Thursday, June 28, 2007

What to expect

Do not expect me to write this way often. Normally, I write to edify and teach. But, too many issues are coming at us so fast that clarification is needed. Normally, I write as a pastor and teacher; but sometimes one must accept the role of a prophet, however relunctantly.

This weekend you can expect to see Bishop James Provence become the new Archbishop of the APCK. Bishop Provence is a very sound orthodox man whose grasp of theology is excellent, and with whom I have had only pleasant, and edifying, conversations. However, real leadership will continue to come from Archbishop Robert Sherwood Morse. I mean "leadership" in the sense that Ronald Reagan was a leader; that is, apart from official status or position, someone people follow. What I saw during a visit to Berkeley was that his real heart is in the personal witness he continued to give to students at the University campus there, never tiring from this task despite his advanced age (which may have slowed down his walk, but never his mind), and in St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary. I could not help but feel both respect and affection for the man I saw.

Also, expect that Bishop Rocco Florenza and his whole diocese will be forced out of the APCK, despite that fact that his recent actions do not violate any portion of Canon Law.

Unfortunately, despite its orthodoxy and very high standard of education for clergy, the APCK has a track record of destroying some of its most faithful and effective clergy. We can only hope that the new archbishop will make it his task to find a way for this to end. Instead of Canon Law prevailing, and instead of true pastoral oversight from the bishops, the clergy have been kept in line with intimidation, watching examples made of men who fall into disfavor, not because of sin or heresy, but because of their public profile, or because of imagined threats that they pose to some unwritten rules to maintain the structure.

One example of the kind of behavior that must end is the case of Fr. Novak, a faithful priest who took his role as Ecumenical Officer too seriously. Because he was actually getting something accomplished, his income was taken away, and the Provincial Development Fund foreclosed on his Church (that is, the bishops as a group sold the church property after calling in their loan by majority vote). Fr. Novak is now selling vegetables for a living, and holding his congregation together as they enter a different jurisdiction. Another case is that of Fr. Samuel Edwards, highly respected (as he ought to be) everywhere by faithful Catholic Anglicans- that is, everywhere except among bishops of the Province of Christ the King. Over the years many others have simply been thrown to the wolves for no genuine reason, without regard for the needs of their families and without any process of Canon Law (the old dodge, not charging someone with anything, so that he cannot defend himself).

And, the Provincial Development Fund needs to become what it was truly meant to be: A method of building churches. Right now, it can be used either for that, or simply as a method of holding power over clergy and congregations not really different from the power held by bishops of the ECUSA in their dioceses, except that a church may eventually pay off its debts. These loans involve interest, despite an ancient Canon from the Council of Nicea (AD 325).

The APCK has always had a reputation for being aloof and tyrannical. Frankly, with all the good that one may find there, the challenge to the new archbishop will be to clean up this reputation, and call for the Council of bishops to abide by their own Canon Laws, and to learn to respect the priesthood as a thing higher than their own persons. Even if they have been elevated to the episcopate, the priesthood of Christ in His Church is still greater than any one of them. As long as the clergy are Canon Fodder, the old reputation will cling.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for some badly needed light rather than heat. I think I will just continue hanging on with the ACC as I have done from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

You speak of a "high standard of education for clergy" in the APCK as if it were an established fact, but the truth is that a little over 4/5 of the active clergy in that body have no theological degree. Sadly, the stats are no better in any other part of the continuing church, why, as a matter of fact the ACA recently bowed to the massive ego of one of its bishops and declined to make a real seminary program the officially authorized program for that body.

With the practice of making "90 day wonders," originally intended to be a short term emergency measure, now the norm to the extent that such non-prepared clergy form the majority of continuing church clergy, expect to see more and more stories like this one and the following one of Fr Hart.

I suspect what we'll see today and in coming weeks is that the hand-picked successor, Provence, does indeed get "elected" Archbishop (although he lacks a theological degree), and then the clergy with leadership ability who still remain in the APCK will find it necessary to move along.

(I won't even write about the absurdity of calling someone administering 53 parishes and missions an "archbishop.")

