Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Outsider's View

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


Fr. Jerome,

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:

You said:

'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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

St. Peter June 29th

Click on the picture for a sermon about St. Peter the Apostle. (Anyone wishing to comment should first return to this page.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

False Choices on the Atonement

The following are offered as statement of undeniable fact.

1. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was the kippor (atonement) typified by the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, as foretold most clearly in the Suffering Servant passage (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), and by his title Lamb of God.

2. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was forensic, because God's Law is perfect justice. Therefore, our salvation required a sacrificial victim (as it proved to be, the self-offering from love).

3. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was a ransom to free those held hostage to sin and death.

4. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was the victory, as Christus Victor; and that it is one act with his resurrection.

In modern times, theological writers have set points 1 and 2 against points 3 and 4. In this scenario points 1 and 2 are attributed to St. Anselm and considered to be uniquely western, whereas points 3 and 4 are considered to be uniquely eastern. Furthermore, in this modern scenario that reinvents history, Anselm is believed to have written that God was infuriated with us until Jesus pacified the Father's rage. In even worse misrepresentations of Anselm, God is said to have taken pleasure, in the modern sense of the word, from his Son's crucifixion. Of course, these last two ideas are expressed with most certain conviction by those who, apparently, do not know Anselm from Popeye the Sailor Man. His writing very clearly sets forth the Atonement as the will of the whole Trinity (for God had one will), and therefore Christ's self-offering as the manifestation of the love of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost (as St.Paul taught, Rom.5:8). The images of God the Father as a raging tyrant pacified or pleased (in the modern sense of the word) by his Son's agonies, has never been western theology at all, and was never taught by Anselm. Use of Biblical language that is metaphorical, such as "wrath," does not change this fact.

Having read the Bible over and over since I was 14 (and I am now, in 2009, 51), and having studied for well over three decades the teaching of the Church, east and west from Antiquity forward, it is obvious to me that all four points are true, and that the people who insist that we must choose between either 1 and 2 or 3 and 4, suffer from deficiency of logic or from blind spots in their knowledge of the Bible. Also, the same people, on both sides, suffer from apparent gaps in their Patristic literacy, knowing only the works that present either one view or the other. Such is a weak knowledge of the ancient writers. Those who make us choose between these Biblical revelations, known and taught by the Church, require that we limit our appreciation, and even our understanding, of the fullness of God's word to man. If we know only Christus Victor, and not the Lamb of God, then we know nothing of our own sinfulness from which we were saved by God's mercy. If we know only the Suffering Servant who bears the righteous requirement of the Law for us, and not the victorious Christ also, we cannot look ahead to the Day when the saints will be glorified as partakers of the Divine Nature by grace.

Why must we choose? Why must we neglect our full heritage for only half the story? Is it to keep division alive and well? Is it to maintain enmity in the household of God, treating bitterness as a sacred thing, to be guarded at all costs against the threat of unity, and the danger of healing? Is it to defend bad theses written by young scholars who, having reached an advanced age and reputation, cannot admit that the young men they were can be corrected by the old men they have become? Or, is it just Satanic, an effort to make sure nobody can preach the whole Gospel with power and conviction?

Frankly it is one reason I remain a convinced Anglican. I can embrace it all, and I refuse the false choice that would require me to throw half the Gospel away.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Third Sunday after Trinity

I Pet. 5:5-11
Luke 15:1-10

To speak of God as suffering loss would be, in a literal sense, quite wrong inasmuch as God “hath need of nothing.” Yet, in the three parables from the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the climactic parable being the Prodigal Son (reserved for another Sunday), the Lord speaks of the loss that is suffered by charity. God, who hath need of nothing, so loved the world that He sought and found His lost creation through His Son. How can this be? Charity feels loss based on something other than need, because in the most correct theological understanding, everything we have and are in creation is by grace. Our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all His inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, are all by His grace, the love that gives and keeps giving. In no way whatsoever is the love of God selfish, as ours often is. He hath need of nothing, and yet He has stooped to save His lost creation.

This ought to have a powerful effect on us in two ways. First, by becoming saints through grace. As I have reminded you often, every Christian is called to sainthood, total sanctification, holiness of life. This is impossible for everyone of us without the grace of God, and yet it is the vocation of everyone of us. It is your vocation. Whether or not you are called into ordained ministry, or whether or not you have at this point any sense of the specific gifts and calling God has placed within you, you can be sure of this vocation and calling, and of every gift required to help you along: you are called to be holy as the Lord your God is holy. Among the gifts provided are the Word of God, the Sacraments that come through the Church, and, as Saint Paul wrote, “good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) And, what we should all bear in mind is the warning contained, if not hidden, in all of the beauty of the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, that without charity all our works are, as the Collect for Quinquagesima puts it, “nothing worth.”

