Sunday, February 15, 2009

By the Waters of Babylon

We all recognize that Anglicanism, whether the various Continuing jurisdictions or the various divisions in the Canterbury Communion is under a great deal of stress these days. My friend Jonathan Munn has written a rather incisive discussion of these stresses and their emotional effects. You can read it on his blog at:



Canon Tallis said...

I feel for Mr Munn and all his kind, but the truth is that they have brought this all upon themselves. It is like a form of insanity for which there is no or little cure. For them Catholicity is all bound up with the see of Rome and not with the full doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, the writings of the Fathers and ancient bishops, the Creeds and the decrees of the earliest General Councils. Their presentation of their form of Catholicity is no older than the Council of Trent just as their ceremonial is not that of the ancient Western Church but the Roman Counter Reformation. They think of and call themselves "Anglo-Catholics" but distance themselves from everything truly and authentically Anglican.

One actually could be much more brutal, but, truthfully, that would gain us nothing. Unless they wake up and realize that they have made a very sad spectacle of themselves which has cost real Anglo-Catholicism its influence in the English Church, there is nothing which can be done. Nothing for them and, more importantly, less for those whom they ought to have been teaching real Catholic Faith and Practice.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

As long as they accept Roman definitions as the standard of true "Catholicity" they will be an embarrassment to us all, and won't even have the sense to know it.

poetreader said...

Respectfully, Fathers, I think you've missed Jonathan's point entirely.

As it happens, I don't agree with my good friend in his assessment of the position of the Roman Bishop, but that is not what this article is about at all. It is a painful cry (from his perspective) about the absolutely shameful division among Christians. To say that "they brought it upon themselves" or to label them an "embarrassment" is to avoid the necessity of finding unity in Christ.

There are differences, some of them substantial, but if we see these differences as excuses to remain separated, I maintain that we sin grievously. It may be unavoidable that we live with the sepapration that exists, but we do not have God's permission to act as though that is a good or a natural thing.

Our historic Anglican standards may indeed be the purest and most accurate statement of Scriptural truth (I believe that to be true), but it is the most blatant hubris to insist that what I have come to believe as true is therefore infallible. We are fallible and sinful, and therefore, without even being aware of it, we are in some degree of error; an observation that applies to RCs and Orthodox also, and we need to learn how to listen together to what God has said, and to how He is leading us into that truth.

One of the things that non-Christians see most clearly in the Christians of this world is that we are experts in biting and devouring one another. We give the appearance (not always falsely) that we'd rather be identified by what we don't believe, and by who we reject, than by the saving truths of the Gospel of Christ.

I linked to his post in the belief that the intelligent readers of this blog might be able to see beyond their own limited perspectives to share in the common pain of disunity, and perhaps to open a dialog as to how to reach out to each other in love while retaining the integrity of what we do believe. Was I wrong? Are we really as isolated from each other as these comments make it appear?


Canon Tallis said...


As someone with very strong family ties both to Orthodoxy and the Roman Church, I personally feel very much the pain of our separation. I spent my college years studying Russian intellectual history and reading orthodox theologians. During my years in the military I spent a good deal of time attending Orthodox services because no Anglican ones were available, but that also meant I was unable to receive communion. There is a further irony about that which I might share sometime in the future.

As a teenager I memorized the Latin needed to serve the Tridentine mass to help a very good friend who was RC do so. As a result my own Roman uncle had me serving a Roman cardinal archbishop who did his very best to persuade me to a Roman vocation. He kept up his persuasions even after my uncle finally informed him that I was an Anglican. My oldest daughter married a papist and two of my grandchildren are Romans. At my grandson's baptism my daughter insisted that I be made his Godfather. It was a lovely service. The Roman priest interrupted it four times for another shot of Jamison's.

Now I fully believe that there is only one Church which is entered by baptism. Even those protestants and pentecostals are members of this Church by virtue of their baptism. Its unity is sacramental and mystical; its divisions the result of politics, faulty understandings and various historical ugliness. No one is more aware of this or more cleanly and clearly feels the pain of it than true classical, prayer book Anglicans. We do what both the Romans and the Orthodox are incapable; we recognize them as part of the sacramental and mystical reality of Christ's Church and have treated both with a concern and tenderness which they have not returned. So Anglicans are used to it. It hurts but we have, it seems, a very high pain threshold.

A number of years ago, I was a regular visitor to Great Britain spending some months at a time attempting to wake ordinary Anglicans and even "Anglo-Catholics" to what was coming. They were not interested. It was not going to happen to them or to the Church of England or the Episcopal Church of Scotland. And if it did, Rome was already there to take them - or so they thought. But what they were not going to do was make common cause with Evangelicals or Low Churchmen or recognize what their own party was doing.

We all have the pain; we all recognize its sources but that does not mean that we can persuade anyone to the historic right thing. But those does not excuse us, the odd and anciently faithful, from not doing and believing all that we are historically committed of being. It fortunately, from the point of our Lord, a win-win situation if an uncomfortable one.

poetreader said...

Thank you, Father, for a moving testimony. All I'm really campaigning for is the kind of listening ear that will hear what others ar saying, and will recognize in them the same pain we feel. Father, they have not brought this all upon themselves. They have followed their conscience as best as they've been able, and that journey has willy-nilly led them to a difficult and painful place. I may not agree (as I've said, in many ways I do not), but I respect that journey, and I find myself listening to them to find out if I've gone wrong (which I'm certain I have, at least to some degree), as well as observinbg ways in which I still believe they have gone wrong.
What I'd like to see more of is a reasoned discussion of just what the differences are, with a sincere effort to find the closest possible approach to one another. What I hope not to see more of is name-calling and the use of words like insanity.
In short, what I think you can give us is the depth of heart you've just showed in this post (I repeat the thanks for that) as the means of expressing the solid traditional Anglicanism to which you are so committed (and which I mostly share).
As I said, I don't think you really read Dr. Munn carefully enough to hear him out, and that's the kind of thing we all need to do.

Sincerely, in common devotion to Him.