I hope I'm proven wrong. I hope that everyone stays in the APCK. I hope someone (anyone) other than Provence is "elected" Archbishop. I hope the APCK unites with ACC and even UECNA in TAC. But I bet I'm right.

Sign me...
...a country parson.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Country Parson

On one point I must disagree. The Seminary in Berekley is everything that Nashota House once was. So, the APCK clergy are well educated. However, some of them have been rushed through withojut copleting the program; and the "deacon" I mentioned in another post is not going to be educated at all, except for a little fine tuning at the altar and his ECUSA training.

An Anglican Geek said...

I've just been told that Bishop Provence was elected to be the next Archbishop of the APCK.

Anonymous said...

Though I'm no longer Anglican, I personally am familiar with much of the staff at the Berkeley APCK seminary, having gone on retreat there in my freshman year of college. It is a real seminary, despite problems with keeping it open consistently and it's lack of official certification (which basically means the students are not qualified for state assistance or student loans).

Anonymous said...

Re the APCK operation in Berkeley: it is not a "real seminary." It is totally unaccredited. This is the main problem plaguing the continuing church: the idea that making 90 day wonders is "as good as Nashota [sic] House." Sorry, but it doesn't wash, and the laity know it. The less education our clergy get, the fancier titles and prettier cassocks they wear. Let's have more real degrees and fewer pretty cassocks.

poetreader said...

OK. Take a close look at the seminary trained clergy of the 'major' denominations. Does one find a preponderance of godly men thoroughly grounded in the Great Tradition? With regard to accreditation, who sets the standards and what are they? Is it appropriate for the Church of God to insist that all its clergy are trained by standards developed outside the Church and its traditions?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating lower standards for ordination. I do believe, to the contrary, that we need a very much better taught and very much better formed clergy in the Continuum. And I believe the same can be said for the mainline denominations where they are all seminary trained. That program has not consistently served to raise standards.

A priest or a bishop does not need a specific piece of paper to be worthy of ordination, but he does need a thorough knowledge of Scripture and Tradition, and, even more important, a character in line with St. Paul's advice to St. Timothy. If he is to represent Christ before the people and before God, it is primarily on his character that he must be chosen, and only secondarily on his learning (even though this latter is important).

Yes, we need a far better way of forming priests -- but the academic model that has become established in this society does not seem to be accomplishing the goal. I believe this has to involve years of intimate relationship with one's bishop and those assisting him, years of supervision, and years of a lesser pastoral relationship with the people -- before one is ordained.

ed

Anonymous said...

I agree. I think the aspect of CHARACTER is one that is rarely looked at for ordination. Everyone focuses on a Theological Degree, ie...a piece of paper, and then a person is ordained. That is not biblical, it is not historical and it is not practicle. This is clearly a reason why we see such poor priests and deacons in these Churches. As a former REC ordinand, I can attest to the cognitive ONLY aspect of ministry while the Cardial is ignored. Character is paramount! Isnt that the real qualification in 1 Timothy?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Anonymous said...
Re the APCK operation in Berkeley: it is not a "real seminary." It is totally unaccredited. This is the main problem plaguing the continuing church: the idea that making 90 day wonders is "as good as Nashota [sic] House."


As annoyed as I should be with the APCK, I cannot allow this misinformed remark to stand. Accreditation is a long, expensive and meaningless procedure that does nothing to improve the quality of education. The seminaries in the Episcopal Church have such low standards for education (aside from their outright heresy) that "accreditation" comes across as a joke. There are no "90 day wonders" of which I am aware getting through the St. Joseph of Aramethea Seminary. The quality of the program itself is one very good thing that I see in the APCK.

However, I will be addressing the subject of clergy education in an upcoming post, and the subject will be about how practical it is in this day and age to use an outdated model. Most men going into the priesthood are in their forties, with children and mortgages and jobs. So, how do we take this show on the road?

Ohio Anglican said...

Just because a clergyman has graduated from a Seminary, doesn't necessarily indicate that they are good.

I spent the first 37 years of my life as a United Methodist, active as an organist, trustee, board member, etc.