We ought to pause and reflect on that chapter just a bit longer. What Saint Paul described is a verbal icon of our Lord Jesus, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38),” to quote saint Peter. Here we see what I have said about the unselfish nature of charity. The Lord Jesus was rewarded for His good works by unjust condemnation and crucifixion, proving that we cannot measure the value of our love by the way in which others respond to it; this love, charity, is the love of God that accepts the rejection and hatred that may be its only reward in a fallen and sinful world, as it was for Christ. With its affection set on things above, not on things of this earth, charity endures all things, hopes all things and believes all things. For you to begin the process of growing in this virtue of charity by grace, you must come to the foot of the cross, look up on the bleeding sacrifice of the Son of Man in all His agonies, and take it personally. You must see Him there for you; and so the love of God begins to grow in your own heart by the Holy Ghost.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” as Saint Paul says. He added those words, “of whom I am chief.” This one time self-righteous Pharisee became aware of his true need at the same moment in which he became aware of his salvation and his calling. Therefore, he spoke of ‘the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).” Like Saint Paul, you must learn to take it personally, very personally. The Son of God loved you, and gave Himself for you. Look up at His suffering, behold His scars, see the stripes of your healing, behold the nails through the wrists and feet, the crown of thorns, the offering up of His life, the pouring out of his soul unto death, and take it personally. The Son of God loved you, and gave Himself for you.

And, now the virtue of charity begins to grow in you.

This is what it means that He sought after that which was lost, leaving the ninety and nine to search for you and find you and bring you home. And, this leads us to the second point.

We must see today’s Gospel in terms of our mission in the world. One other calling and vocation of which each one of us can be sure is that we are to do the work of an evangelist. This does not mean that you all are called to preach like Billy Graham or Bishop Sheen; but it does mean that you are called to be a witness that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. The result of charity taking root and growing within you is that you begin to see the people around you in terms of their need, their greatest need being to know Jesus Christ. If we are Catholic people, then we know that as the Body of Christ in this world, and as members with specific gifts- even with gifts often unknown to those who have them- it is through us that the Son of Man continues to seek and to save that which was lost. His Incarnation is extended through His Church, and I do mean you.

When we become workers together with God, as Saint Paul put it, we can trust the Holy Spirit to make up for all that we lack. When you were confirmed it was not a rite of passage, or simply a ticket to Holy Communion. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were placed within you. When charity makes you aware of the needs of those around you, do not be surprised when you sense that you must do a particular thing, or say specific words to a specific person. Learn to know the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit until it becomes quite a normal part of your life.

Divine love, charity, moved the Lord to speak of God, “who hath need of nothing” as if he suffered loss. The message to day is simple: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The ACNA and Abortion

The following was submitted to us from Archbishop Mark Haverland of the ACC.

Michael Heidt, commenting on the newly adopted Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) writes:

Title II…Canon 7…Section 3 may be breaking new ground. It syllogises: "God, and not man, is the creator of human life. The unjustified taking of life is sinful. Therefore, all members and clergy are called to promote and respect the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death." There may not be a clearer, canonical statement against abortion and the culture of death in the Anglican Communion - certainly not in the West.

Father Heidt may be correct about the Anglican Communion. The problem, however, is that the Anglican Communion is so far gone from the Catholic Faith that its standard is useless. It is much more instructive to compare the ACNA canon with other, better authorities.

Canon 1398 of the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church is brief and clear: ‘A person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae [that is, ipso facto or automatic] excommunication.’ The Roman canon imposes the gravest of penalties for abortion or similar killings. The ACNA canon, in contrast is a moral exhortation, without sanction or penalty.

Canon 15.1.01 of the Canons of the Anglican Catholic Church is also clear and is more detailed than the Roman canon:

The defencelessness of the unborn entails a great responsibility on the part of every Christian, and especially on the part of each of his or her parents. The deliberate and willful abortion, directly procured, of any unborn child at any time from the moment of conception, is always an act of grave sin not only by the person who procures the same, but also by [any] person or persons who effectuate the same or acquiesce therein.

While no penalty is specifically stated here, the ACC’s law elsewhere incorporates the common law of the Western Church: and as so often in this case also the Roman canon simply codifies what is in fact the content of that common law.

By clearly stating that ‘every human life from conception to natural death’ is sacred, the position of the ACNA is vastly superior to that of the pro-abortion Episcopal Church. This is important for Continuing Churchmen, because in the United States the Minneapolis General Convention (1976), which brought in priestesses and the 1979 prayer book, also adopted a pro-abortion position. The moral premise of the ACNA on life is sound and is a major, welcome improvement over the innovative heresy and immorality of the Episcopal Church.

Nonetheless, there is a serious problem with the ACNA canon, apart from its merely hortatory nature. The problem is that the canon includes a formal element which largely empties it of content. A formal element in a moral principle or rule or law is an element in the formulation of the law itself which presumes what is in fact in question. The more specific content a rule has, the more questionable it becomes. The more formal and vague a law, the closer it may come to being true without exception. ‘Do good,’ is always a sound rule. But the real question is almost always, ‘What is good in this case?’

For instance, if a mother tells Johnny, ‘You must never push your sister,’ Johnny has been given a rule that has clear content. However, if Johnny’s sister is about to be hit by a car, Johnny should push her out of danger. The rule needs an exception because its specific content runs up against many conceivable circumstances and situations which would make it a bad rule.

‘It is wrong to murder’ is a formal norm and is true without exception. It is a ‘formal norm’ because murder is by definition wrongful killing. The rule is a kind of tautology: ‘It is always wrong to kill when the killing in question is wrong.’ The formulation itself assumes that we can correctly distinguish wrongful from appropriate killing.

