Fr. Jerome is a highly respected English Old Catholic priest, who, with a distinct viewpoint, has proven himself a sympathetic friend to Anglicans. He submitted a thoughtful comment regarding ACNA to the Anglican Diaspora discussion board. I thought his words sufficiently weighty to post here, with my own comments interspersed in italics. ed pacht
Thank you for a comment, as always from you, that is well thought out, and both definite and eirenic. While I'm in substantial disagreement with a lot of your comment, it is substantial enough to require detailed comment from me. I'm afraid this will be rather a long post, but here goes:
'I write, of course, from a tradition that has had its own share of factions... I have often lamented my disappointment that the Continuum sadly followed suit... How sad it is that the Continuum, splintered as it is, was not a viable option for these other (in the main) orthodox Anglicans to join forces with? Effectively creating now three "Anglican Communions" - "in" Canterbury (Lambeth as is), "for" Canterbury (ACNA) and "outside" Canterbury (Continuum).'
Yes, how sad. Though I am extremely committed to the Continuum, I am so well aware of its glaring faults, especially of its scandalous divisions, that I have no problem at all in understanding why people would make what I see as a mistake and cast their lot with ACNA. I'm afraid it's very largely our fault in doing such a very poor job of living out our vision.
'What is interesting is that such a force, in the majority, appears not to seem interested in communion with Rome or anyone else - or at least, a portion of it that might (AC's), does not see the pursuit of that reality for many years yet.'
To a large extent, that ball is in Rome's court at this juncture. The one major obstacle to those of us who are not AngloPapalists is the role of the papacy, and even then, not so much the claims made by them but the necessity to sign on to such views in order to be in unity. I'm rather skeptical that Rome will bend in this issue any time soon.
'What it also seems to emphasize is the "looseness" or "broadness" of Anglicanism perpetuating without resolution - from the "lowest of the Low" to the Anglo-Catholic non-Papalist remnant - as if it is still possible to express effectively two (or several) different understandings of core doctrine within a whole - the Protestant and the Catholic spectrums. In other words... those who believe in the Apostolic Succession,the power of the Sacraments, the efficacy of the Mass and the worship of eternal heaven and those who believe in "the Ministry" and of "worship services"... hasn't recent history showed that these two extremes cannot be held together in harmony? Isn't it exactly this struggle - between Protestantism and Catholicism - that has brought all these current problems to this explosive event? While the factions may be united in their rejection of WO they do so from very different understandings of what the Sacrament of Orders is... and so, fundamentally differ on the very essence of what "the Church" is?'
Here is the place where I disagree with you entirely. There is no necessary opposition between "Catholic" and "Protestant" views, or at least there is none in the things affirmed by each "side". It is only when one side tries to deny the positive insights of the other that contradictions arise. In all aspects of theology there is a tension between seeming opposites that are, in actuality, both parts of the one truth. The strangeness of the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, the fluid-seeming relation of faith and works, the ongoing struggle to reconcile election and free will, the concurrence in the sacraments of what seems natural and mundane with the eternal. In the historic conflicts over the Trinity and Christology, it became very clear that taking one pole of the issue to the point where it weakens or denies the other is always productive of false teaching, and the classic, Patristic, Conciliar definitions of these matters are beautifully balanced, and more effective in denying false speculations than in providing something entirely graspable by the human mind. Having, in my rather peculiar pilgrimage, dallied with all sorts of extremes, I've come to have a real appreciation for the wisdom of what the classic Anglicans proclaimed, a vision both "Catholic" and "Protestant" and at the same time neither exclusively one or the other.
You defined the difference in these terms: 'In other words... those who believe in the Apostolic Succession,the power of the Sacraments, the efficacy of the Mass and the worship of eternal heaven and those who believe in "the Ministry" and of "worship services"... '
Where is the essential opposition between priesthood and "the Ministry"? The Apostolic ministry has BOTH a sacerdotal aspect AND a teaching role. Administration of sacraments is not in opposition to the plain gifts of pastoral concern. One of the major causes of the Reformation was just here. The Middle Ages seem to have come up with a settlement of this seeming conflict, and the priesthood had become entirely sacrificial, a very large proportion of clergy neither preaching, nor informed enough to preach, and real pastoral care being often sadly neglected. The Mass is both a sacrifice and a worship service, but had become relegated to being merely sacrificial, offered by the priest with little participation from the laity, who could do no more than watch. Again, there is no conflict between Scripture and genuine Tradition, but instead of teaching the Scriptures, it had become the usual thing to deny them to the laity. The medieval settlement was sadly and dangerously skewed in one direction, provoking a necessary reaction. However many of those so reacting began, while recovering those aspects of the faith called "protestant" began to deny (often angrily) many of the truths usually considered "Catholic", and a monochromatic distortion was now supplanted by a radical division, both sides affirming much of the same truth, and each side holding truths denied or neglected by the other. It appears that only the Anglican divines were truly intentional at recovering both sides of the equation and living in the tension between seeming opposites.
I am an Anglo-Catholic, but one that refuses to "unchurch" those of a more "Protestant" view, so long as the attitude is reciprocal. I firmly believe that a church that is not openly and obviously both Catholic and Evangelical is exercising a defective ministry. Being in a diocese where some are more Protestant than I and others more skewed toward the Roman direction does not seem to me a problem, but rather a very healthy manifestation of wholeness.
'It seems that many people believe "Anglicanism" with all its strange contradictions, to be a religion all of its own and for its own sake worth keeping... at almost any cost or sacrifice of conscience, anything and everything can be compromised. It seems to have evolved into a hybrid all of its own, where distinctions from different cultures and schools of thought have blurred and distorted into something beginning to look like a new religion, a new Christianity... Almost to the point that groups "breaking away" based "on principle" begin to look themselves pointless, being as they are full of contradictions, it would seem a better use of resources and energy to remain and fight it all out from "within" where confusion, contradiction and compromise abound!'
That's a rather conventional attitude on your part, Father, but actually rather unfair. Most of the "contradictions" within Anglicanism are only apparent contradictions, and really truths that need, so to speak, their heads butted together, to find the transrational synthesis that exists in eternity. The ACNA, for all its faults, is not disunited in the core teachings if the Gospel, nor in its final realization that there is no commonality with a body that officially refuses to affirm basic Christianity and outright denies Christian moral theology. I only wish their separation could have led to unity with us of the Continuum, and lay much of the reason why not upon our own chaos.
'What is "Anglicanism"? I thought it was a continuation of a Catholic Church originally from England that through various accidents of history had lost connection with the Western Catholic Patriarchate at Rome but had developed/retained the core religion and practices enough that both had hoped one day to be reconciled... "separated brethren'
That's no more than a partial truth. It is, in truth, that continuation, but it is also the recovery of essential truths that were being either neglected or even denied by many in the Medieval Church. There is much in Anglicanism (which incidentally Benedict XVI seems to realize) that Rome itself needs to hear.
As for ACNA.: There is the fatal issue of women attempting to be priests, producing a structural problem that can only be resolved by abandoning that attempt, and a few lesser issues (often shown in liturgy). These problems seem to preclude a unity among non-TEC Anglicans at the present time. One can hope and pray that a truly Catholic and truly Evangelical solution may be reached. For the moment these are brethren, worthy of respect, worthy of every effort to cooperate so far as possible. These are not enemies, and some of the language directed toward them on this board and elsewhere is not fitting for Christians. Differences remain, and so long as that is the case, it is our obligation to pray for one another and to reach out to one another, seeking, not for a least common denominator, but for a real unity.