Many of the graduates from the best UM Seminaries didn't even know the Liturgical Calender, and what colors to use on the Altar and their own stole. Most didn't even have basic knowledge of Anglican/Wesleyan theology. Some unashamedly let us know that "I don't really believe in God." Many refered to God as "God our Mother", etc. One addressed her prayers: "Dear Daddy......"

Need I say more?

These are the reasons I am now a member of the Anglican Catholic Church, and very proud to be a member of the Anglican Catholic Church. Despite our small numbers, we are being taught the truth of God's word, and being given valid sacraments (instead of "sloppy Agape" that we got in the UMC - unconsecrated grocery store bread and grape juice).

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

poetreader said...

Father Hart, I anxiously look forward to your thoughts on clergy formation. I'm convinced that the system (or lack of system) in place is quite thotoughly broken, and has been for many decades.

ed

Sandra McColl said...

Education is an urgent matter. Yet again, I'm with Ed. (Hi, Ed!) In Australia, where parish ministry in the Continuum tends to be a non-stipendiary, after hours labour, it is somewhat appropriate to make training for ministry also after hours. The internet helps greatly here. Downloadable courses of guided reading, 'apprenticeship' to a parish priest: assist him, follow him around, report on your guided reading to him (and have him use the same teaching materials to bone up); short residential clergy schools with real educational content to which candidates are also invited; a subject dedicated to the best of the Anglican theological tradition (Hooker, the Caroline divines, the non-jurors, the Oxford fathers, assorted chunks of Mascall and Farrer)--an urgent requirement in Australia, at least, where too many clergy seem to take notice of precious little that doesn't come direct from Rome, and where a sense of pride (in the good sense) at being Anglican needs to be reinjected; Greek and Hebrew, which might do with being supplemented by one-on-one instruction by qualified laity; music: both a survey of the Anglican musical tradition (online guided reading and MP3 files) and practical training in basic skills such as singing the note that the organist has just played for you, reading chant and modern musical notation so you can sing the right tune from it--again a matter of one-on-one instruction by suitably qualified laity: there's a start. Ed's right, the candidate should get to know the bishop who'll be ordaining him. Fortunately, the Continuum's probably small enough for that to be practicable. As to the examination of all the above, it needn't be excessively formal, in general probably just enough to show that the material was thoughtfully covered and understood. And, of course, I'm talking of a process which could take, part time, from 6 to 8 years.

A degree isn't necessary. Further, I almost think that degrees as a prerequisite to ordination are a bit dangerous. I remember reading the works of the early priestesses, and the wannabe priestesses, from the 1980s. They gave me the distinctive impression that ordination should follow naturally from successful completion of a degree course in theology, like a kind of second graduation. Breaking this nexus might be a good thing.

Successful completion of the academic and practical components in the coursework, however, should only be a minor part of the assessment for ordination. Ed's right again: it's all about character, which will be a matter for the candidate's priest and bishop, and other appropriate persons who know him well enough, to decide. A priest (and later bishop) in the Continuum once said that he'd select candidates on the basis of their 'physical fitness', which he considered could be tested by setting them a race to run and selecting the winner. God forbid! Not a word about chastity (which appeared, when I was young, to be a major problem in what passed for seminaries in pre-Continuum Anglicanism), not a word about prayerfulness. Let's get our priorities straight.

On the matter of a theology degree leading naturally to ordination, at a recent General Synod of the Anglican Church of Aus, there had been some sort of discussion about priests laying aside their orders (I'm not clear of the circumstances). As a kind of joke, a priestess moved a motion that all members of General Synod with 'Law 101' (a subject which does not, I believe, exist in Australian universities, but which, I think, was meant to mean any early and basic component of a law degree) should lay it aside before voting. The House of Laity was apparently infested with lawyers. What this 'joke' demonstrated to me was that this lady seemed to equate holding a law degree with being a lawyer, and, by extension, holding a theology degree with being a deacon or priest. Now, as anyone knows, there are lots of holders of law degrees in Australia who are not admitted as practitioners in any of the Supreme Courts of the States or Territories, which extra ceremony, on top of post-degree training, is required to entitle one to practise as a lawyer. And what she therefore didn't get to was that, although one is made a lawyer by an order of a court, the extra little ceremony on top of your theology degree that makes you a deacon or a priest is of a whole different order.