The ACNA canon smuggles in such a formal element when it condemns as sinful ‘the unjustified taking of life’. The canons says, in effect, ‘when it is wrong to take life, then taking the life in question is wrong’. The canon is formally true, but in that respect is emptied of much of its content. I do not assert that the canon is entirely without content: as noted, its extension of the realm of the sacred to embrace all life from conception to natural death is very significant. But the smuggling in of the formal term ‘unjustified’ introduces a hole large enough to drive a truck through.

Incidentally, the Affirmation of Saint Louis on this particular matter is little better than the ACNA canon: ‘Every human being, from the time of his conception, is a creature and child of God, made in His image and likeness, an infinitely precious soul; and…the unjustifiable or inexcusable taking of life is always sinful.’ Yes. But what does or does not justify or excuse in this case?

In this respect the Canons of the ACC build on the statement of the Affirmation and add content to its correct but overly formal starting point. By using traditional terms of art from moral theology, the ACC canon in this case distinguishes direct from indirect acts of will, which distinction allows us to navigate complex moral situations in which the life of a mother is threatened by pregnancy.

In the case of the sanctity of life, the ACNA has come more than half way back from the errors of the Episcopal Church and of most of the Anglican Communion. But in this case as in others, the journey back has not yet been completed. The ACNA is reinventing the wheel, but the new wheel isn’t as good as the one we are already riding on.

+ Mark Haverland

(The Most Reverend) Mark Haverland, Ph.D.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On Jordan's Bank

For the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. A poem in his voice speaking the message he had for his day, and for ours:

"Come to the Living Water - to Jesus Himself - and be clean."

On Jordan's Bank

You think you're clean?
You need the water,
living water, running water, cooling water,
water falling from the skies,
rushing from the hills,
running in the riverflow,
and calling out to you.

Come to the water,
soiled and sullied by a sullied world,
fevered with a fatal plague,
thirsting with a dryness unassuaged,
so dry, so ill, unclean

Come to the water, plunge in the water,
with all your filth and your mire.
stand in the water, the pouring water,
the healing, cooling, cleansing water,
and be washed,
and be cleansed,
and healed and filled with life,
and rise from the water

Living water, running water, cooling water
water falling from the skies
rushing from the hills,
running in the riverflow,
dripping from your naked skin,
as you walk clean and changed,
healed, transformed,
a force to change the world.

------------------------------ed pacht

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

St.John the Baptist June 24th

Click on the icon for a Bible study about John the Baptist.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Second Sunday after Trinity

The Epistle: I John 3:13-24
The Gospel: Luke 14:16-24

Now that we are settled into the long green season of Trinitytide, we have entered into the second half of the Church year. In the Epistle and Gospel for the First Sunday after Trinity, and then in today's Epistle and Gospel, we find a theme of duty to our neighbor. It is as if the Church year divides like the two tables of the Law. The first four commandments are about our duty to God, corresponding to the First and Great commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." All these: Thou shalt have none other gods but me, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain, Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day, are the first table. The second table, all the rest, are about our duty to our neighbor, and they correspond to the second Great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Honour thy father and thy mother, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, Thou shalt not covet, are commandments briefly summed up by love of neighbor, If you were prepared for Confirmation according to the requirements laid out in the Book of Common Prayer with its Offices of Instruction, you know these things.

When I say that the Church year reflects these two tables of the Law, I draw from the First Epistle of St. John, which is read on these first two Sundays after Trinity. Remember what we read last week, from the chapter that follows today's Epistle: "We love him, because he first loved us. " (I John 4:19) That is what the first half of the Church year teaches us in detail. We begin by looking ahead, focusing on the day when Christ will come again in glory. On the first Sunday of the Church year we see that his coming will be like a refiner's fire, seeing his cleansing of the temple with a view to the last day and his coming to judge the quick and the dead. Then, soon after that, we are told the story of God's great love on Christmas, when the babe, the world's redeemer first revealed his sacred face. We are then reminded all throughout Epiphany that he went about doing good, healing all who were oppressed of the devil. In Lent we enter with him into his fasting and discipline, and prepare to follow him to Gethsemane, and then to his trial and death.

At that point we see the greatest manifestation of God's love.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:5-8)

St. Paul tells us the same thing that St. John tells us, and also reminds us that the Holy Spirit makes this a reality in our own hearts. Our love for God is only possible because he first loved us, and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The first half of the church year draws most of our attention to what God has done for us in his Son, Jesus Christ: It is summarized by a hymn:

O Love, how deep, how broad, how high,
how passing thought and fantasy,
that God, the Son of God should take
our mortal form for mortals' sake.

For us baptized, for us he bore
his holy fast and hungered sore.
For us temptations sharp he knew,
for us the tempter overthrew.

For us he prayed, for us he taught,
for us his daily works he wrought,
by words and signs and actions thus,
still seeking not himself but us.

For us to evil men betrayed,
scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed.
He bore the shameful cross and death,
for us gave up his dying breath.

For us he rose from death again;
for us he went on high to reign;
for us he sent his Spirit here
to guide, to comfort and to cheer.

All glory to our Lord and God
for love so deep, so high, so broad;
the Trinity whom we adore
forever and forevermore!

(Text: Thomas á Kempis; tr. Benj. Webb, J.M. Neale, alt.)

