הנה מה~טוב ומה~נעים שבת אחים גם~יחד
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together as one.
Earlier this week the news came out that the TAC is seeking full sacramental communion with Rome. In response I posted some historical details about the efforts on the part of the Anglican Communion (as it was) in past decades to seek Reunion with Rome and to become one Church with the Orthodox, at one and the same time. I reported how both of these efforts, with all of their potential, were violently terminated by the heresy of women's "ordination," so that discussion between the Cantuarian crowd with both Rome and Orthodoxy have continued as pointless, albeit polite, chats. I could have added that the about face from both of these ancient communions (still divided from one another as the two One True Churches), westward to Porvoo, or, as is the case in the Untied States, toward the ELCA, has served to give the Canterbury Club a self-satisfied delusion that making nice with Protestantism is just as good as helping to heal the Great Schism in Catholic Christianity. Well, the paradigm of Protestant ministers is just a little easier to reconcile with priestesses in the "church" than is the theology of the priesthood. This is not because the Bible gives any aid and comfort to those who try to force (as in isogesis) women "pastors" into it. Rather, it is because their new version of Sola Scriptura "as of any private interpretation ( II Peter 1:20)," gives more wiggle room for claiming that one's wild ideas are based on the "sure foundation of God's word" than does a right interpretation informed by our Catholic Tradition, in which the Bible is the highest authority as it has been understood, always, everywhere and by all of the Church- "the pillar and ground of the truth (I Timothy 3:15)."
It is only fitting, at this time, to address this perplexing question of unity and disunity as the theological issue it is. To begin with, both of the two One True Churches teach that no schism can exist within the Church, but only schism from the Church. In a pure and perfected sense this is true, not as the ideal versus present experience that we find in Plato, but according to eschatology. The Church will be manifestly united, most certainly, when the final stroke is given to the influence of the first man, the fallen nature of Adam, and the last enemy which is death will be destroyed. In the meantime, it is our place, as Anglicans, to set forth Right Reason as we learn from Scripture through Tradition. For the first millennium of its existence, the Church recognized the need to define true dogma, and to do so through the conciliar process; and in so doing to make it a priority to avoid fragmentation among true believers. However, even this was not done without mistakes and errors in communication (not doctrine), so that the Coptic Churches were separated from the rest of the Body of Christ because of the perception of a heresy that never, in fact, existed: Monophysitism. If the doctrine had been taught, it would have been heresy; but, it was never taught. Here, as recognized by Rome in recent years, was something that, we most certainly have to point out, was schism.
Anyone who reads First Corinthians, and then comes away insisting that there can be no schism within the Church, is learning neither from Plato nor from Christian eschatology, nor from what he has just been reading. "One saith I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, or Cephas..." Even those who said "I am of Christ" were carnal, because they were only saying this to distance themselves from their less spiritual brethren who followed mere apostles. St.Paul addressed the problem of schism in the Church because... there was schism in the Church. Did he try to decide which schismatic faction was the One True Church in Corinth? No. Rather, he rebuked them all as carnal. The Apostle was an equal opportunity rebuker.
Here is where Right Reason knows that the Branch Theory, as long as one does not teach it "as of the essence" of the Church, is a theory in the same way as the theory of gravity; that is, it is also fact. Because of the carnality of the old man of sin, our experience of the Church in this life (the Plato thing again) is less than ideal. It is less than it will be when all the scars of sin and death are healed, and the scales fall from every eye. The One True Church has schism in it, some doctrinal, but more often matters of polity. The doctrinal differences, often misdiagnosed and exaggerated by young western converts to Orthodoxy, never really amount to a anything major; nothing like Monophysiticism. Neither the Church of Rome, nor the Orthodox nor Traditional Anglicans are denying the dogmatic definitions of the Ecumenical Councils. Frankly, the biggest dividing issue is the whole matter of the Petrine See and the shifting dogmatic pronouncements about it, as well as the critique of those pronouncements. It really has never been about filioque, or about theosis versus Anselmian atonement, or any other false and distracting non-issue. If it were, a few good theological discussions would have cleared it up by now, since men of goodwill are ready to learn together and from each other.
Sorry, but it is about that old man, in fact that old rascal, Adam.
It is customary at this point to mention the Lord's own prayer from the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, twice spoken, " ...that they may be one." We pull this out as if He were praying to us, and we are the ones who may frustrate His wish, or grant His plea. This was spoken within the Godhead, by the Son to the Father: It was as much a formal declaration as a prayer to the Father. This said, the Lord made the whole Church One (as we say in the Creed). The Lord also makes every husband and wife one. "They shall be one flesh." People who are married do not always get along; they fight, they hurt each other, and even go through a legal fiction that the world calls "divorce." But, for life, the man and wife are one flesh. If they fail to live together in peace, they are, nonetheless, one flesh. They do not have the power to say yes or no to God's prayer that they be one, because His word has made them one. All you who are married have an obligation to "so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting." For having been made one, it is incumbent on a couple to live together in unity, and so put to death the man of sin wherever he seeks to cause strife. And, this is sure to happen. In my standard marriage sermon I tell people that they enter into a commitment, not an experiment. For, every experiment in human relations will fail for one very good reason: Everyone is impossible to live with. This is part of what the scriptures teach with those words, "all have sinned," and, "there is no man that sinneth not." "Today," I tell them, "you make a commitment."
So, too, the Church has been declared One by the word of the Lord, that word that we vainly imagine we can grant or foil. As an Anglican I can recognize the One True Church both in Rome and in Orthodoxy, and also in us. We are one; and if the potentially big event of this past week helps the Church to dwell together as one, it is the Holy Spirit guiding the Body of Christ by imparting the mind of Christ even to such sinners as the Church consists of.
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