Ohio Anglican said...

Father Hart:

I too look forward to your comments on clergy formation. There has to be a better way for the Continuum than we have now.

One extreme is too little education. The other dangerous extreme we should seek to avoid is requiring them to attend liberal seminaries from the UMC, TEC, and even some RC seminaries.

Some RC seminaries are likewise turning out some dangerously liberal priests. At an Easter Vigil last year I heard an RC priest tell us in his sermon that "Christ didn't really raise from the dead. It was just his spirit that went to heaven. The disciples disposed of his body to make it look like a bodliy resurrection."

I hope we can find alternatives to liberal seminaries. I look forward to Father Hart's suggestions.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Tomorrow i finish my move into the Rectory, and then I can begin.

Frankly, I am impressed with Sandra McColl's ideas. I want to run some of the content of that by my own bishop, since the Seminary program never stops.

Anyway, look for my post next week.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Oops again. It is next week already (so to speak). Look for it THIS week.

Ninja Michael said...

One of the anonymous posters said that the "ACA... declined to make areal seminary program the officially authorizedp program for that body." I was under the impression that the ACA had chosen the Reformed Episcopal Seminary as its official course of study, which surprised me because I thought they were getting cozy with the APCK, and might arrange something with their seminary.

The REC Seminary is the only (non ECUSA) Anglican seminary in the United States to be a member of the Association of Theological Schools. Granted, they are not fully accredited; the school does, however, have a very long history, and offers a three year MDiv. Students from a variety of churches (Anglican and otherwise) have studied there; I've even considered it for myself, especially since the approval of the ACA bishops.

As a Canadian, however, I've decided that it would be better (or perhaps simply more affordable) to seek a masters in my own country. Therefore, oddly enough, I'm planning to enroll in an MA degree offered by a Mennonite university in Winnipeg, specializing in Church history.

Much of my practical training, if I end up ordained, may come from the diocese, and from the combined distance education/intensives/tutoring program they have developed (which is quite comprehensive). But it was important to me, if I was to become a priest in the continuing church, where there are these concerns about education, to have a degree from a recognized (residential) university, even if it wasn't Anglican.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Ninja Michael
I sincerely doubt that your information about the ACA is accurate.

poetreader said...

The ACA does not have a recognized single program for the formation of clergy. The most usual arrangement still is a more informal program under the direction of the bishop, and every diocese still makes up its own mind how to proceed. There is constant talk about improving this situation, but no real change yet. I, for one, sincerely hope (as I said in a comment above) that we do not go back to the primarily academic emphasis that has done so much to sap the deep spirituality of the Church

ed

The Lemonts said...

I once had an APCK priest at my home after I had first learned of the continuing groups (and how they claimed to be just like the Eastern Orthodox in practice and theology) I asked the priest why the APCK did not become part of a larger and stronger (money, number of prayers, etc) Eastern Orthodox church and his reply was that the archbishop did not believe in ecumenicalism and would not allow it.

I think it was St. John Chrysostom who said "The desire to rule is the mother of all heresy".

William Tighe said...

The ACA was developing a full seminary education curriculum a year or 18 months ago (I was asked to review parts of it), but then the particular priest who was going to run the program and oversee theological education suddenly jumped to ECUSA and became assistant priest of an ECUSA parish (a "Network" one; or maybe even FIFNA) out in Colorado.

James the Thickheaded said...

I spent a year in the APCK for which I am thankful. My experience there was only of godly and virtuous men. Further, I have few doubts about the quality of the seminary. Seminary provides education useful for preaching - which is no doubt of great importance to the congregation's worship, but it is the heart that makes the priest and transmits his faith to his faithful in his love and care.