This corresponds to the first and great Commandment because we cannot manufacture love for God. If not for what Jesus did on this earth, and if not for the Holy Spirit, coming down to the Church on the day of Pentecost, we could not love God. His love for us is emphasized in the first half of our year, and this does not merely require our love for God; it produces it.

"We love him, because he first loved us."

Now, after Pentecost, we enter into Trinitytide and the emphasis turns immediately to the second table of the Law, as we saw last week in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, and as we heard in the Epistle: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." (I John 4:11-13) Our love for neighbor also comes from the same love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, manifested most visibly on the cross where he died for each of us-love you must learn to take personally, as St. Paul took it personally, saying with him "...the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Your charity, grown as the virtue of perfection in your heart by the Holy Spirit, is love that begins to take root and grow only because you know that the Son of God loved you, and gave himself for you.

That produces love for God, and produces love for your neighbor. In this opening of Trintiytide we see that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor.

We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he bath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. (I John 4:19-21)

And so, today's Epistle:

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:15-18)

This is practical, and speaks of love that acts spontaneously, because it is a reality always present. Though St. John's words make us think of practical, earthly necessities (and the Church has always emphasized ministry to the poor concerning their practical needs, including medical needs), we must remember that John expressed his love most clearly by preaching the Gospel, and writing to the end that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

The first generation of Christians faced rejection from many of their fellow Jews, and at the same time they came to see that the Gospel is for all nations, and so began including Gentiles in the Church as God had foretold and as Christ commanded. This began when St. Peter went to the house of Cornelius, and then, in time, it became the ministry of St. Paul more than any other, to take the Gospel to people who had formerly been thought of as unclean, so much so that no Jew could enter their houses. This tells us that taking the Gospel to those who are outside is a great act of love in itself.

This is from today's Gospel in the 14th chapter of Luke:

Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Evangelism is a duty, an act of charity that we owe our neighbor; it is a manifestation of love. If we are to evangelize seriously, love for neighbor must be our motivation rather than simply a need to grow our churches. Yes, the Master wants them to come into his house. But this is not to fill pews, collect more money, or keep up with the churches that have more members to boast of.

The Master wants his house to be filled, and the emphasis is on the feast.
The emphasis on the feast speaks of the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb," a reference to eternal joy for those who are raised to immortality on the Last Day. Nonetheless, the use of a feast in the parable should also draw our attention to the Blessed Sacrament. One very real part of our duty to our neighbor, born of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is to invite people to come in. That invitation is to "taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) This presupposes that we help them to true faith in Jesus Christ so that they may be full members of his Church.

Contrary to the way some modern Evangelicals think, evangelism is not finished when someone "accepts Jesus." A person needs to be baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit, and to taste of the Master's Supper, the Blessed Sacrament of his body and blood. Evangelism, properly understood, requires the ministry of God's word and sacraments.

Nonetheless, one ministry everybody has is contained in those words we heard: "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." The Holy Spirit who dwells within you gives gifts that enable and empower each of you, in ways so varied that no one could know them, to be a witness that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Savior of the world. Love has to be your motivation for helping others come to know him.

"And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not as enemies

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.-Lev.19:17,18

Right now I am willing to accept the role of the bad guy, the fellow with the waxed mustache who has tied the helpless damsel in distress to the railroad tracks. My recent criticism of the ACNA, after so many months of what some have called (mistakenly) my Anti-Roman Tracts, certainly demonstrates my insensitive side. However, most of the comments have revealed that I am not alone. Several of you have waxed mustaches as well, and together we seem to wear the black hats.

Nonetheless, as someone said to me via e-mail, the toothpaste is out of the tube where the ACNA is concerned. They will continue to have priestesses in the church. Two comments offered on their behalf, to this blog, were rejected because they failed the "robust if polite" test. The same person or persons may try again to state a point of view without the venom, and we will publish the comment(s), since it is obvious that we welcome intelligent dissent. Those two unpublished comments explained why the Continuing Churches are rapidly disappearing, why we are afraid of ACNA competition, why we are "growing more irrelevant every day," and contained other libel. The problem is, of course, no one should explain why something is happening when, in fact, it is not happening. This picture of our churches as dying off, especially in my experience these last several months in the ACC, is not a portrait, and not even a caricature. A caricature should be at least recognizable, somewhat of an accurate portrait, distorted by emphasis of existing features. False features do not a portrait, nor even a caricature, make. However, the two ACNA problems of women's "ordination" and of violating the integrity of at least this Diocese of the South, ACC-OP by a direct approach to parishes with no episcopal approval, is completely accurate. So, we may as well say so.

The ACNA are not enemies, and they are not competition (in any sense). Rather, they are fellow Christians who have chosen a difficult path. This path will bring them into the same kind of difficulties we have faced for over thirty years. We could make useful guides through this strange country they have entered. They are going to lose the financial backing of the Episcopal Church, and most of them will have none of its real estate to use for their congregations. We respect the courage it has taken to follow our example in these matters. We had hoped that they would follow through with an honest study of the subject of women's ordination, which had seemed to be a likely possibility, and are disappointed. But, it is because we do not consider them to be enemies that we are willing to speak the truth in terms that may indeed wax our mustaches, and place black hats on our heads. So it was done to the prophets who were before us.

