a mistake, and was also wrong theologically, but hen added that he continued to support the ordination of women to the diaconate.

anglican said...

Fr. Hart,

Greetings.

To be clear- It is of no inconvenience to me one way or the other, I can't speak for others and that is my point herre- Let Bishop Florenza speak for himself. What he has said is a brave and good thing. Look at DV article- the source has more quotes than Florenza!

I think +F. letter is a wonderful letter and ought be taken at face value until the author says different. Although obviously written with inspiration it is bound to draw accusations of skullduggery and deceit - the usual stuff of CC laundry and the grease that keeps arificial seperation the staus quo. If those accusations come and they come from within the PCK than that will be telling about the motivation of others.

The problem is we see so very little in the way of sensible and manly epistles from any Bishop in the CC calling for some semblance of sanity that the tendency is automatically to start focusing on motivation rather than the message- a tour of Anglican blogs on any related subject will bare me out. Whatever +Florenza's reasons, let him articulate them when he is ready rather than infer as Virtue has done (proving the said tendancy).

As to Virtue, if you read his weekly digest you will see that he has been running the same story over and over for years: "the Anglican Communion break up is imminent" , The 'queers' are taking over and 'the orthodox are leaving' (well ok they have but I'm sick of reading about it)", but he never leaves his precious bread and butter for 'orthodox' waters.

Actions speak louder than words. As to accuracy I recall his attempt to beat a story to the street covering the "Intra" Primates some time ago and he got it all wrong. Most of us have picked up on his sentiment towards the Continuum over the years- no need defend him.

As to trusting existing power structures, I understand exactly what you are saying and no one knows better than you and Fr. Sam and others as of late as well.

Blessings to you,

John

Abu Daoud said...

As a missionary I feel strongly that the main test is this: are these churches (provinces, communions, whatever) evangelizing non-Christians? And I mean here Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and so forth. I know that is going on in the Anglican Communion (Canterbury), but over three years I have not heard of these churches doing anything along those lines.

Also, do any of these continuing churches have any missionaries to the Muslim world? I mean, it's only like 1/6 of the world population, and growing fast. Please let me know, becausse TEC, for all its warts and heresy, does.

Leave your answer anywhere at my blog: islamdom.blogspot.com.

Would really love to know. Am not just being a jerk.

Ohio Anglican said...

If indeed, such actions were taken without the consent of the House of Bishops, and more importantly, without the permission and consent of Archbishop Morse, then this behaviour is inexcusable!

A Bishop is no different than a priest or deacon. Priests and deacons must submit to the Christ-given authority of their Bishop. If they do not, they are deposed and/or excommunicated, and rightly so.

A Bishop must submit to the will of his metropolitan/archbishop/presiding bishop in the same way.

Perhaps Bishop Florenza would do well to read certain sections of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

528Ohio Anglican:

I agree completely with Bp. Florenza's decision. He has done the right thing. However, I have an advantage over you, because I know the whys and wherefores. If you think this was a fast and irresponsible decision, then guess again.

And, by the standard you have put forth, it could be argued that the whole move out of the Episcopal Church was illegal, as were the actions of Saint Athanasius in the fourth century. I do not mean by that to suggest that heresy is the issue here. But, saving the priests and people of his diocese from psychotic and destructive bahvior patterns is an issue here. I refrain from saying more.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

John:

I am not guessing about anything. You should be able to see that I am in open agreement with +Rocco Florenza, and completely supportive of his decision.

Albion Land said...

Here is the bishop's statement:

A PASTORAL LETTER TO BE READ FROM THE PULPITS OF ALL PARISHES AND MISSIONS

To the clergy and people of the Dioces of the Eastern States

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I write to you today
On the Unity of Christ's Church.

On June 9th, 2007, the Diocese of the Eastern States concluded its
annual synod. It was a time of learning, prayer, fellowship and, most importantly, communion. Gathered before the Altar the faithful of the diocese united in the celebration of the Eucharist, joined at that moment with all in the Church that is holy, catholic and apostolic.
The closing mass of this synod was an occassion of profound joy, yet
tinged with the sorrow over the brokenness of our witness for Christ as traditional Anglicans.

Now, some thirty years after the Affirmation of Saint Louis and the
consecration of four priests to the episcopacy by the Right Rev.
Albert Chambers and other bishops, to continue the traditional
Anglican expression in the United States, that witness, begun in great hope and fervent prayer, has grown increasingly fragmented. At present between 20 and 40 groups calling themselves "Anglican" stand divided; and the few major groups whose roots are grounded in the Denver Consecrations, despite sharing communion and in some case clergy, remain apart. One may claim any number of reasons for these unhappy divisions, but they are essentially man-made.

The unity of undivided humanity is the will of God. For this very
reason the Father sent His son, so that by dying and rising for us He
might bestow on us the Spirit of love. Indeed the night before his
sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus Himself prayed to the Father for His disciples and for all those who believe in Him, that they might be one, as He and the Father are one, in living communion. This forms the basis of the duty and responsibility of those in the body of Christ to foster reconciliation and unity.