IMHO, one of the impediments of Continuing Anglicanism remains "What is Continued"? This is not an original thought, but I would clarify its intent in terms that the conflicting tensions within anglicism do not evaporate simply because the form adopted for the mass may be closer to that of St. Gregory than that of Calvin and Luther. As Fr. Thomas Hopko commented on the efforts of Fr. Peter Gilsey and others among the Evangelical Orthodox prior to their conversion to the Antiochian Archdiocese in the 1980's: "Going through all the forms, functions, prayers and liturgies does not make you Orthodox if you remain outside the Church. The Church of Christ cannot be re-created out of your head or mine" - or words to that effect. So too, in my view, at some point, anglocatholicsm must inevitably address a similar deficiency or redefine its ecclesiology more circumspectly to be more congruent with its practice. Perhaps at that point, like St. John the Baptist, the self-made/consecrated bishops can acknowledge that they must diminish in order for Christ to come forward and fulfill His priestly role in their midst.

Thus, I am not only saddened this has not happened, but more to the point, fear that constitutionally it has simply become part of the centrifugal forces impeding any convergence in the immovable impediment of our self-dominated world. For my part, I have voted with my feet for the catholic options - which like many, I believe is increasingly involved fundamentally with either a Pontiff or a Patriarch.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Nonetheless, I am an Anglican because I believe it to be the best way. I am very well aware of the alternatives, but see no reason to make a change. It should be clear from last year's posts in April and May that both Fr. Kirby and I are very well acquainted with Rome and Orthodoxy, and that we wrote our essays in those months from a very well informed position. And it seems obvious to me that Albion and Ed have been around the block on these matters too.

"The catholic options" include Anglicanism. If Pope and Patriarch become united, then we should join in. But for now, even if I did not believe what I do about the Anglican option to be Catholic, I would not say "when you come to a fork in the road, take it."

poetreader said...

Thanks for your confidence, Father,
I indeed have given much thought to both Rome and the East. When my late brother, married for 38 years to an RC wiman, finally joined her church, I was sorely tempted to follow. It was at the same time that I was in process of entering ACA. I find the claims of the papacy, particularly infallibility to be too big a mouthful to swallow, and I take note that, at least in this area, it is as hard to find an orthodox RC as to find an orthodox Ecusite.
I could do it if there were no other option, but it would be extremely difficult. I'm Western, and, though I'm very drawn to the East, I would never quite be home. I haven't experienced Western Orthodoxy, but what I've seen in websites and in printed material leaves me thinking that if I crossed the Bosporus I probably wouldn't want to do the Western thing there.

Then, since I love authentic Anglicanism, I guess I'm stuck in this frusytratingly messy Continuum, where everything is almost what it should be, but nothing, really, is quite right.

It's not an easy time to be a Catholic Christian.

ed

fr samuel edwards said...

Two things for the discussion:

(1) In the course of the interesting exchanges on this blog about issues surrounding continuing Anglican unity, I notice that my name has come up a couple of times as one of the three priests who recently have left the APCK as a result of what might be called episcopal abuse. Like Fr Hart, I have kept a long silence about this, but also like him, I think the time may have come for my testimony to be added to his. His experience, my experience, the reported experiences of a couple of other Continuum priests, and the experience of a close friend of mine who is a Baptist minister (though he, unlike us Anglicans, in the end left his post of his own accord and on his own terms) are so similar in their essential outlines and themes that it seems clear – to me, at any rate – that they really come out of the same playbook, compiled by the same dark author.

Like Fr Hart’s and that of the others, my experience involved antagonism (it was almost a textbook example of what Kenneth Haugk writes about in his book Antagonists in the Church, which ought to be required reading for all aspiring clerics). It involved episcopal conspiracy with the antagonists against one of his own priests. It involved the love of money (the “insufficient church finances” issue that eventually brought my tenure to an end after the antagonists had gained the whip hand on the vestry was a manufactured crisis – the antagonists had simply shifted their giving into designated accounts, notably the building fund did, and away from general operating funds). It even involved someone having dubious qualifications for the diaconate, though in my case, the man in question (who now appears to have served as the bishop’s and antagonists’ principal operative in the affair) was not actually ordained until after the coup d’eglise that removed me. It is clear that, contrary to the desires of many others in the congregation, the principal antagonists wanted in “their” parish not a rector who would lead them, but a chaplain who would follow. They now have what they lust; leanness of soul cannot be far behind.