Jeremiah's mustache was waxed, and a black hat was placed upon his head.

For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side.- Jer. 20:8-10

Living in times of moral confusion, it is necessary for the Church to speak with a clear voice, in terms that are so firm as to be of true support for those who need strength to stand. Moral confusion is furthered by theological confusion; and one lesson to be learned from the Charismatic Movement, as it was in the 1970s and 80s especially (without disregarding any of the good things it brought), is the danger of sloppy ecumenism that avoids all strife by avoiding theology. For, in many ways, a large portion of that movement played right into the hands of the zeitgeist by teaching its adherents to treat theological standards as a bad thing. The truth, you see, is divisive.

Theological standards must be applied firmly as a service of charity; and theological standards are the sister of moral standards. The two seem to slip away together all too often. Starting off in dangerous territory without sure footing is never a good idea. All I can think to say to the newborn ACNA is a series of warnings about the wide gate and broad way. It is from charity that I express concern for these Israelites who go up against the Amalekites and the Canaanites while Moses and the Ark stay in the camp (Num. 14:40 f); they seem blissfully unaware of the danger before them. My indignation at their presumption, that is, their classy promotional literature sent directly to parishes as if they have a right to ignore the bishops of long established dioceses, is due to disappointment. At one point, especially while writing for The Christian Challenge, I expected much better of them (knowing also, as I do, that these bishops are the very men whose friendship they need). If it takes a man willing to be cast in the role of the bad guy, in order to say what needs saying, so be it.

UPDATE: Correction of facts

This was in a comment in the post below:

"This past Sunday (June 13) Bishop Duncan ordained four women as transitional deacons for the Diocese of Pittsburgh (ACNA). Somehow the rumor was started that this ordination was going to occur at or during the ACNA meeting next week, which is obviously incorrect."

We do not dispute this clarification. Unfortunately, it does not make things better, inasmuch as this error is one of the major issues. Also, the direct approach to parishes across Diocesan boundaries, without regard to the Bishop of each diocese, was simply out of order, and contemptuous of episcopal authority within the Continuum.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ACNA's Direct Approach

(See UPDATE above)

The newly formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), led by Bishop Robert Duncan, received a very thorough response from Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church (posted here), who explained why he declined their invitation to attend their inaugural Provincial Assembly in Bedford, Texas, from June 22nd to 25th. Afterward, we received the news that Bishop Duncan plans to ordain four women during the same time. That no bishop in Continuing Anglicanism has any business lending his presence to their activities at this time, thus dignifying and appearing to endorse or tolerate the heresy of women's ordination, needs no explanation. That this new ACNA fail to appreciate this, and did not mention plans to ordain women, in the invitation, indicates their failure to recognize certain facts. (so that the Archbishop of the ACC found out after declining the invitation, meaning that even had he accepted initially, he would have to back out, because he represents the ACC. He cannot even appear to support such "ordinations").

1. This new ACNA owes respect to the bishops who have gone before them as leaders of the Anglican Diaspora.

2. We were here first. Whatever shortcomings we have as sinners who depend on God's grace, Continuing Anglicans had the sense to leave long before the problem, the one problem the ACNA seems to recognize (Homosexualism), came about.

But that is not the whole problem. Their attitude toward us carries a pattern of apparent contempt.

I followed up the posting of the Archbishop's letter with this comment:

Not only that, but I see from old mail that arrived at St. Benedict's in February (I came here in early March) that the ACNA was inviting each congregation separately, approaching them directly. The people here had been sent an invitation to attend. What kind of polity does the ACNA understand? How can they simply bypass the bishops of each diocese?

One of the first things I discovered was an expensive invitation in the form of a brochure, addressed to St. Benedict's, inviting the congregation to join them. This means that before they sent an invitation to the Acting Primate of the ACC to attend their inaugural Provincial Assembly, they had already invaded his diocese (Diocese of the South, ACC-OP), directly approaching the congregations on an individual basis. That included churches with no resident clergy, such as St. Benedict's in Chapel Hill, N.C. before my arrival.

I cry Foul!

I urge Bishop Duncan and his crew to recognize that each bishop is, in his diocese, the chief Pastor of every church. A Diocesan Ordinary has authority that is not to be violated, and a direct invitation to parishes and missions is a violation. Furthermore, their recent association with the Episcopal Church, up until just recently, renders the ACNA no pride of place, but rather the very opposite. By appealing to each congregation, without episcopal approval, they have presumed to take the highest place, and instead of being urged to "come up higher," by those of us who followed our Patron St. Athanasius into exile thirty years ahead of them, they must take with shame the lowest place in the presence of all. They still "ordain" women, and until five minutes ago have tolerated every error until the "yuk factor" of homosexuality provoked them to relative "orthodoxy," truly modeling orthodoxy in that a model is a small replica of the real thing. Yet they claim pride of place due to that very association that impresses us not one whit.

We welcome the ACNA into this larger world of the Anglican Diaspora, noting that they have a lot to learn. The first thing for them to learn is humility.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Sunday after Trinity

I John 4:7-21
Luke 16:19-31

The Scriptures today contain these two major points.

