Friday, January 16, 2009

Swim the Thames without me

A year ago I wrote a post called Swim the Tiber without me, and I stand by everything I said. Here I have written the title Swim the Thames without me. This is not referring to the patrimony of Anglicanism, for I remain Anglican by conviction. Rather, it is about that large church body, or organization of churches, called the Anglican Communion. The fact that we have ACC churches in England itself demonstrates that even the seat of Anglicanism, and its historic home, have fallen away. They need the Continuum even there.

The link we provide to The Affirmation of St. Louis is the ACC link, simply because I posted it, and that is the jurisdiction to which I belong. It could as well have been the ACA link, or the UEC link, or the APCK link. Because I have posted the ACC link, you will find that it contains an additional remark that was not in the original. Nonetheless, I believe we all agree with the content of said additional remark. After the place where the Affirmation stated, in the original, "We affirm our continued relations of communion with the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion," the following comment appears: "[Note: Because of the action of General Synod of the Church of England, Parliament, and the Royal Assent, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church is obliged no longer to count the See of Canterbury as a faithful part of the Anglican Communion.]"

Near the end of 2007 I was approached with an offer, in fact I was almost drafted really, to be prepared to take over as editor of The Christian Challenge from Auburn Traycik, who has always done a fine job with that publication. And, even though the magazine continued to have an impressive subscription list, near the end of 2008 it could no longer afford to publish. Nonetheless, my duties near the end of 2007 and going into much of 2008, required that I research and stay on top of all the news of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion (and that I know everything I can about our Anglican Continuum). Not only did I read the news; I wrote it. Much of it was, frankly, torture. The news about the official Anglican Communion, including my coverage of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was never good. The constant law suits by the Litigator in Chief of the Episcopal "Church"-or Presiding "Bishop"- was really sickening stuff. It was like a nightmare in which one is strapped to a chair and forced to watch soap operas. "I'll talk, I'll talk! I can't take it anymore!"

It is relevant to the time that we remind ourselves of the mission we have as Continuing Anglicans. It is especially relevant because of the growth of the Common Cause Partnership led by Bp. Robert Duncan into a separate Anglican Province, seeking recognition from Canterbury. Some of the bishops in this movement have my respect, especially the three FiF/NA bishops. We all know that their actions led to Realignment with the Province of the Southern Cone. And, I alone, of all the reporters, wrote that Bishop Jack Iker had identified the original cause of Realignment as the issue of women's ordination, not the newer heresy of homosexualism; not that they accepted that newer heresy. They did not. Nonetheless, whether the Stand Firm people like it or not, it was women's ordination that led to realignment, and that was clearly stated in an October address given by Bishop Iker at a FiF gathering in England.

But, where has Realignment led so far? Archbishop Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone made no move to stop one of the first Realigner bishops, the Canadian Bishop Donald Harvey, from "ordaining" a woman to the priesthood. The silence is clear: This shall be allowed to continue. It has been problem enough that the FiF bishops have never understood why women cannot be ordained to the diaconate; and now they are in communion with a bishop who goes even further on the road of heresy. It has been uncovered that even back in the 1970s, the clever undercurrent of "gay" activists promoted women's ordination every way they could, and that was in order to lead to the present situation. In a sense, the "gay" activists understood something about Holy Orders that many so-called orthodox Anglicans have missed: That is, that it is one sacrament. Also, they seem to have understood the sacramental system and its interdependence: That is, if the sex (I refuse to say "gender") of an individual does not matter in one sacrament (ordination) why should it matter in another (matrimony)? This applies even where secular laws require that the true "intention" be cloaked with the word "blessing." (After all, in the sacrament of Matrimony, blessing the union is what the Church does. How stupid do they think we are?)

This continues to infect the best of the well-meaning "orthodox" Canterbury Anglicans. They allow the one, and in time must accept the other, and imitate the very practices they seek to avoid. It also shows that their use of the word "orthodox" has a slippery definition, adjusting itself to the latest crisis as something merely comparable to the worst of the worst, making the better of the worst seem godly and true relatively speaking. This is reactive and false orthodoxy, since proactive and genuine orthodoxy is consistent with Christ and the Apostles, and can neither be relative nor subject to change. We need to love and pray for the GAFCON and CCP folks, and to have faith that God can reveal the fullness of truth to them, inasmuch as prayers that are uttered apart from faith and charity have no hope of ascending before the throne of God as the incense. This new North American Province is full of people who need our prayers, and wherever possible such patient dialogue as our theologians and bishops may have opportunity to engage them in. And, that need is because of the infection of modern heresies that they have never renounced, because have never fully renounced them.