As in the case of Frs Hart, Novak, and the others, the individuals (episcopal, clerical, and lay) who have been involved have been snared by their own spiritual weaknesses – whether rooted in pride, or in the desire for domination, or in the desire for men’s approval, or in some other sort of unacknowledged and therefore unrepented sin, or in a combination of these. Therefore, while they have done and are responsible for great wrong and real damage to people (not just me and my family, by the way) and to the witness of the church at large, they also are to be pitied and prayed for as souls in grave peril. Some of them seem so hardened or blinded that it indeed may take direct divine intervention – the fearful experience of falling into the hand of the living God – to awaken them to their danger. Many of them are caught in a “use people, love things” ethic in which they are actually feeding off each other in a sickening preview of what awaits them in eternity if they repent not. So, even though we be justly angry, let us not sin by ceasing to pray for them – and I address this counsel to myself first of all.

(2) As to the ongoing discussion on validity of orders, I am appending the text of an article I wrote some fifteen years ago that still seems relevant. Even though the names of many of the players are different, the issues are quite the same: Apart from some minor corrections, it appears as I wrote it then. I leave it to the blog manager to decide whether to post it here or elsewhere.

Also on this matter, it would be well if someone could find a postable copy of an excellent paper by Fr David Ousley from about the same time entitled “Validity and Recognition.” (Mine is somewhere in storage at the moment.) I think it was presented at a theological conference called “Rebuilding the House of God,” held in the very early 1990s.

VALIDITY, FAITH AND ORDER
An Appeal for Patience
by the Rev’d Samuel L. Edwards
[written in 1992]

As is evident from Dr. Peter Toon’s analysis published in a previous issue of this paper (May/June 1992), the establishment of the Missionary Diocese of the Americas and the continuing mission of the Episcopal Synod of America within the Episcopal Church has brought about a situation in which a fuller explanation of the theological basis for the courses of action open to faithful witness on the part of American Anglicans is necessary. It is my purpose in this article to make a contribution in this discussion and to point toward the practical application of principles in the light of Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church.

Impaired Communion

There is no question concerning the reality of impaired communion within ECUSA. What is at issue is the degree of sacramental fellowship, if any, that can exist between persons and groups upholding orthodox Christianity and others (especially bishops) whose hold on that orthodoxy is, in one degree or another, less than complete.

In the ESA at the present moment, there exist two distinct points of view regarding the expression of the reality of impaired communion which exists between the leadership of ECUSA and those who, however imperfectly, seek the re-establishment of evangelical and catholic doctrinal and moral norms within that Church. One of these viewpoints (which for the sake of brevity we shall call the "validity school") lays its chief emphasis upon the personal aspect of the apostolic succession; the other (which we shall call the "Faith-and-Order school") emphasizes the doctrinal aspect of that succession.

Both these points of view can point to legitimate precursors in the Christian tradition and within limits that apply equally, both lead to acceptable, albeit distinct, means of witness to God's truth in a time of intense contention for the faith once delivered to the saints. There is a risk that the Father of Lies, who is the real Enemy now as ever, can use the different emphases in these schools of thought as means to stir up strife between traditionalists. That this can happen and has happened is evident from a letter of Saint Basil the Great to the orthodox bishops of the West during the Arian controversy of the fourth century: "The saddest thing about [the situation in the Churches of the Eastern Empire] is that the sound part is divided against itself ... in addition to the open attack of the heretics, the Churches are reduced to utter helplessness by the war raging among those who are supposed to be orthodox." [quoted by J. Steenson, "Patterns of Orthodox Witness," The Evangelical Catholic, XI.2, Nov. '87] If we allow this to become a description of the internal relationships of the ESA, then we have reason to fear that our witness may become seriously, perhaps fatally, hindered.

To prevent this happening, it is necessary that all understand both the distinctiveness of the positions of the validity and Faith-and-Order schools and the bond that makes it possible for them effectively to function together within the witness for the restoration of orthodoxy in the Anglican Churches in this hemisphere and beyond.

The Faith-and-Order School

As pointed out above, the Faith-and-Order school correctly emphasizes the critical importance of the integrity of apostolic doctrine in the determination of ecclesiastical communion. Representative historical figures for this point of view include Saint Athanasius of Alexandria in the patristic age and Martin Luther in the Reformation. This is a necessary emphasis in the Episcopal Church because it serves to balance out an extreme and naïve segment of the validity school which, in effect, says, “Yes, we know that the bishop’s theology is heretical, but his orders are valid, so it is all right to receive communion from him and let him preach.” (The mechanical and pastorally confusing nature of this position will be dealt with later in this article.)