1. To love our neighbor
2. To hear the Scriptures, that is, to take to heart the word God has revealed.

The First Sunday after Trinity marks a turning point, and it represents in the second half of the year what we call the Second Table of the Law. We have turned now to the Second Table; and so you may ask what the Second Table of the Law refers to. If you were taught from the Offices of Instruction, that part of our Book of Common Prayer that expounds on the Catechism, as preparation for your own Confirmation, you ought to know right away (if not, you need a refresher course even if it has been 50 years). You know the Summary of the Law, and we quote it from the Gospel of Matthew in the service of Holy Communion, where Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.
THOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

So, think back on when you were being prepared for Confirmation (and for our Confirmation students, think back a couple of weeks ago). If you think about the Ten Commandments, you will see that the first four teach you to love God, and the last six teach you to love your neighbor. The first half of the Church year begins on the first Sunday in Advent. From Advent through Trinity Sunday our main focus is on the things God has done for us in his Son; and because of God's love revealed to us in everything Jesus did for us, the emphasis on the commandment to love God comes across with the grace of the New Covenant, and the greater glory of the Gospel. So we look at today's Epistle and realize that we have the grace to love God because he first loved us. Listen again to part of the Epistle we heard already:

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins...We love him, because he first loved us.

The commandment to love God, the first and Great Commandment that summarizes everything in the first four commandments of the Decalogue, is our focus from Advent through Passiontide, into Easter and Pentecost. And, following the teaching of St. John, we emphasize the commandment to love God by recalling how greatly He first loved us. Every time we see the crucifix, we must take personally the great love wherewith God loved us, in that Jesus came into the world to save us.

John, the Beloved Disciple, then takes us from the first Table of the Law, our love for God, quickly and simply:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another...And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Do you see how John gives us a summary of the Summary of the Law? And, do you see that the Law comes to us, in the New Covenant, in the marvelous context of Divine grace? We are able to love God because he first loved us, taking away our sin and giving us life all over again. He gives us a new heart in the process so we can love him, despite the fact that we had been disabled from love due to sin. And, this grace, that we may love God, takes root and bears fruit in that we may love our neighbor. By the Holy Spirit in us, we now possess the power to love, by all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ his Son.

Today we read the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. We know that this was a popular story told by the Jewish people to teach them the danger of failing to love one's neighbor. The rich man is in Hell. Jesus changed the story, but not the part that warns about the consequences of going through life without love for our neighbor. He leaves Hell in the story. He makes only one change, which is at the end of the story, and which we will get to.

The rich man sent out his scraps to the beggar; he gave at the office. He did his bit for mankind, that big impersonal thing we call the human race. Frankly, everyone from respectable religious people to the most violent revolutionaries and tyrannical regimes have done what they considered to be good for mankind. I am going to quote myself for a moment:

"The righteous man considers the life of his beast. But, the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" says the Book of Proverbs (12:10). Utopian ideologues since the French Revolution, such as Marx and his followers, spoke lofty words about what was best for mankind. It reminds me of one of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoons. Linus tells his sister Lucy that he wants to be a doctor, a great doctor. She tells him "you cannot be a great doctor. You know why? Because a doctor must love mankind. You don’t love mankind." Linus, stunned, retorts "I do love mankind…It’s people I can’t stand!" The ideologues have always loved mankind; and they have made many people suffer for it. They have offered millions of innocent victims to some idea of "good for the highest number," and all of that Satanic balderdash about what is best for humanity. Crowds enjoying the spectacle of heads being cut off in Paris, Communists dictating who should live, who should die, and who must go to the camps, and, indeed, the Nazis destroying millions in order to advance human evolution to the state of perfection, believed they were lovers of mankind, saviors of that abstract and impersonal thing called "humanity."

Do you remember the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats? Let us look at part of it:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Everyone seems to quote this wrong. As much as I enjoy the mini series Jesus of Nazareth from the 1970s, it gets this wrong. And, I have quoted it wrong a few times myself. He did not say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." No, what he said was, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Do you see the difference?

The rich man did his bit for mankind, but not for Lazarus!

The love of God does not hide behind mankind, but rather the love of God, in the heart of a true Christian, sees the one. Do you see your brother? Your sister? Your neighbor? It is your neighbor you are to love as yourself, not a big impersonal mankind. This is why gestures do not impress God. It takes a lot more to love your neighbor than it does to love mankind.

And, in case you forget where the rich man ended up, listen to what Jesus also said in the Parable of the sheep and the goats: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not...Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. "

The second point is that we must hear the word of God. Here is what Jesus added to this well-known story in order to make his own point:

Then [the rich man] said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send [Lazarus] to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

A heart that cannot hear the word of God will not be persuaded by anything, and that includes the astonishing fact that they will not be moved to repent even by a miracle. The army of Pharaoh followed the Israelites into the Red Sea; Judas betrayed the Lord after seeing miracles practically every day.