Daily and during the course of our synod, faithful laity have repeatedly asked, "How is it possible to remain divided if we share the same apostolic origins, the same theology and the same Sacraments?
What precisely is it that separates us?" In truth, such divisions contradict the will of Christ, presents a stumbling block to our work for Him in this world, and inflicts damage on our own witness as traditional Anglican Christians.

A community truly centered in Christ present in the Sacrement cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather it must strive for harmony with other catholic communities. Cooperation among all Christians incarnates the blood that unites them, and reveals to the world the servanthood of Christ.

It is in the interest of unity of the Body of Christ that the Diocese
of the Eastern States, Anglican Province of Christ the King, has
renewed its commitment to ever-closer work with those who share the same origins, theology and Sacraments. As a first step I, your
Diocesan Bishop, have pledged to increase our cooperation and
fellowship with the Anglican Church in America, a respected body that has been in real and visible communion with this diocese and with the province. Therefore, I now declare openly a state of genuine unity and full communion with these our brothers and sisters who hold fast to the same eternal truths as do we.

In the eyes of the world, cooperation among Christians is a form of common Christian witness and represents a means of evangelization commanded by Christ. Such Cooperation based on our common faith, our common origins and our common sacraments is nothing less than the manifestation of Christ Himself.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

Ken said...

After reading the letter, its hard to find fault with it. Other than it would have been nice to have all the bishops of the APCK signatures on it.

It seems like he is definitely responding to the concerns of his flock.

anglican said...

Fr, Hart,

I absolutely do see your point Fr. I never implied you were guessing about anything, my apologies if something I said seemed that way.

Unfortunately, I am not guessing about anything either- all to familiar with the circumstances, We have no dispute with some exception to DV, and that be not worth the price of a good cigar.

I agree with the letter as well. And Bishop Florenza is a godly man and has the 'right stuff'; a lot of folk feel that way about you Fr. as well, if you don't mind me saying so. I hope that inspite of the V. report that folks keep an open mind until things become clear.

Hope to see you sometime send our love from all at St A. to your family.

I agree with Mark Newsome's comments, what good things might unfold before us if we could put away the petty divisions, donatism and old beef's , how much more would we be able to fulfill the Great Commision?

In answer to Abu... The APCK has a mission to an African Nation that has a large Muslim population I am not at liberty to say which as I do not know what those involved are doing and it would be unwise to name the counrty considering the great risks for all involved.

Contra Mundum,

John

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Of relevance to this discussion is my latest post.

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2007/06/donatism-and-old-beef.html

anglican said...

RIght on Fr. !

Donatism and old beef- does kinda have a dirty old menu, greasy spoon platter from some smoke filled (cigarette not incense mind you) forgoten backwater anglican diner ring to it don't it?

"has a few crazy aunts and brothers to hide in the attic as well as some bodies hidden in the basement"
Ha-ha, Being southern I can relate.

Glad I could coin a phrase for you to "steal". Spot on.

Ok, heres another one... Pop up Meat Thermometers, you know ... like the one in the turkey roast: pop your done! I have always thought it would be fun to send a bunch as lapel pins to the next TEC GC. and don't forget my favorite when debating episcopagans- better stock up on some Shake and Bake!

St. Athanasius for paton Saint... I like that, seems I've had that conversation with a few believers about three years ago;>}!

Sic em!

John



IF... it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ That death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power. Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally”. –Athanasius

Ohio Anglican said...

While the intentions may have been good, the best intentions in the world cannot fix a problem of no discipline in a church.

If a bishop does not follow Canon Law, he might just as well go buy his own TV station and become a TV Evangelist. TV Evangelists and the so-called inter-denominational sects that abound in this country all operate on absolutely no rule of law. To not follow Canon Law is to set oneself up as a "dictator-type Protestant preacher" who runs an inter-denominational sect.

There are ways of accomplishing worthy goals by following Canon Law. The House of Bishops of the A.P.C.K. will meet on the Feast of St. Peter (June 29). This action should have waited until after receiving approval from that body.

No matter how worthy the sentiment, it is ruined by this failure to follow Canon Law.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Fr. Robert Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr. Robert Hart said...

Ohio Anglican

What makes you so sure that Bp. Florenza has violated Canon Law? I see nothing in the APCK Canon Law that he has violated.

But, I tell you, that Bp. Florenza is protecting the flock under his care. I fear that soon I will have to explain this in more detail; I don't look forward to the task.

Anonymous said...

Ohio Anglican

What if the whole process of the House of Bishops was fixed including the election? What if it were all the not the rule of law but the whim of one man who has surrounded himself with people who are afraid to vote either their own mind or allow the Holy Spirit to operate? What if the Canon's can be changed situationally without the hose of bishops? What would you think?