This is a strong position entirely in accord with the classical Anglican doctrine of the Church set forward most comprehensively by Richard Field and Richard Hooker. It underlines the necessity of staying faithful to the apostles’ teaching and so points to the Church as a living fellowship of faith rather than an impersonal institutional mechanism. The Church, says this view, is the mystical Body of Christ so long as she is the faithful Body of Christ. Fidelity is her life, and so far as she is unfaithful, she is a corpse, not a Body. If she is to be a city set on a hill, she must diligently tend the light of Christ’s truth within her.

However, those who subscribe to this way of looking at things (and I count myself among them) need always to be aware of the temptations and spiritual dangers that are attendant upon it. If a scriptural analog is sought to describe these dangers, it would be the apparent situation of the Ephesian Church addressed in Revelation 2, which in its steadfast adherence to orthodoxy and opposition to heresy had forgotten charity. Church history is replete with examples of those whose hatred of heresy spilled over into a hatred of heretics: One thinks of Eusthasius of Antioch, Cyril of Alexandria (in his earlier years), and Bernard of Clairvaux. We who would hold to the Faith-and-Order view must be aware that there is a genuine risk that holding to a rigorous orthodoxy will degenerate into a harsh rigorism, and that setting forth a high standard of purity in doctrine and behavior will degenerate into a heartless puritanism.

There are also questions that the Faith-and-Order school must be prepared to answer. At this time I will but pose them, leaving answers to be proposed at a later time and perhaps by others: Upon what warrant can non-recognition be restricted to heterodox bishops and not be extended to clergy and laity who continue to maintain a communion in sacred things with them? If one accepts the premise that we are in communion with one another through our bishops (a premise which merits challenge, in my opinion) can we say that we are not in communion with the heterodox Bishop of Wherever without at the same time necessarily declaring non-communion with all the clergy and laity who are under him? Can non-recognition be selective according to the issues involved, or must it be total? Can full communion be maintained with a bishop who, for example, holds positions on the question of the ministry that are not orthodox but whose other doctrinal commitments appear to be in keeping with Scripture? If so, or if not, then why?

The Validity School

I must make it clear that in discussing the Validity school, I am not dealing with that extreme segment of that school to which I made reference above, which says that, so long as a cleric’s canonical pedigree is sound, his orthodoxy ought to have no relevance to whether one is in communion with him. As I mentioned previously, this notion is mechanical, impersonal, and pastorally confusing. It is an attitude which is vastly more prevalent among the clergy than among the laity. It is a relic of what has justly been called “Churchianity.” As such, it cuts no ice--nor should it--with the average layperson, and that includes most of those who have been instructed by clerics who hold it and who attempt to act in accordance with it, all the while sensing that there is something untrue about it. This extreme position leads inevitably to an empty and legalistic formalism.

The authentic Validity school, by way of contrast, does not deny the importance of doctrine, but correctly places strong emphasis on the importance of personal continuity with the apostles in the determination of ecclesiastical communion. The Elizabethan settlement provides one historical example of this way of thinking carried into action, as does the history of the origins of the Episcopal Church itself. In the patristic age, Saint Basil the Great (no slouch when it came to emphasizing sound doctrine!) typifies the personal and pastoral focus of this school in his willingness to ease the way for the reconciliation of those in the Church at Antioch who only recently and somewhat tentatively had come to assent to Nicene orthodoxy. For this, Basil was criticized for being too compromising, when in fact he was manifesting a Pauline desire to “by all means [short of denial of the truth] save some.”

It is this patience-in-charity that is the great strength of the Validity school. There is a great reluctance to put the Church through institutional upheaval unless that is absolutely necessary, and the adherents of this position will often go to great lengths to avoid such upheaval. High on the list of concerns for this school is the desire to bring those in the border regions of catholic belief and practice into a state of fuller and more settled conviction and to avoid acts and attitudes which would be unattractive or even repellent to them.