But, how can you hear the word of God if you are too busy to open your Bible and prayerfully read it? We must be hearers of the word, and we must be doers of the word; but until we have time for the word, how can we hear it? If we never listen to the word, how can we hear it? The Hebrew word sh'mai means "hear." The same word means "obey." "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, (i.e. if they obey not Moses and the prophets) neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

If you can't hear what I am saying from this pulpit, you are not spending enough time hearing the word of God throughout the week, at least not prayerfully and sincerely. Knowing the Bible is your own responsibility; we can't do that for you. Obeying the word of God is your own responsibility; we can't do it for you. Moses, the prophets and now the Apostles, were God's messengers. Anyone who cannot hear them could never be turned away from sin to God, not even if he had witnessed the resurrection of Christ. God's grace, in your heart, responds as readily to his word as it would to any miracle you may ever see, even the sight of the Risen Christ.

This Sunday we have turned to the second Table of the Law, and we have been reminded that we must love our neighbor. We have learned also, from St. John, that we actually can love God who first loved us, and therefore we actually can love our neighbor. We have been given that grace. That grace comes as we hear the word of God, because it is all about having a new heart that is right with God.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Dutch Touch

A study in irrelevance.

Recently, in private e-mail, the Dutch Touch was mentioned, to borrow the phrase coined by Fr. John Hunwicke for the Infusion of Old Catholic Orders into Anglican Orders by co-consecration. It was mentioned by someone who seemed to suggest that I might consider Anglican Orders to have become valid by the Infusion. Indeed, some who call themselves Anglican may embarrass the rest of us by holding this position, but I do not. We never needed the Infusion, and our Orders were defended against Roman non-sense quite thoroughly before the idea ever presented itself into our history. Reassuring ourselves was never the motive.

For those who are not familiar with the history of this Infusion, I will explain briefly and simply, as to the historic facts and to the concept. In the 1930s the Church of England invited Old Catholic Bishops to participate in consecrations of new bishops. The Dutch Old Catholic bishops, Mgr. Henry van Vlijmen, Bishop of Haarlem, and Mgr. John Berends, Bishop of Deventer, took part in the consecration of Anglican bishops in St. Paul's Cathedral, in 1931 and 1932. The first co-consecration was that of Bishop Graham-Brown, a well known Anglican of the Evangelical party (as it was defined in the 1930s, which is considerably different from how contemporary Reassereters have redefined it). From Bishop Graham-Brown infused orders spread; and the co-consecrations were repeated in several venues, such as co-consecrations with bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church in the United States, so that by the early 1960s every Episcopal priest had these orders in his lineage, catching up with the rest of the Anglican Communion which had been thoroughly infused since some time during the 1950s. Therefore, the Orders of all Continuing Anglicans began (1978) with this in our history; all Continuing Anglican Orders have the Infusion somewhere in their family tree. And, to this interesting fact I have only a two word reaction: Who cares?

Unfortunately, some of our Roman Catholic detractors have assumed, wrongly, that the Anglicans sought co-consecration because Rome considered Old Catholic Orders valid, and this meant that Anglicans could supply what was missing, or fix their allegedly bad and defective orders. But, as documented by Brian Taylor 1 from correspondence between Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang and other high ranking Church of England officials, the expressed, written and recorded motive was ecumenical. Not only was it to serve as a way to improve relations with the Old Catholics, but to make Anglican orders "more acceptable to Rome in the event of some future Reunion." 2

The idea, therefore, was never to make them valid, or more acceptable to ourselves. It was an ecumenical gesture, and as such a potential gesture for some day in which it may please God to grant Catholic unity in the West. But, Anglicans had already defended their orders many times over the centuries, and at no time after the Infusion was it mentioned as a relevant factor by any serious Anglican apologist, not even by those who noted it, such as Claude Beaufort Moss in 1965. 3 Dom Gregory Dix made no mention of it in 1944 when writing The Question of Anglican Orders, Letters to a Layman 4. Neither did E. J. Bicknell's book A Theological Introduction to The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, in any of its later editions after revision in the 1950s, so much as say one word about it in the portion of the book where Anglican orders are defended. 5 In short, the Anglican apologetic treatment of the Infusion appears to be summarized by my own reaction: "Who cares?"

Frankly, Saepius Officio,written in 1897 by the Archbishops of England (Canterbury and York) said everything that needed to be said in defense of our Orders, and the best summary anywhere is that of Bicknell.

As for the subject of the Infusion itself, it is a relic of an innocent age of ecumenical hope, that innocence and hope that would suffer destruction for the official Anglican Communion in 1976. If the Infusion may help someday between orthodox Anglicans of the Continuum and Rome or, restart some ecumenical relations with the Polish National Catholic Church, then maybe it will not have been a big wasted effort after all.

Until such a time, who cares?
1. In his 1995 paper, published in Great Britain, Accipe Spiritum Sanctum.

As our reader who goes by the name of Canon Tallis also pointed out in a comment months ago:

"Marc Antonio de Dominus, sometime Archbishop of Spaleto and Dean of Windsor, participated in Anglican consecrations in the Caroline age before he made the mistake of returning to Rome and their so kind ministrations? I think someone in the Continuum needs to reprint Littledale's The Petrine Claims and make it required reading for both postulants and the clergy."

2. This possibility was never rejected by Anglicans. See this older post analyzing a section of Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

3. THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY - By CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS, D.D.LONDON - S.P.C.K 1965 Holy Trinity Church Marylbone Road London NW 1 - Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd Bungay Suffolk - First published in 1943 - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004

4. Westminster : Dacre Press, 1944.

5. A Theological Introduiction to the Thirty-Nine Articles, (Downloadable) Wittenberg Hall Copyright: © 1955 Public Domain (originally printed before revisions in 1919)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Octave Day of Pentecost

The above is another name the Prayer Book gives today. And so on this last day of the Pentecost season, I will take the opportunity to remind our readers of three posts regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit beginning Easter Monday (when the Epistle from Acts 10 refers to Jesus being "anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power").

