So, in looking at the current state of the Continuing churches, we must first identify who we are. Most people see only that our churches are not centrally united under one House of Bishops. They look at the fact that all too often bishops have been consecrated not to fill a vacancy or to establish a mission, but rather because someone wanted to wear a purple shirt. All too often this has been true, as it has been true that unnecessary proliferation of bishops has not produced unity. Indeed, recently two out of the three new bishops consecrated to assist Archbishop Reber of the United Episcopal Church in North America (UECNA) bolted from their jurisdiction altogether. We can hope only that their motives were not unholy.
Nonetheless, we on this Blog do not recognize every group that claims to be a Continuing Anglican Body. The charge that there are now some 42 jurisdictions in Continuing Anglicanism is a false claim, inasmuch as Freedom of Religion makes it impossible to prevent as many imitations as ambition, psychosis, delusion, heresy or pride may create. We recognize, in fact, really only two major groupings. One is the united bodies of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK) and the UECNA. The other is the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) together with with its American branch, the Anglican Church in America (ACA). (As I have stated, the APA has a separate origin, and existed before the Continuing Church.) The APCK and the UECNA have become very small over the years, and exist solely in North America, whereas the ACC has grown to be worldwide with a second Province that is headquartered in India. Therefore, it is not a criticism or a negative judgment on my part that I see the UECNA and the APCK as satellites held in orbit by the ACC. This is simply my own way of phrasing things, and is stated with respect and charity for our fellow Anglicans in the two smaller jurisdictions.
At this time, the stated desire of the TAC/ACA bishops is to enter into unity with the See of Rome, and yet somehow, at the same time, to retain a distinct Anglican identity. In fact, communications have been going on for years between their bishops and other clergy with Rome, and these communications have intensified since late 2007. Nonetheless, even though I myself have friends who are priests, and in one case a bishop, in the ACA, and even though I have talked personally one on one with Archbishop Hepworth for about ninety minutes (having posted his statements here last year), and even though two of our four bloggers are part of the TAC (Ed Pacht, and our newest blogger, Sandra McColl), we cannot report many details. We simply do not know very much of what is happening on that front, and most of it is kept secret according to Archbishop Hepworth himself. The concern that has been brought to my attention, by TAC members who have written to me, or commented here, is mainly a desire to see or hear a commitment to Anglicanism itself, that its riches not be lost in the process, wherever that process may lead. Certainly, to recover unity with Rome has been an idea that Anglicans, alone of all the Reformation churches, never rejected, and that even Richard Hooker wrote about. It was very much a stated hope of Anglicans in the early 20th century, and so was unity with the Orthodox Church (which was bearing observable fruit until Women's "Ordination"). Our Catholic beliefs and sacraments unite our thinking in many ways already.
The desire of the bloggers here is to see a day when the bishops of the TAC will be reconciled to the other grouping, namely the ACC-APCK-UECNA. Speaking for myself, I state openly and with all due respect for my associates here who belong to the TAC, that the ball is in Archbishop Hepworth's court, and has been for years. Archbishop Mark Haverland wrote an open letter to his fellow Archbishop quite a long time ago, and it calls for an equally open and public response. It seems to me, if to no one else, that working for unity beyond the Anglican Continuum ought to wait for unity within it. Then a common effort towards greater Catholic unity can pick up where it left off when the Canterbury Communion dropped the ball by contaminating Holy Orders (and then by having continued to become worse and worse with no bottom to the abyss).
I became part of the ACC, as many readers may recall, more than a year after initially protesting my own mistreatment at the hands of one APCK bishop early in 2007. I felt a personal sense of gratitude to Bishop Rocco Florenza (and still do), inasmuch as he was the champion of priests who had been similarly mistreated before the APCK elected a new Archbishop later that same year. My bias at that time was pro TAC/ACA, simply because that is where Bishop Florenza went. My decision, therefore, to be received into the ACC involved a conscious and deliberate series of considerations. Nonetheless, the commitment we all share at this blog has never changed. It is to help unify the jurisdictions in any way we can, and each of us is committed to this effort.
Contrary to what people write on other blogs and websites, my experience these last several months is one of vital and thriving churches that have plenty of children, youth and young couples. The various churches I have seen in the two dioceses of the ACC, in which I have served, show every sign of health and of having a bright future (currently I am in the Archbishop's diocese, expecting to serve at St. Benedict's until I get too old to function, or until I depart this life). The stereo-type of congregations consisting solely of only a few elderly, grumpy people about to die off, or of churches top-heavy with clergy, or of the priesthood of all bishops, is not only a caricature, but altogether false. But, if our expectations are set on a low standard, we may well achieve that and no more, inasmuch as when you aim at nothing you hit it every time.
The health of the Continuing churches requires a commitment to evangelism, based on the conviction that the riches we possess are needed by those who are without. If our motivation for growth is to meet our own needs we may well fail, and deserve to. If our motivation is to save souls, and to that end lead people into the fellowship of the Church, God himself is with us and we are co-laborers with Him. The health of the Continuing churches requires, as well, that we believe that our churches can thrive. This is why I relate my happy experiences of late; to lift the level of your faith and expectations. The health of the Continuum requires also that we teach our people why Anglicanism provides the best way to live as a Christian, and to that end I have written a large number of articles explaining classic Anglican teaching.