Of course, it is in this very philosophy of practice that the pitfalls lie for the Validity school. If the danger to the Faith-and-Order school is the heartless orthodoxy of the Church at Ephesus, then the danger to the Validity school is the too-easy tolerance of the Churches of Pergamum and Thyatira. There is a real temptation to go too far in accommodating theological and moral muddle, after the example of Eusebius of Caesarea in the Arian controversy and the mainline American denominations of our own day. There is a real temptation to allow things to stay muddled, instead of striving for clarity. There is a temptation to give the survival of the institutions of the Church and institutional unity a higher priority than it deserves, to the detriment of faithful Christian witness. There seems also to be a tendency to put undue trust in the good will of the opponents of orthodoxy. Each of these tendencies has relatively recent examples in the history of ECUSA--one need only name Port Ste. Lucie and Philadelphia to see that this is so.

As with the Faith-and-Order school, there are questions which the validity school must be prepared to answer: How is it possible to maintain ecclesiastical commerce with those holding to any heterodox doctrine or practice without casting doubt upon the seriousness of our own commitment to right doctrine or practice, which is a critical part of the Church’s raison d’être? Is maintaining the recognition of heretics not itself an act which is unpastoral because it causes confusion amongst the faithful?

Avoiding Mud and Muddle

I hope by now that I have managed to make the case that there is no essential opposition between the Faith-and-Order and Validity schools, and that consequently there is no need to assume the necessity for a conflict which will result in the permanent ascendancy of one over the other within the ESA. However, human nature being what it isn’t, the absence of a reason for conflict is not a guarantee that there will be no conflict. How, then, can both the mud of open internal warfare and the muddle of unresolved difference be avoided?

The answer to this question, I believe, lies in the making of a commitment which is two-fold, having an intellectual and a moral dimension: There must be an intellectual commitment on the part of the members of each school both to understand and to appreciate what the position of the other actually is, rather than what each imagines and fears it to be. There also must be a moral commitment to act on that which binds them together, which is Hope founded on the certainty of God’s victory already won. Each school has something to teach the other: The Faith-and-Order keeps before the Validity school the urgent necessity of right faith. The Validity school keeps before the Faith-and-Order school the pastoral necessity of patience in dealing with brethren who are in varying degrees of error on matters of faith.

For an example of what this can look like, we can look to our own history. One may make a credible claim that the Anglican Way, at its historic best, shows a firm doctrinal commitment to the Faith-and-Order school coupled with the pastoral method of the Validity school. The Elizabethan settlement, as reflected in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and elsewhere, provides a good example of this commitment to right faith together with a reasonable willingness to allow those whose hold on it is incomplete in places the room to grow into its fullness. So long as we are in no doubt of what the truth is, and in Whose hands is the issue, then we may trust that truth and those hands to bring to mature manhood those who still bear about their thoughts and actions the patina of adolescence.

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Fr. Edwards is Rector of Saint Timothy’s Church, Fort Worth, and a member of the Legislative Body, representing Convocation 4-E. He was the principal drafter of the ECM Bishops’ A Pastoral Letter Convoking a Synod (November 1988), which called the meeting that formed the ESA.

An Anglican Cleric said...

The information posted about the ACA using the REC for theological education is partially correct. There was discussion in the ACA diocese of the West using Andrewes Hall (a satellite of Cranmer House) for theological training. However, it was rejected because a few on the board of examining chaplains were still of the opinion that the REC wasn't "Anglican enough." However, that being said, the ACA diocese of the East has requently used texts published by the REC for seminary training. This was before both were in FACA.

Given that the Anglican Church in America and the Reformed Episcopal Church are both now in the federation, Cranmer House of the REC, in my opinion, should be a serious choice for all who want a good Anglican education. It is probably the most Anglo-Catholic seminary of the REC, esp in how they train future priests in the celebration of the Eucharist (I know that this may be a small thing to some, but I was impressed by it). The seminary takes proper churchmanship rather seriously, and priests emerging from it seem devoted to the 1928 BCP.

I was trained in the ACA and now serve in the REC, so I'm hoping this sheds some light on my perspective.