I remain Anglican by conviction, believing it the best way to be a Christian. And, the Anglican Communion once gave us right doctrine and practice; and we hold that doctrine and practice to carry it into the future. We must do so in this state of separation, that is, without them. In no way is that something we may afford to do without charity and hope for their conversion and return; but in no way can we afford to forget the causes that have impelled our separation.


Alice C. Linsley said...

True! So true. Bishop Iker is one of my heroes because he put his finger on the original crack in the dyke. You are another. Keep up the good work. Catholic orders is one of the non-negotiable essential marks of the Church.

(I regret that The Christian Challenge closed, but the Archives will still be available. Auburn has done an excellent job!)

Anonymous said...

Father Hart,

In you reportage did you ever uncover a satisfactory reason for why the Common Cause/ACNA crowd wants so desperately to remain in communion with Canterbury? I suppose its just nostalgia--or the ego of being an "official" province--but I honestly don't know why many of the de facto congregationalists within neo-Anglicanism would want to stay connected to the prevaricating old warlock.

Canon Tallis said...

Is classical prayer book Anglicanism worth continuing? If one means a faithful obedience to the classical prayer books, the Articles and the other elements of the Fathers, the Creeds and the Councils to which classical Anglicanism was and remains committed, then my answer has to be an overwhelming 'Yes!' That, to me, means that a truly Anglican parish will continue the daily public reading of Morning and Evening Prayer as well as the public celebration of the Eucharist on all those ocassions for which the prayer book provides propers or indicates by rubric that a celebration is intended. This is more than a feeble return to what Episcopalians frequently felt was " more than enough" as their priests and vestries tried to restrict religion to a Sunday only event, but it is also a great deal more historically Catholic and Orthodox than the invented religion of Anglican Evangelicals(?) and Roman apeing Anglo-papists, the ideals of which are both post-Reformation.

I am aware that both Evangelicals and Anglo-papists feel that they are the very best Anglicans and their ideals - at their very best - are not to be demeaned, but in both cases they are less than what the prayer books teach and demand.

This is probably more and less than Father Hart's position, but while establishment Anglicanism fails this measure not even my little toe will be dipped into the Thames. I will back Father Hart's statement as being absolutely 'Spot on!'

Anonymous said...

"The fact that we have ACC churches in England itself demonstrates that even the seat of Anglicanism, and its historic home, have fallen away."

Not quite sure what you're saying here Father?

Yes, the ACC has a handful of very small congregations in England as does the TAC and the TCE (Traditional Church of England).

The history of Continuing Anglicanism in the UK post 1992 is littered with the same problems that troubled the movement in the US.

It would seem that the scale of the ACC's presence in the UK does not directly correspond to the size or nature of the problems facing the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

James Russell

Fr. Robert Hart said...

James Russell:

If the Church of England were still as it was in 1977, when the Affirmation was written by and for Canadian Anglicans and Episcopalians in the U.S., it is possible that the Continuing churches would not be needed there. As it is, they are.

Fr William Bauer said...

Wonderful post, Father. I especially applaud your usage of quotation marks in reference to words such as “ordination” and “bishop”, when referring to factual impossibilities.
I applaud your proper use of the word sex instead of gender.

I agree that the reading of the Christian Challenge became a sad affair in its focus on the disintegration of Anglican heritage. I cannot imagine being assigned to write it. It is easy to see that the Communion is sliding down the slope in glee. It is also hard to find newsworthy and positive stories about the Continuum.

As a member of the Board of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, I suggested at our last meeting that the Fellowship, as the author of the Affirmation of Saint Louis, remove the reference to Canterbury. However, my motion did not pass. Those other guys cited the historical status of the Affirmation and its unchangeability in that light.

Just this morning (January 16) I received a phone call from a priest in Europe. He asked why there were so many jurisdictions in the Continuum and why some of them were questionable (such as AMIA) with regard to the validity of the Priesthood. My only response was the truth: THE HERESY IS OUT OF CONTROL.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr Odhran-Mary TFSC

Thank you for commenting.