Anglican Catholicism and the Charismata
The Charismatic reality of the Church
Being Filled with the Spirit

A subsequent post quoting Bishop Brian Iverach's email to me sent in support of the above articles created some controversy. At least some of this controversy seemed to be due to ascribing views to the Bishop (such as denigrating medical science) which could only be extracted from the letter by ignoring the actual words and illegitimately attempting to read between the lines. There was even a reference to the completely irrelevant heresy of Christian Science, as if to prove guilt by a non-existent association.

In order that the record be set straight, here are some further thoughts from Bp Iverach, written by him to me after I asked him to look at the thread and its comments:
The plus in the discussion is that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit have been in focus, with mention of the wide spread application of such gifts. In the case of the miraculous healing of Lana's eye, this did not lead her into Christian Science. It lead her into the healing ministry in the Body of Christ, the Church, ... The full impact that her ministry has had on others is known unto God. Most recently we praised God for the healing she received at the hands of a highly qualified surgeon and in nursing care during many weeks in hospital.

The down side of the discussion has been the distracting focus on the exercise of the gift of glossolalia, especially in public, and the shame of some disparaging remarks about healing miracles. As Anglicans we have the discipline to apply all the gifts as mentioned by the blessed Apostle, such discipline not prevalent in the practice of some of our Pentecostal brothers and sisters. Should the excesses of modern day Corinthians preclude ministry in the Gifts of the Spirit? No. Are any gifts (apart from those specifically related to leadership such as Apostleship or Pastoral ministry) excluded from the laity? No, assuming they have been Baptized, Confirmed and are living in the love of Christ and neighbour. Is it necessary to have the gift of tongues? No. Are you inferior if you do not speak tongues? No. Are we to exercise Spiritual Gifts in general? Yes. Can we do better to educate the saints concerning the Gifts of the Spirit and then go into the world to serve Christ? Yes.

I speak from experience; of what I have personally seen in an Anglican congregation when the Spirit of God moved upon the people. All was in good order. The occasional prophesies were given during the offertory preparations or during the ablutions after communion. There was no grandstanding whatsoever. Nothing was forced. Worship was not disrupted. The prophetic blessings were applied in the life of the parish. The congregation grew in numbers exponentially and also in love and service of the Lord, in ministry outreach into the local community, and into the barrios of Mexico. The youth went over the boarder to help build housing and schools for the poor, shipments of beans were regularly delivered, and all the time the parish contributed the largest tithe to the diocese. We speak of the fruits of the Spirit. All glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

The main difference between my liturgical suggestion and the Bishop's past experiences is that I put the allocated time for prophetic ministry before the Sermon as "communications ... enjoined by lawful authority", to quote the Canadian 1962 Book of Common Prayer, whereas the Bishop mentions the Offertory and Post-Communion times. The latter options, effectively corresponding to pre- and post- Consecration thanksgivings, seem not dissimilar to the timing implied in 1 Corinthians 14.16 and the Didache 10. The reasons for my suggestion were given in the first article above.

It is also appropriate here to thank my Metropolitan for his kind, eirenic words in this post. I would like to make two observations, however, about elements of what was said therein.

To begin at the end, so to speak, the Archbishop finished with the following paragraph:

"I am not a 'cessationist'. I believe in miracles and do not doubt that God can infuse knowledge of unknown tongues or prophecy. I do not presume to judge any man's personal religious experience, except by the proper standards of charity, of consistency with the known and authorized teaching of the universal Church, and of the spiritual fruit of Christian living. But I also believe that where the faith is truly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered, personal religious experience is mainly of private significance."

While the last sentence makes perfect sense if referring to the gift of tongues uninterpreted, which was the subject of much of the previous discussion, it cannot be said to apply to other gifts such as the gifts of prophecy or tongues as interpreted. Why not? Because St Paul makes abundantly clear that such gifts are provided by God specifically to edify the Church as a whole. They are not meant to be limited to personal edification (1 Co. 14.3-5). And it would be wrong of us to pretend that any gift God truly gives is an optional extra that we don't need because we have the sacraments and orthodox teaching!

Which brings me to my next qualifying point. Archbishop Haverland also said: "When the Catholic faith is alive and well, however, neo-pentecostalism tends to be at best unnecessary and at worst divisive." If neo-pentecostalism refers to the belief (common among Pentecostals) that all must speak in tongues or demonstrate some other outwardly miraculous gift, or they cannot be filled with the Spirit, that is one thing. And that belief has not been defended here. However, if neo-pentecostalism was taken to refer simply to the resurgence and use of all the charisms, including among the laity, the statement above would suffer the same problem I mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph. In the latter connotation, "neo-pentecostalism" is perfectly in accord with the Catholic faith and any division caused should not be assumed to be the fault of those simply wanting to exercise or experience the benefit of, in decency and order, true gifts of the Holy Spirit designed to edify the Church.