I must differ (sort of) on two things. In my recent experience I actually do have good news about the Continuum, and that is from what I have witnessed in recent months. The other is that I cannot see why so many people think that every Non-Canterbury Anglican group is part of the Continuum. The AMiA? What makes the priest in Europe associate them with the Continuing Church? They have nothing to do with the Affirmation and what was formed with it. I suppose he will consider the new North American jurisdiction to be part of the Continuum as well. I assume they think this of the CEC, etc. Also I think as long as we have freedom of religion we will have people starting churches, imitators and no way to control the power hungry. I don't know how much of that is unique to us. my guess is none of it is.

I think that within a generation we may see one united Continuum; but, we will see other churches springing up around it as well.

Anonymous said...

The spiritual decay of ECUSA was actually earlier than WO, 1976 GC.
It was at least as early as the break-down of marriage discipline in the 1960's. I am slowly but surely coming to believe it can be dated back to the 1930 Lambeth Conference acceptance of artificial birth control. A spiritually healthy church would never have written the 1979 liturgy, much less have adopted it as a "Book of Common Prayer." We will not have a thorough revival of orthodoxy in the Continuum until all these issues (artificial birth control, divorce, abortion) are addressed.

Canon Tallis said...

Father Wells is quite right in dating the beginning of the decay in establishment Anglicanism. He might be surprised to know that Archbishop Akinola agrees with him as to the time and date. At least he said so in a conversation I had with him a couple of years ago.

The problem which so many of the orthodox failed to see is that the system of the Church does not allow for "pick and choose" Christianity. It is a sacramental whole and the idea that you can only believe or do what you like or what appeals to you actually means that you have in fact rejected the whole. This is, I believe, why St Paul rejected the idea of party in the Church and required assent to the whole of what he and his fellow apostles taught.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Yes. It was in 1930 that decay began.

William Tighe said...

As the late Canon Professor Eric Mascall also said to me on numerous occasions about the 1930 Lambeth Conference and its significance.

Nathan said...

Questions that keep me up at night:
What was it that lead to the birth control decision in 1930? Why was the idea even entertained? How could we have let that happen? How do we get back on track? How do we keep ourselves ever from following a similar path?


Fr. Robert Hart said...


I think that some of those 19th century men who were bishops in 1930 did not know that their vote would be taken to mean that contraception is acceptable. No doubt they believed that what came from that one resolution, among many, would strengthen and clarify the moral teaching of the Church. Let me explain.

First of all: the resolution that has been taken as an open door to contraception follows some very good resolutions, such as these.

"Resolution 13

The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex

The Conference emphasises the truth that sexual instinct is a holy thing implanted by God in human nature. It acknowledges that intercourse between husband and wife as the consummation of marriage has a value of its own within that sacrament, and that thereby married love is enhanced and its character strengthened. Further, seeing that the primary purpose for which marriage exists is the procreation of children, it believes that this purpose as well as the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control should be the governing considerations in that intercourse.

Resolution 14

The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex

The Conference affirms:

1. the duty of parenthood as the glory of married life;

2. the benefit of a family as a joy in itself, as a vital contribution to the nation's welfare, and as a means of character-building for both parents and children;

3. the privilege of discipline and sacrifice to this end."

And then came the one resolution with troublesome results:

"Resolution 15

The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex

Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

Voting: For 193; Against 67."

What exactly are those "other methods" spoken of? After all, the "rhythm method" refined today into NFP, is a method. The wording very well may have been intended in such a natural way, especially considering the words, "provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles," and the strong words that follow. Nowhere does this resolution clearly approve of artificial contraception. In a very conservative era, 1930, it was the Washington Post editorial, critical of this new immoral church teaching (as they saw it) that has made everyone assume, to this day, that the door to treating contraception as licit was the intention. But, that was never clear. In the context of the resolutions as a whole, it seems highly unlikely that the bishops were approving such resort to the chemist (as the English call pharmacists).

Look at a later resolution, by the way:

"Resolution 16

The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex

The Conference further records its abhorrence of the sinful practice of abortion."

I have no doubt that most critics have not read this series of resolutions from the 1930 Lambeth Conference,and neither had those who assumed that "my church now says it's ok." So, how did this happen? By letting the Washington Post interpret the resolution for us. That's how.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I should add, further borne out by the "other methods" contrasted against "complete abstinence." This implies partial abstinence as the opposite. That is, what we call today NFP, and what they called rhythm method.

Nathan said...

Thank you Fr. Hart. That reveals much and answers most of my questions. Of course it matters little now, whether Lambeth or the Post punched a hole in the cask. The wine flows freely and no one seems to want to roll the barrel over. The question that remains is, 'How do we get ourselves back on track?' Perhaps the answer is all too obvious.